Eat Less Meat for a More Balanced Diet

Mark Bittman's Op-Ed today in the New York Times came at the perfect time for Americans. Today the USDA and Mrs. Obama released a new food icon, MyPlate, which will hopefully help guide us towards eating better. Instead of focusing on protein and specifically meat-heavy meals, the new graphic focuses on vegetable, fruits, and whole grains with a small serving of meat and dairy on the side. Why reduced meat? Well, Mr. Bittman addresses the reason in the Op-Ed today. Simply put, we eat too much meat, and too often.

The American meat industry has grown rapidly over the last 50 years. As a country, we can now enter a fast-food restaurant and easily (and cheaply) order two or three beef patties and some chicken nuggets to go with it. But in the grand scheme of history, this accessibility to meat is a very new phenomenon.

Bittman says that the issue with meat lies in the fact that we, as humans, have a primal urge to eat it in large quantities to load up on the nutrients it provides. But we are no longer limited to eating meat only once in a while when the hunt is good. Meat is available year-round in almost unlimited quantities. Not only that, Bittman says, but marketing encourages us to eat meat, so our own biology as well as advertising are both pushing us toward a meat-heavy diet.

Eating foods that are available locally is not just a practice of sustainability; it provides us with a diet that is more appropriate for our biological needs. Because sustainably-raised meat and wild game is less abundant than factory-farmed meat, eating sustainably makes it much easier to consume a diet based on fruits, vegetables, and grains that is closer to the diet we're naturally supposed to eat. This doesn't mean eliminating meat - it just means keeping it in moderation.

Try some vegan or vegetarian recipes at least once a week. Many of your favorite comfort food classics might already be vegetarian. A balanced GRAB meal of greens, rice, and beans falls perfectly within the new dietary guidelines and will leave you feeling full yet healthy. This way of eating will even help lower your blood pressure.

Staying active is a big part of the package. Getting enough exercise in conjunction with a diet low in meat is more appropriate for modern times. To get moving during your work day, try these tips for staying active in the workplace.

What's your reaction to Marc Bittman's Op-Ed? Do you think Americans eat too much meat?