Woman hiding behind big bunch of spinach and other greens

Great armored bugs once lived in a basement hewn from Iowa bedrock. Amongst fermenting sauerkraut and tangled webs, my father took on the heroic battle of exterminating their presence. I cried every time, begging him to stop.

I was born with an innate belief that all beings have a right to live – they all serve a function in the web of biodiversity. It was a philosophical no-brainer for me to adopt a vegan diet.

My confession then; as the years went by, I slid in and out and became a sometimes-vegan.

My vegan tendencies often came under fire from friends and family, especially when I cooked. They asked why so many beans and where’s the beef? Was I a “real vegan”? What about those leather shoes? The pervading criticism that a vegan must be all-in or nothing is a fallacy.

It’s a strange phenomenon and, as the meat industry continues to drive the climate crisis, it’s an outlook that needs to change.

As we strive to address our environmental and social ills, it’s imperative that we reimagine our global food system – one bite at a time. It’s not all or nothing. It’s progress.

Veganuary and Meatless Mondays are changing the narrative.

Veganuary in the UK is an annual challenge that promotes a path to that progress by encouraging people to follow a vegan lifestyle for the month of January. Participation has more than doubled each year since 2014. 

After all, studies suggest that cutting meat and dairy from your diet can reduce your carbon footprint by as much as 73%.

A groundbreaking Eat report, “Diets For a Better Future” takes a hard look at global food consumption patterns and concludes that the dietary choices in G20 countries – that's us folks – are destroying the planet.

Embracing healthy flexitarian diets presents opportunities to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and realize huge health and economic benefits. 

Vegan, vegetarian, or flexitarian diets are the single biggest way you and I can shape the future of our planet and civilization.

How does one succeed?

How to bite into a vegan future?

1. Find a level that works for you.

As a flexitarian, I realize the less meat we eat is best for planet.  That said, committing to a goal like one vegan meal a week could unravel your efforts altogether if it’s out of reach for you personally. Perhaps one vegan meal a month is right for you? Ease into it slowly so you can comfortably commit to a manageable goal.

2. Delicious recipes are the gateway drug to veganism.

If you’re not excited about what you’re eating, you won’t stick to your convictions. Luckily, vegan food is more exciting now than ever, exploring the full range of vegan options in stores and restaurants or collecting a range of exciting vegan recipes like this vegetarian ramen can really help you embrace this change.

A recipe like Tomato Kale and White Bean Stew with Crispy Bread featured on the Organic Center’s website may just be your tipping point.

3. Tell people why it’s important.

The EAT report concludes that our food systems will continue to push the earth well beyond its planetary boundaries if we do not implement major changes.

In a world where climate change, mass extinctions, food insecurity, and diet-related illnesses are major concerns, changing our collective diets may be one of the single most effective things we can do to build a better future.  

I confess to being a sometimes vegan – a flexitarian – enjoying the tasty vegan food options and sharing them with my avid meat-eating friends. Perhaps they’ll join me?  

The more people who do that, the larger the overall impact my part-time veganism will have.

Change happens one morsel at a time – why not bite into a little vegan today?

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About The Author

Melody Meyer's picture

Melody is the Vice President of Policy and Industry Relations for United Natural Foods (UNFI). In this role she is responsible for communicating and educating all stakeholders on critical organic issues. Her Blog www.organicmattersblog.com covers a range of organic and sustainable food issues.

She is the executive director of the UNFI Foundation which is dedicated to funding non-profit organizations that promote organic agriculture  www.unfifoundation.org. Melody serves as Secretary of the Board of Directors for the Organic Trade Association www.ota.com.

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