5 Reasons Eating Less Meat Can Be Complicated (And How to Do It Anyway)

This article was originally published in Everyday Feminism. It is republished here with permission.

vegetarian taco
Photo: Michael TO

By Carmen Rios

I began cutting meat out of my diet before I started marching for women’s rights, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t connected. However, connecting the dots between feminism and vegetarianism or veganism is often easier than actually eating less meat.

I became a vegetarian, quite simply, because eating meat felt wrong.

After I read literature and watched videos about how animals were treated in captivity by the meat industry and the disgusting and inhumane practices that went into producing my cold cuts, pork chops, and chicken cutlets, America’s culture of meat began to look very different to me.

Later on, I came across feminist writing that related speciesism to sexism, and I realized that normalizing violence and hostility toward livestock and any animal made it easier to normalize violence and hostility toward the members of our society people deem less “worthy” of humane treatment (like, say, women, people of color, and trans and queer folks).

As I embarked on a vegetarian diet, I also realized that what I knew about meat and nutrition had been skewed by my culture and the meat industry.

I learned that livestock emit lots of methane gas, making them a leading cause of climate change, and I started seeing how meat production, shipment, and consumption was adding to everyone’s carbon footprint.

I found out that a world without meat could be a world without hunger.

Contrary to everything I’d learned, it turned out that eating a vegetarian diet could actually extend my life – and that red meat is actually not that healthy at all.

After all of that, I knew I couldn’t turn back.

And even though the “icky” factor of meat has somewhat faded for me over the years, I’ve never gone back to eating it. Giving up meat was a defining decision in my life, and I’ve never regretted it.

My body feels great, my meals are filled with variety, and I know every time I sit down to eat that I’m doing so in a way that aligns with my values.

It’s been a long journey, though, and along the way, I encountered obstacles related to my family, my health, and my wallet.

In a society where meat is mainstream, I had to make a choice to defy social norms and wade through misinformation in order to figure out a diet that worked for me and aligned with my values.

Figuring out how to go without meat was complex, but it was far from impossible.

The meat industry is pretty awful, but it’s also a way of life. Meat is central to so many cultures and societies that considering going without it can freak us out.

If there’s something about giving up meat that gives you pause, there’s probably a way to make it work despite the obstacles.

1. My Family Isn’t Into It

Culture is important, and in some families, food is sacred ground.

When I went vegetarian, my Italian grandmother immediately thought of her sauce. When immigrant families put meat on the table, they can feel as if they’re finally living that American Dream.

And when your partner, friends, or family give you a hard time about wanting to eat less meat, it can put a damper on your plans.

But guess what. Going meat-free doesn’t have to mean making a choice between who you love and who you want to be.

If your family, friends, or loved ones are giving you a hard time about eating less meat, approach the situation the same way you would approach any conflict or disagreement with them.

Listen to what they have to say, and then figure out how to meet them in a middle ground.

If your family shows love through food, help them figure out new recipes that you can enjoy with them.

If they can’t help but feel judged by your decision to abandon meat, ease up on that conversation about the politics of meat on Thanksgiving. Cook new recipes for your relatives to try that don’t use meat or animal-based ingredients. Show your partner how to make meat-free versions of the dishes you’ve shared together for years.

If someone you love is hesitant to embrace your new diet, hear them out and help them adjust.

When I became a vegetarian, my family wasn’t into it. And ultimately, that was okay. I compromised and ate sauce that had been prepared with meat in it, even though it meant picking out the pieces, so that my grandmother knew I still loved her cooking.

Since my mom didn’t want to cook entirely different meals for me every night, I was sure to know in advance what I needed for the week so that I could find it, buy it, prepare it, and cook it for myself.

Be willing to take the journey alone, but don’t let your newfound enthusiasm for a brand new diet create distance.

Give it time, and you and the people you’re close to will figure out a new rhythm that accommodates your values. And who knows? You could end up teaching them a thing or two (and probably a killer tofurkey recipe).

2. I’m Worried About My Health

I learned a lot about nutrition in a setting where meat was seen as central to nourishing and taking care of your body. But that’s not the only way. Meat can be a part of a healthy diet, but eating meat isn’t the only way to be healthy.

