Less Meat = More Good
The benefits of reducing or eliminating animal products are immense and widespread, including but not limited to health, world hunger, global warming, environmental conservation, and animal protection. Outlined below are different vegetarian styles, including flexitarian.
While flexitarian styles are not technically vegetarian since they include some meat consumption, the focus on reducing meat consumption offers substantial benefits. Flexitarian options are used by many as a way to transition to vegetarian and vegan lifestyles, while others use them as a final goal.
Wherever you start, consider the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine's 21-Day Kick-Start Your Health Program, the Food Empowerment Program's free year-long subscription to Food Chain Newsletter, and EarthSave International's Veg Pledge with free Healthy Beginnings Guide and a free six-month subscription to Vegetarian Times Magazine.
Vegetarian - When most people think of vegetarians, they think of lacto-ovo-vegetarians. People who do not eat beef, pork, poultry, fish, or animal flesh of any kind, but do eat eggs and dairy products are lacto-ovo vegetarians. 'Lacto' comes from the Latin for milk, and 'ovo' for egg). A lacto-vegetarian consumes dairy but not eggs, while an ovo-vegetarian consumes eggs but not dairy. The term 'vegetarian' is generally used to encompass all types of vegetarian.
Vegan - Vegans do not eat meat of any kind, eggs, dairy or other animal ingredients (as much as possible). Many people choose a vegan diet for health reasons. When motivated by environmental or animal concerns, vegans may also refrain from wearing clothes or using other products that are made using animals. Want more? Check out these interesting definitions of 'vegan' from Vegan Outreach.
Side Dish - Instead of having meat as a main dish, decrease your portion to side-dish size and promote your veggies to the main course.
Condiment - Take the 'Side Dish' concept to the next level, by using meat and/or animal products very sparingly similar to condiments.
Days - Pick a day or days to be vegetarian (or better yet vegan). Meatout Mondays is a great start, but don't stop there... the more days the better.
Meals - Pick a meal or meals to be vegetarian (or better yet vegan). Whether breakfast, lunch or dinner, you'll be doing making great change for you and your family.
Visitors - The 'Visitors' method can work either way. Be vegetarian except when you visit other people or except when people visit you.
Dining Out - If you're a 'Dining Out Flexitarian,' you are vegetarian/vegan in your home, but not when you dine out. This has the advantage of providing more options at restaurants, but the down-side is that the meat often comes from the most intensive farming systems (> 95%) and the restaurants don't realize there's high demand for vegetarian/vegan options.
Dining In - Some people choose to eat meat and/or animal products at home, where they can make more socially-conscious food choices. Since the vast majority of farming is intensive (with harsh consequence for animals, the environment and health), vegetarian/vegan options are chosen outside of the home.
Percentage - This option is great for its flexibility. Choose a percentage of vegetarian/vegan and use that as your guide. For example, you can start at 50%. As that becomes more comfortable, considering increasing to 75%, 80%, 90% or more.
Imperfectly Ideal - Don't want to get caught up in labels, but want to do the most good? Be an imperfect vegetarian/vegan. It's not about perfection or catching every last ingredient. With or without the label, adopt good practices and enjoy the process. Want more on this topic? See the article on How Vegan: Ingredients vs. Activism by Vegan Outreach.