For some folks it's all or nothing. Groucho Marx once said, "I'm not a vegetarian, but I eat animals who are." Mr. Rogers always held that he would never eat anything that had a mother. It's a topic that's birthed many an "ism." Carnitarianism. Pescatarianism. Pollotarianism. Vegetarianism. Veganism. Flexitarianism?
To eat meat or not to eat meat is an ages-old ethical dilemma, and if most of us natural-born omnivores are honest, it's kind of a lot to wrestle with. Somebody with compassion for the planet and a deep sense of food ethics who has, say, a pet chicken bunkered down in their vegetable garden may take a personal vow of meat celibacy only to find that they are so sensitive to nature's plight they can actually hear the lettuce scream when they harvest it to make a salad. So where's the middle ground? What's a health and eco-conscious eater to do?
Meet reducetarianism (pronounced reduce-uh-tarian-ism): the non-judgy, all-foodisms-encompassing, quality-over-quantity diet that promotes eating less red meat, poultry, seafood, dairy, eggs and other animal products. The beauty of becoming a reducetarian is that you don't have to totally give up anything — although should you discover that you might not miss the surf 'n turf platter and cheesy bacon knots it's certainly OK to say buh-bye. The aim is simply to reduce your intake of animal products and ultimately replace meat and dairy with higher quality alternatives.
Consuming less animal products not only helps improve your health by reducing the risk of certain types of cancer and heart disease; it also decreases our carbon footprint in the fight against the climate crisis, helps alleviate global food and water shortages and spares factory-farmed animals from cruelty. It's win-win.
If you're reducetarian-curious and you're someone who's been a longtime fan of meat, dairy and eggs as diet staples, there's no need to go cold turkey or even Tofurky. Start with a couple of little swaps. There are lots of delicious plant-based milks and dairy-free yogurt options available in most mainstream grocery stores. Also, add lots more fruits and vegetables to your cart. As you shop for animal products, select labels that say grass-fed, pasture-raised, organic, or, better yet, choose plant-based options.
Even his Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama readily eats the occasional meat dish when it's offered to him, but he also encourages the switch to a more vegetarian diet as a form of compassion for the planet. That said, no judgment if you like your tofu bacon fried in actual bacon drippings. Just plant-based food for thought.