Meat does provide people with valuable nutrients like iron, and it can be a powerful source of protein — but it isn’t the only way to get those nutrients and power your body.

Eating less meat or cutting out meat and animal products altogether can be a healthy decision, and can even be healthier for you than eating meat, especially at the rate so many Americans do each day.

If you want to eat less meat, make sure you know how to do it without compromising your health. (A quick pro tip? Start taking a daily multivitamin, and start taking it now.)

There are plenty of books, magazines, and websites devoted to meat-free diets that can walk you through the building blocks of eating less meat, and once you’ve learned how to make up for the protein, vitamins, and minerals you’re giving up, you’ll be good to go.

A vegetarian or vegan diet, just like a meat-based or meat-inclusive diet, can be healthy, nourishing, and good for you – but you have to do the work to make it work.

If you have a medical condition or a super active lifestyle and you’re worried about how cutting back on meat might impact you, talk to a doctor. Eating less meat may not be presented to us as a cultural norm, but it’s not nutritionally impossible in a majority of circumstances.

And even if it isn’t on the table for you to cut out meat or animal products entirely, working with a professional or doing some research can help you cut back on your meat consumption and eat meat more ethically.

3. I Don’t Like Vegetables

If you don’t like vegetables, chances are that the words “vegetarian” and “vegan” make you wary. But that doesn’t need to be the case!

Eating less meat or giving it up altogether doesn’t mean you’re going to spend the rest of your life snacking on celery sticks or boiling Brussels sprouts.

In fact, eating less meat can open your eyes to how many amazing meals and snacks are out there that don’t harm animals – and not all of them just a pile of actual vegetables.

Think about the things you probably already eat that don’t involve meat or, in some cases, animal products.

What’d you come up with? I thought of grilled cheese, peanut butter and jelly, baked potatoes, and good ol’ macaroni and cheese.

Some meals that might typically include meat are also just as great without, like pasta with sauce, tacos and burritos, egg sandwiches, and pizza.

If you really dig the taste of meat, you can also rest easy knowing that there’s probably a substitute for it out in the big, wide world of meatless meats. Chances are, a vegetarian or vegan version of your favorite meat dish exists already.

Whether you’re going to miss bacon, hamburgers, hot dogs, sloppy joe sandwiches, Italian sausage, or chicken tenders, there’s an imitation meat on the market that will make it all better.

Most grocery stores and even some restaurants carry these fake meats, and it makes being a vegetarian or vegan — and finding a solid source of protein — even easier. (These options are also often heart-healthier and may even be made with vegetables, so it might end up being a win-win.)

But that’s not all! Fake meat isn’t even the only way to add something to your plate once you give up the real thing. Seitan, tofu, tempeh, and even quinoa can be valuable sources of nutrients and become new staples for you in a meat-free diet.

4. I’m Gonna Miss Meat

If fake meat just isn’t gonna do it for you, or if the thought of going all-out and giving up your favorite meat dishes is too much to handle, the solution is simple: Don’t give up eating meat entirely.

Eating less meat isn’t an “all or nothing” game. You can still alter your meat consumption in a way that aligns with your values without scrapping your favorite cuts altogether.

Meatless diets, like most things, exist on a spectrum, and not all of them involve giving up all meats.

A pescatarian diet cuts out all meat, but leaves seafood on the table; pollo vegetarians (or semi-vegetarians) eat chicken, turkey, and fish; and flexitarians eat small amounts of meat to their liking while mostly avoiding it altogether.

If your goal is to reduce your meat consumption without giving up any single meat entirely, setting boundaries can also help.

You could commit to eating meat only when you eat at restaurants, or you could conversely commit to only eating meat you’ve prepared yourself. You could stop eating meat for lunch, or you could try not eating it for dinner.

You can even make a dent in the fights against climate change and animal cruelty without giving up meat at all!

Committing yourself to buy meat from local farmers where workers and animals alike are treated ethically and with compassion will reduce your carbon footprint and the weight on your heartstrings.

Ultimately, your diet should be about making you happy, not struggling to resist the things you love.

