College students should consider eating less meat

College students should consider eating less meat

I don’t believe in dieting, but I do believe in my diet. I don’t believe in exclusion; I believe in restraint. I eat a mainly plant-based diet, but I also know that the best way to recover from a long Saturday night is a chicken biscuit from Holler & Dash. I try to be environmentally conscious and buy ethically farmed products when I do cook meat.  

I am a subscriber of the growing flexitarian diet. Flexitarian, a portmanteau of flexible and vegetarian, was coined in 2009 by registered dietician Dawn Jackson Blatner. This approach to dieting is environmentally, socially and health conscious because it is about reducing your intake of animal proteins and replacing them with plant based proteins and vegetables. According to Walter Willett, chair of the department of nutrition at Harvard’s School of Public Health, reducing your meat intake also reduces your carbon footprint, cholesterol, and your chances of heart disease, stroke and diabetes.  

Flexitarianism, predicted to be one of the “biggest food trends of 2017” by Whole Foods, is gaining traction in the wellness world is because it is the moderate middle-ground between the stereotypically unhealthy American diet and the full blown commitment and restriction of vegetarianism or veganism. People want to help the Earth but don’t want to completely give up the pleasures of meat, and they shouldn’t have to.  

Whole Foods Newsroom stated that “instead of a strict identity aligned with one diet, shoppers embrace the “flexitarian” approach to making conscious choices about what, when and how much to eat.” Much like participating in the “Meatless Monday” movement popularized on Twitter by celebrities like Yoko Ono, Oprah and Paul McCartney, it allows people to recognize their positive impact on the planet, without having to make an immediate, drastic, lifestyle change, which for most would be an unattainable goal.  

This type of reduction based activism is not some byproduct of the new “crunchy, liberal culture." The Meatless Monday movement was born during World War I when the U.S Food Administration encouraged families to cut back in support of the war effort. This same strategy was suggested by FDR in World War II and afterwards with Truman to help send aid to war-torn Europe. The difference now is that the catalyst for change is not necessarily based on individual patriotism, but rather, it is embedded in a universal stewardship of the entire planet and a desire to lead a healthier lifestyle.  

Systems like “Meatless Monday” and flexitarianism are becoming increasingly attractive options because they offer the best of both worlds. You are doing your part to help protect the planet you live on, while also enjoying all of its diverse yields. Flexitarians know that they are impacting their health and animal welfare positively and that they are putting less of a burden on the planet, and don’t have to feel bad about occasionally partaking in less environmentally and ethically friendly food systems.  Limiting your individual meat consumption is a prudent way to help the planet that doesn’t require imposing any quotas on industry or introducing any new legislation. 

Research on reports, “If all Americans ate no meat for one day a week this would result in the same carbon savings as taking 19.2 million cars off the road in the USA for a year long.” The benefits of the diet don’t stop at animal welfare, or environmental improvements, either; research also suggests that red meats are potentially carcinogenic, vegetarians tend to weigh less than non-vegetarians, and plant based diets can reduce your risk of type two diabetes. 

Consider also the anecdotal evidence that people who eat less meat are happier, have increased libido and energy levels, and the allure of flexitarianism is quite obvious. I have wholeheartedly embraced the flexitarian diet because it is all about moderation, not elimination. It’s about adding more of the things that are better for you, plant based proteins like beans, tofu, nuts and seeds, and cutting back on animal-based proteins, especially red meat. Moderation is hard for college students who are generally either bingeing on alcohol or Netflix, but balance is the key to health. As a flexitarian I have found mine, and I hope you find yours.

Allison Kosyk is a junior majoring in hotel, restaurant and institutional management.

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