What was the inspiration behind your book, MeatLess: Transform the Way You Eat and Live–One Meal at a Time?
In my work for The Humane Society of the United States I work with a fantastic team helping schools, hospitals, universities, correctional facilities and even the military reduce meat purchases and add more plant-based options to their menus with programs like Meatless Monday. Over the course of my work, so many people told me they appreciated that moderate approach. These are people who were interested in eating more plant-based meals, but who felt like going vegetarian or vegan was overwhelming. The idea of eating less meat was doable. I wrote this book for them and the millions of people like them who want to take that first step toward a healthier, more humane diet.
Do you feel that the plant-based message is resonating with more people, and why?
More than ever before. For several years running, the headlines in the food industry trade publications have read, “Vegan went mainstream” and “Go Veg or Go Home.” Even MeatingPlace, the trade magazine to the meat industry, found “70 percent of meat eaters [are] substituting a non-meat protein in a meal at least once a week and 22 percent saying they are doing it more often than a year ago.” Recently the CEO of Tyson — one of the world’s largest meat companies — said the future may be plant-based.
I believe this is happening because people are sick and tired of being sick and tired. We’re unhealthy — suffering from preventable food-related illnesses. And we care about animals. When people learn eating a plant-based diet can help reduce the risk of chronic disease, extract themselves from a broken food system, and enjoy delicious meals, why wouldn’t they want to?
What impact can people have by simply eating less meat?
What we eat impacts our health, animals, and the planet. Animal agribusiness uses vast quantities of natural resources. The Environmental Protection Agency has said it takes about 1,100 gallons of water to produce two pounds of chicken—enough water to fill about 25 bathtubs! If one family eats one fewer meal of chicken once a week, they can save 25 gallons of water.
It can also spare animals from factory farms. 285 animals are slaughtered every second. It’s hard to imagine the scale, but each meat-free meal we enjoy can help reduce the number of animals caught up in this broken system. Fortunately eating plant-based is more popular than ever!
What are your best tips for people who want to eat less meat?
Change can be difficult. Anyone who has ever dieted or tried making change in any realm of their life will acknowledge that. There are some things we can do to simplify it. One is starting small, as in doing a Meatless Monday. This is a great way to get the week off with a healthy start that will introduce you to a whole new world of food. And then add another meat-free day into your regime, building as you gain confidence.
What is your own personal eating philosophy?
I’m vegan—I don’t consume meat, eggs, or dairy and I try to eat as many whole foods as I can, especially when I’m cooking at home. But I’m not dogmatic about it and I’d be remiss if I didn’t admit I have a bit of a sweet tooth, so you can often find me dreaming of cake. Fortunately it’s never been easier to eat vegan and there’s an abundance of amazing vegan desserts – from almond milk ice creams to cookies made without eggs! Even Breyer’s just released a new almond milk-based ice cream.
What are your favorite plant-based foods?
In addition to cake… I love homemade Mexican food. My family loves cooking and it’s a joy for me to be in the kitchen with my mom, dad, sister, and nieces and nephew. We make Spanish rice, beans, enchiladas, tacos, chile soup, and homemade tortillas. So many international foods are naturally plant-based or easily made so.
How can people overcome the social challenges for eating meatless meals?
Our community has a huge effect on our eating habits—what we eat is heavily influenced by our friends and family. We’re more likely to be successful with our commitment to eat meat-free if we have the support of those around us, so rally the herd and ask your friends and family to join you. In addition to having their support, you’ll multiply your impact!
Here is one of Kristie’s favorite recipes from her book.
This is a go-to recipe in my house for when I’m in a hurry to make dinner, but want a meal that’ll fill me up and also provide plenty of nutrients. Nutty peanut butter and salty soy sauce combine with a little sweetness plus hot sauce for an explosion of flavor. Packed with protein and ridiculously easy, this dish is a hit with kids for the taste and with parents for its ease. Adjust spice as your family likes it.