Disclaimer: The following post is an opinion piece written by TFUI Margaret Hanzlick-Burton who is not a trained/practiced nutritionist, dietitian, or doctor.
Please talk to your doctor before making any radical changes to your diet to get the okay from them.
Hey there! It’s Margaret again, with some more tips for how daily action can improve the health and survival of Chondrichthyans, like sharks and rays! Today I’ll be discussing how to start a vegetarian, vegan, or meat-reduced diet and how doing so can positively impact the ocean and the animals that live in it.
You may be wondering how foregoing a cheeseburger can aid in sharks’ survival. The answer lies in how meat is produced. Not only does meat production use up a third of the farmable land and fresh water on Earth, but 77% of greenhouse gas emissions are due to raising and processing cattle. Greenhouse gases have been shown to contribute to warming ocean temperatures and ocean acidification, effects that negatively impact sharks. The pesticides that are used on the crops that are fed to livestock often end up in runoff that ends up in rivers, streams, and ultimately, the ocean. Studies have found that vegetarian diets require 1.4 times fewer pesticides than meat-based diets. When talking about ocean animals in particular, cutting seafood out of your diet reduces the chance that the fish you’re eating was caught using methods that put sharks at risk of becoming bycatch.
So, let’s say you’re on board with this vegetarian/vegan business but don’t know how to get started with your new diet. That’s okay! Below are some tips that I’ve picked up from my 10+ years of vegetarianism. And as with any major change in your lifestyle, it’s a good idea to let your doctor know about your new eating habits.
Tip One: Don’t go cold turkey. Adopting a vegetarian or vegan diet can be difficult at the beginning, and it is much harder if you force yourself to go straight from eating meat three times a day to not eating it at all. If you eat meat often currently, I’d recommend reducing the amount you eat gradually. It can be a good idea to substitute the meat you ate for meat substitutes, which don’t deserve the bad rap they’ve gotten. Thanks to the rise in vegetarianism, there are now a wide variety of meat substitutions (from beef tips to crab cakes) and, after all, it’s usually the spices that make meat and meat substitutes taste good!
Tip Two: You’re not alone! The number of people that have embraced a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle is large and growing, so there are many resources available to make your transition easier. You can find books, websites, and even neighbors that can give you great advice about reducing the amount of meat you eat. And, trust me, Pinterest is an invaluable source of recipes. Pinterest has meatless recipes that will satisfy even the staunchest meat eater.
Tip Three: Explore! Becoming a vegetarian or vegan is a fantastic opportunity to explore new foods (like new veggies), new cooking methods, and new cuisines. If you like to cook, you might find that preparing vegetarian foods is much less stressful than cooking meat dishes; you don’t have to worry about things like cross-contamination or about making other people sick if a dish is underdone!
Tip Four: “But what about protein???????” As a new (or veteran) vegetarian, you’ll find that this question is the most common one you’ll get. I’ve observed that no one is too worried about the nutrients in my diet until they find out I’m a vegetarian and then everyone gets very concerned about my protein intake. The truth is that we tend to overestimate the amount of protein we need and we also tend to eat too much protein. Consuming too much meat, whether in the pursuit of protein or not, can lead to things like heart disease which is no good. There are many, many, many meatless sources of protein for vegetarians to enjoy, including eggs, beans, nuts, quinoa, lentils, dairy, spinach, and many other vegetables.
Tip Five: There’s no vegetarian police. In my experience, many people are worried about slip ups when they start a plant-based diet. You might accidentally eat a soup made with chicken broth or a pizza with pepperoni hidden under the top layer of cheese (I speak from experience). Here’s the thing: it’s going to be okay! There are no vegetarian police that are going to arrest you if you accidentally ate meat or just couldn’t resist the ribs at a picnic one afternoon. The point* of undertaking a vegan or vegetarian diet is to improve the health of animals and of the planet. Making a concerted effort to reduce the amount of meat you eat is a step in the right direction.
*in Margaret's opinion
Please also note that in no way, shape, or form is TFUI stating that if you eat meat you cannot still positively impact the oceans/animals.
Speak Up For Blue has an Ocean Talk Friday episode titled, "Do We Need To Stop Eating Meat To Reduce Climate Change?" Listen to it here.
GUEST BLOGGER AND TFUI OFFICER MARGARET HANZLICK-BURTON
Margaret Hanzlick-Burton is an educator at the Seattle Aquarium, a graduate student working toward a master’s degree in biology, and a lifelong shark enthusiast and advocate. You can check out her podcast “Frow Ew! to Oh!” on SoundCloud and peruse her blog at twobirdsonescone.org.
WHAT ELSE MARGARET HAS WRITTEN:
TFUI Founder Melissa C. Marquez is author of all animal bios and "Behind the Fins" segments.
SEE MELISSA'S TEDx TALK HERE:
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