Making room for your grandma’s legendary meatballs or getting your favorite Taylor ham sandwich at the deli back home doesn’t make you a bad person, and taking even one step toward reducing your meat consumption is a big step for the environment and animal rights.

5. I Can’t Afford It

When you give up meat, your diet changes.

Instead of eating chicken or beef with every meal, you have to find something else to fill you up and keep you healthy. That means an entire restructuring of how you’re shopping for food and what you’re making, and that’s a big change.

I’m aware that for folks without a lot of money, the idea of eating lots of produce can be daunting, and the expectation that they do it can be implausible and unfair. But altering your diet doesn’t have to be more expensive.

Buying in bulk can also be a great way to keep costs down while you’re changing your diet, and since lots of vegetarian meals are made with nonperishable or freezer-friendly ingredients, you’re bound to be in luck.

Buying local keeps your environmental impact down and can also be a great way to spot the cheapest produce and the most ethical vegetables.

Growing your own produce can also be a powerful option for folks who find themselves on a limited budget.

Once you make the investment in the proper materials and supplies, you could find yourself with an abundance of berries, herbs, vegetables, and fruits.

Gardening takes work and time, but it ends up being very cost-efficient and is a foolproof way to eat meals without relying on corporations, making a huge carbon footprint, or getting totally ripped off in the produce section.

No matter how you shop for or grow your new meals, you’re likely to find that staples for vegetarians come very cheap.

Beans, for instance, are an excellent source of protein and are super-filling. (Buying them in the bag and boiling them is even more affordable, though it involves a longer time commitment when you’re cooking.)

Replacing rice or pasta with quinoa may be more expensive, but it will keep you more nourished in the long run and last longer.

Kale is fortified with nutrients spinach doesn’t have, and it’s often around the same price or cheaper. If you like vegetables, eating them raw will give you good fodder for snacks and a very happy body.


I’ve been a vegetarian for twelve years – over half of my life – and I never looked back. But my way doesn’t have to be your way, and my diet doesn’t need to be your diet.

Whether your feminism is meat-free or not or somewhere in-between, starting it won’t be easy, and neither will keep it up.

If you’re a feminist who’s worried about your meat consumption, what matters is that you do what works for you to eat in a way that reflects your values, even if that means you never become a vegetarian or find yourself compromising with your grandmother after over ten years of rice and beans.

And what matters most is that you figure out how to make it happen.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve gotta go check on my stuffed peppers.

Food Life Restaurants

Will Starbucks delivery ruin coffee culture?

Photo: James Maskell, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Delivering a pumpkin spice latte to your doorstep may become as common as ordering a pizza in the near future. Starbucks announced it will begin delivering coffee and food in 2015. CEO Howard Schultz shared the plan during the company’s quarterly earnings conference, stating delivery service will launch first to loyalty program members through a new app. The new app will allow members to order and pay for their food and coffee without going to a Starbucks location.

The move is among a series of plans to bring the coffee chain into the digital age. In July this year, Starbucks announced mobile ordering via their smart phone app, allowing patrons to pre-order their drinks.

The launch date for the delivery service has not been announced, nor has there been any talk to expand the service outside of the United States.

With dwindled human interaction via the ordering app, and no real reason to stay in its stores, is the new profitable and speedy technology the right move?

Starbucks has largely been responsible for the establishing the European-style coffee culture throughout the United States. Patrons can linger in the stores, enjoying free wi-fi and mellow soundtrack, while utilizing its various locations as makeshift offices or meeting spots.

The new mobile initiatives are targeted toward a faster crowd that cares less about atmosphere and more about convenience. In the world of food, honing prep and speed time can drastically increase volume and profits. This is the model most popular fast food restaurants work under. With chains such as Panera Bread also utilizing  mobile app ordering for pick-up, the cafes are becoming less relaxed and more fast-paced.

Food Restaurants

KFC promotes family with board game buckets

KFC Game Night

Grab the family, and gather around a bucket of chicken. That’s the plan for KFC’s latest promotion, the KFC Game Night Bucket. The family sized meal includes chicken tenders, dipping sauces, side items, and an I SPY game, attached to the bucket.

