New Research Shares Easy Ways To Cut Back On Meat Consumption

What if "Meatless Monday" changed to "Meat Monday" and the rest of the days of the week were dedicated to a plant-based or more veggie-centric diet? It might be challenging to go cold turkey on eating meat, but The Beet says consumers are increasingly interested in eating less animal protein for a number of reasons, including environmental sustainability and the health benefits of a diet with less processed meat. Whatever the motivation may be, eating less meat can be challenging for people accustomed to an animal protein-based diet. Springer Link just published the results of a U.K.-based trial that explored the effectiveness of an online program aimed at reducing participants' meat consumption.

The Online Program to Tackle Individual's Meat Intake through Self-regulation (OPTIMISE) was a nine-week study conducted with 151 British adults. It explored the effects of a three-part online program that followed participants' meat intake after one week of self-monitoring, four weeks utilizing "intervention" techniques, and four weeks of meat reduction maintenance. Adults in the study were asked to set their goals, follow an action plan, self-monitor with an "action diary," and answer daily questionnaires to track their meat consumption.

The study showed a decrease of 108 grams of animal protein in the control group from the beginning of the trial to the five-week point. The final "maintenance" portion of the trial didn't show a significant change in consumption, but participants said that the intervention techniques were "informative and eye-opening."

Participants identify the most effective methods for eating less meat

The adults who participated in the study recognized a lack of willpower, cooking skills, and alternative meal ideas as the main challenges to their goal to eat less meat (per Springer Link). They also noted the methods that made reducing animal protein intake easier.

The Guardian quotes one of the study's leaders, Dr. Cristina Stewart, who said, "There were really small, manageable strategies, which showed us that reducing your meat intake doesn't have to be really daunting or happen overnight. Small reductions add up." According to Springer Link, participants found some methods of reducing meat consumption easier to follow than others. Actions like making one vegetarian meal per day, doubling the vegetables in a dish while cutting the meat in half, cutting out processed meat, exploring meat alternatives, and trying a new vegetarian recipe were among the most popular methods. Going plant-based for the entire day was the least utilized action.

Adults in the study noted that the greatest hindrance to their success was other people not wanting to eat meat-free meals, a lack of time to cook, and having meat leftovers that they didn't want to waste, among other challenges (via Springer Link). However, participants also claimed that the intervention and self-monitoring tools of the program quantified the surprising amount of meat in their diet and motivated them to reduce intake.