More Plants, Less Meat: An introduction to Reducetarianism
If you haven’t yet heard about Reducetarianism, there’s a good chance you will in the new year. Whole Foods predicts it will be a top 10 food trend in 2022. In a culture of extreme diets, Reducetarianism focuses on what it includes rather than what it excludes. This approach emphasizes plant-based foods like vegetables, fruits, beans, seeds, nuts, and whole grains while minimizing animal products like red meat, poultry, seafood, milk, and eggs. It embraces principles of Mediterranean and vegetarian diets but recognizes that one size does not fit all for plant-forward lifestyles––especially in families with growing children.
But are plant-based diets OK for kids?
Dr. Lisa Patel and Dr. Lisa Millstein of the American Academy of Pediatrics say yes—when thoughtfully approached. They say a plant-based diet that includes eggs and dairy will ensure your child gets the necessary nutrients for healthy growth. An egg- and dairy-free vegan diet can also be healthy and complete as long as you get plenty of sources of B12, calcium, zinc, vitamin D, and iron.
My own family gave Reducetarianism a whirl last year, and we never turned back. It began after my husband’s physician recommended a plant-based diet before resorting to blood pressure medication. My husband, who is a Green Egg-head, was hesitant. I, on the other hand, felt excited. I’m a certified nutritionist and love Mediterranean-inspired foods. Still, as a Carolina girl who grew up around oyster roasts, honey-everything, and barbecues, I didn’t want to avoid animal products 100%. That’s what attracted me to Reducetarianism: I didn’t have to.
For a full month, we experimented. We had to work with our elementary- and middle school-aged children’s palates and consider time constraints. The result?
My husband and I both shed pounds that stayed off, and he didn’t have to go on blood pressure medication at his follow-up. His readings consistently improved each week. I felt more alert, less bloat, and a renewed interest in cooking. My children’s minds opened to health habits they can embrace into adulthood. Without thinking too hard about it, we were even practicing environmental stewardship and saving money.
Below are some practical ways we did this that may help you, too.
- Make it fun!
- Take the “rainbow challenge” to see who can add the most color to their plate. Taco and baked potato bars work well for this with various plant-based toppings like tomatoes, peppers, purple cauliflower, radishes, mushrooms, and olives. Another challenge is to dine out and see who can order the “least meaty” meal.
- Eat fruit for dessert, and top it with a little whipped topping, vanilla yogurt, honey, granola, or mini chocolate chips for added sweetness.
- Visit farmers’ markets for interesting finds (and free tips on prep).
- Celebrate your efforts at a local plant-forward restaurant like Fern, Plant Joy, or Bean Vegan Cuisine.
- Gradually offset animal meat with plant protein until you reach a happy place. For example, I now switch half the animal meat in a typical recipe with half of something else based on desired texture, color, and taste. Some go-tos include tempeh crumbles; assorted canned and rinsed beans or chickpeas; sliced portobellos; chopped peppers; or diced zucchini, squash, and eggplant.
- Don’t think of animal meat as the star of the show. Lead with grains and in-season vegetables you enjoy, then incorporate animal meat as a topping or flavor addition. Try a veggie-heavy pasta with a bowl of sautéed shrimp on the side to top it, or make enchiladas with a filling like spinach leaves, Cannellini beans, mushrooms, and cheese with a cup of diced chicken mixed in. Or try my Tempeh Turkey Sloppy Joes recipe.
- Create meat-free windows. Reducetarians who lean more toward vegetarianism go days, hours, or meals without animal meat (ex: “meatless Mondays” or no meat until 6 p.m.).
- Research recipes together, like these from the Reducetarian Foundation, or check out plant-based cookbooks from the library. Try products like tempeh if you don’t have soy allergies. Learn more about the movement in the documentary Meat Me Halfway or by watching founder Brian Kateman’s 2014 TedX Talk.
Whatever you try, turn it into an adventure—and remember that rigid perfection is not the Reducetarian way.
The information contained here is of a general nature to provide research-backed educational content. It is not intended to offer professional medical diagnosis and treatment. While a certified nutritionist produced this article, your specific health needs may or may not apply. Consult your team of professional healthcare providers with concerns or questions about your health.
SHANNON BLAIR is a certified nutritionist, part-time freelance writer, and full-time mother of two. Follow her adventures in wellness and writing on Instagram @lessismorenutrition or @pinkpenwriting.