“Colonel Sanders started serving home-cooked meals to travelers at his family’s dining room table in his service station in 1930, and he quickly developed a reputation for ‘Sunday dinner served seven days a week,’” said Kevin Hochman, Chief Marketing Officer for KFC U.S. “At KFC, we’ve always prided ourselves on bringing families together over dinner, and we think the Colonel would be proud of the way the Game Night Bucket does that in a fun way.”

The I SPY franchise has been popular with children since the first book was published in 1991. Now available in a variety of merchandise, the game items to search for among a colorful jumble of objects.

Does playing together actually make a family stay together? Gimmicks like this do work (think Happy Meals or Cracker Jack), but are often seen as a stunt to mask the misgivings of the food itself. The latest #HowDoYouKFC ad campaign, which features various families shooting their dining experiences with a smart phone, raves about the food and the game. Would you be willing to try it?


Kate Upton & Snoop Make Hot Pockets Hotter

Snoop Dogg is seen on the set of the "You Got What I Eat" music video in Los Angeles.
Photo by Casey Rodgers/Invision for Hot Pockets/AP Images

Supermodel Kate Upton and rapper Snoop Dogg have been tapped to promote the Hot Pockets brand. The promotion features a new music video, “You Got What I Eat,” a remix of Biz Markie’s 1989 single “Just a Friend (You Got What I Need).” The video highlights the brand’s re-launch and heralds the new and improved Hot Pockets sandwiches which feature premium ingredients like 100% Angus Beef and Hickory Ham, real cheese, and buttery seasoned crusts.

“I love working with the Hot Pockets sandwiches team. They let me do what I do and bring the funk out with their message you know?” stated Snoop. “We needed to top ‘Pocket Like It’s Hot,’ and this video is so dope. It’s funnier and we got the flyest girl in it with me.”

The music video follows up last year’s viral hit, “Pocket Like It’s Hot,” which remixed Snoop’s top single “Drop It Like It’s Hot” and climbed to #4 on the AdAge viral video chart.

“Kate, Snoop and Oliver truly bring ‘Irresistibly Hot’ to life for Hot Pockets sandwiches,” said brand manager Kevin Holmes. “We’ve loved working with them on this video to showcase the premium ingredients of the new Hot Pocket sandwiches as we celebrate the biggest re-launch in our brand’s 30 year history.”

Snoop’s parody music video is among a series of innovative strategies in support of the Hot Pockets sandwiches re-launch. As part of an integrated marketing approach, Hot Pockets brand sandwiches revealed an exclusive online collaboration with the popular comedy video website, Funny Or Die, and teamed up with Jeff Mauro.

To watch more videos and other fun from the Hot Pockets re-launch, visit

Food Restaurants

Jack in the Box’s Overnight Menu Targets the Munchies

Jack's Munchie Meal

Late nights and fast food often go together, especially at Jack in the Box. The restaurant chain recently announced a special menu that is only available from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. Late night lovers can choose from 4 different perfectly packaged menu options, complete with sides and a drink for $6.00, plus tax, at participating locations.

The party starts at 9 p.m. when things at Jack in the Box get a little twisted. The beat turns up, and the purple glow from the menu board signals it’s time for Jack’s Munchie Meal. Available nightly only after 9 p.m., every meal comes in its own box with 2 tacos, Halfsie fries (half Seasoned Curly Fries, half French Fries) and a 20 oz. drink, plus one of four new entrées exclusive to Jack’s late night menu:

  • Stacked Grilled Cheese Burger – Sourdough grilled cheese on top, cheeseburger on bottom. Tuck into this tasty bunk bed.
  • The Brunch Burger – A burger with a fried egg and a crispy hash brown for when it’s so late you don’t know whether it’s dinner or breakfast.
  • Exploding Cheesy Chicken Sandwich – A chicken sandwich exploding with mozzarella cheese sticks and gooey white cheese sauce. Oh my cheesy goodness.
  • Loaded Chicken Nuggets – Chicken nuggets drowning in two kinds of cheese with ranch and bacon. Rescue them!

Additionally, each entrée can be purchased separately after 9 p.m. for $4.00, plus tax, and Halfsies are always available for $2.50, plus tax, at participating locations.

“Our new late night menu was designed for the other nine-to-fivers, and we made sure it’s worthy of standing up to hunger at any time of night,” said Keith Guilbault, Vice President of Menu & Innovation at Jack in the Box. “Jack in the Box is known for offering its full menu, including breakfast, all day every day. And while that still holds true, our 4 new entrées are unique to our late night menu and sure to have guests wishing it was 9 p.m. already.”

Jack’s Munchie Meal isn’t the only thing new about the after-9 p.m. vibe at Jack in the Box. The restaurant has new purple and black uniforms and says the volume of the music will be loud until 5 a.m.

Visit for more information.


Food Restaurants

Hooters Turns 30

Hooters Turns 30

The beloved and reviled wing joint, Hooters, is turning 30 on Oct. 4. To celebrate the restaurant chain announced a week-long series of deals and celebrations leading up to its milestone birthday. In addition to giving away free wings for a year to guests, Hooters is calling all past and present Hooters Girls to join in the fun as birthday parties take place across the nation, doubling as a colossal Hooters Girl reunion.

On the evening of Friday, Oct. 4 numbered tickets will be distributed to Hooters party guests at each location across the country to participate in the “Hooters Free Wings Giveaway.” At 8 p.m. ET/PT in an unprecedented national TV reveal, Hooters TVs will tune into Fox Sports 1 for the announcement of the winning numbers and those guests with winning tickets will win free Hooters wings for an entire year.

Throughout the week, Hooters is thanking its guests with a series of promotions leading up to the big 30th birthday celebration:

  • Merchandise Monday, Sept. 30: Wear any Hooters merchandise item into a Hooters location and receive 30 percent off any one item of new Hooters merchandise
  • Take Me Back Tuesday, Oct. 1: Receive 30 percent off any Hooters hamburger all day
  • Wingsday Wednesday, Oct. 2: Buy 10 boneless wings and fries for just $6.99
  • Traditional Wing Thursday, Oct. 3: Enjoy 30 percent off Hooters world-famous traditional bone-in wings all day
  • 30th Birthday Party, Friday, Oct. 4: Every Hooters location will host a nation-wide 30th birthday party, including Hooters Girl reunions and the free wings for a year giveaway revealed nationally on Fox Sports 1.

The first Hooters opened October 4, 1983, in Clearwater, Fla., by the original “Hooters Six” founders, and the brand has grown to become one of the most successful dining destinations in the world. Hooters touts more than 300,000 Hooters Girl alumnae.

“Who would ever guess that the Parcheesi playing fugitives of ‘The Home for the Visually Offensive’ would see their 1983 creation in Clearwater, Fla., become an American icon and international phenomenon?” said Ed Droste, one of the original “Hooters Six” founders.

To celebrate the nostalgia of the occasion, Hooters will share photos from the past leading to present day Hooters on its Facebook page and social channels. Guests who join in the 30th birthday festivities are encouraged to share their party photos through social channels using the hashtag #StepIntoAwesome.



Whole Foods Cuts the Cheese, Professionally

Whole Foods American Society of Cheese Professionals exam
Test takers at the 2013 American Cheese Society Certified Cheese Professional exam

Whole Foods Market takes their cheese seriously. That’s why 77 Whole Foods employees recently took the American Cheese Society Certified Cheese Professional exam. And yes, it is real.

The exam tests cheesmonsgers’ mastery of all things cheese, including cheese making, ripening, storage, handling, nutrition and more. Those who pass the exam are part of an elite few who have mastered all aspects of cheese, from farm to counter. Whole Foods Market now has 147 Certified Cheese Professionals, the largest number of certified cheese experts in the world.

“Whole Foods Market cheesemongers are as passionate as they are talented when it comes to cheese, and we have worked hard to train them to earn this highest honor with classes, group study, and even field trips to dairies,” said Cathy Strange, global cheese buyer for Whole Foods Market. “Our Team Members love sharing their deep knowledge with our shoppers, so helping them become certified is really a win-win-win for the cheesemonger, Whole Foods Market and our customers.”

Whole Foods Market cheesemongers who passed this year’s exam represent 2 countries, 21 states and 67 stores.

“I’m so thankful to Whole Foods Market for its commitment to education and to artisan cheese producers and for the opportunity to turn my passion into a career,” said Janelle Libertone, cheesemonger at Whole Foods Market Sebastopol. “I’m proud to work for a company that lends so much support to develop its Team Members and I’m proud to be a Certified Cheese Professional.”

The exam was held July 31, in conjunction with the 30th Annual American Cheese Society conference in Madison, Wis. Certification is valid for three years and is renewable for additional three-year periods through a formal recertification process.

To commemorate this accomplishment, Whole Foods Market teamed up with several cheesemakers to have its 2012 Certified Cheese Professionals make special cheeses, which will be available in its stores nationwide starting this fall.

Food Life

Yum Brands & Christina Aguilera Launch World Hunger Relief Efforts

Yum! Brands, parent company of KFC, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell, announced the launch of its annual World Hunger Relief effort featuring Christina Aguilera with a new public service announcement.

According to the United Nations, there are nearly 1 billion people around the world who are hungry. Yum! Brands’ World Hunger Relief effort is the world’s largest private sector hunger relief initiative, spanning more than 130 countries and territories, over 39,000 KFC, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell restaurants and nearly 1.5 million employees. The initiative began in 2007 in an effort to raise awareness, volunteerism and funds for the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) and other hunger relief agencies.

The new PSA includes footage from Aguilera’s recent field visit to Rwanda where she witnessed the effects of hunger first hand and helped beneficiaries of WFP’s nutrition programs. Aguilera served food to hungry children who walk miles to and from school each day to receive a hot meal through WFP’s school meals program. She also traveled to a refugee camp that houses more than 18,000 people living in small man-made huts. She spent time with mothers and children at the camp and heard about how they escaped violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo. She has served as global spokesperson for Yum! Brands’ World Hunger Relief effort since 2009 where her participation has helped raise millions for WFP and other hunger relief agencies.

“I’m deeply moved by the many hungry mothers and children that I met in Rwanda,” said Aguilera. “My goal with Yum! Brands’ World Hunger Relief is to inspire as many people as possible to donate to the cause and move millions of children from hunger to hope. It’s important for people to know that for just 25 cents a day, we can feed a child in school and be part of the solution,” said Aguilera.

“We are grateful for our long-standing partnership with Yum! Brands and their World Hunger Relief campaign,” said Ertharin Cousin, Executive Director of WFP. “The campaign has provided millions of meals for the hungry poor demonstrating how, when we all take action together, even the smallest individual donation can help change a life.”

Consumers can visit, donate in KFC, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell restaurants worldwide (no purchase necessary – see calendar below for U.S. campaign dates) or text “WHR” to 90999. Every U.S. dollar raised will go directly towards WFP’s operations to fight hunger around the world. One U.S. dollar provides four meals for hungry children at school.

Yum! plans to generate the equivalent of nearly $50 million in awareness of the hunger issue through PSAs, advertising, public relations, web-based communications and in-restaurant posters. The Company’s employees and franchisees will be volunteering their time around the globe at hunger relief agencies, food banks, soup kitchens and launching fundraisers.

Food Recipes

Amy Thielen’s Midwestern Table

Amy Thielen

Food Network along with Random House Television, a division of Random House Studio, in partnership with Tavola Productions

announced a new television series, Heartland Table, based on Amy Thielen’s forthcoming book The New Midwestern Table: 200 Heartland Recipes, to be published by Clarkson Potter/Publishers, an imprint of The Crown Publishing Group, on September 24, 2013, in simultaneous hardcover and e-book editions.

Heartland Table premiered September 14, 2013, at 10:30a.m. ET/PT on Food Network. The simultaneous launch of Thielen’s television show, HEARTLAND TABLE and the publication of her first cookbook, The New Midwestern Table, marks the first time an author’s cookbook and television show have both been produced internally by Random House.