Diet & Nutrition

Are you a reducetarian?

If you’re trying to cut down on your meat consumption, but not ready to cut it out entirely, you aren't alone.

The reducetarian movement is one you may already be a part of without realising it's a thing. If you're trying to cut back on meat or animal products, you're already involved. Although the term itself is a bit of a mouthful, it simply describes those of us who are trying to eat less meat without committing to the commands of being a strict vegetarian or vegan.
Although you may not have wanted to chance ordering the vegetarian main at a restaurant a decade ago, for fear of a dry, bland dish, eateries are now offering a range of delicious non-meat meals at the same time as studies are exposing the negative impacts of meat in the mainstream.
According to think tank Chatham House, livestock accounts for more than 14 per cent of total global climate-changing emissions. One analysis of data from 10 studies estimated that every 50g portion of processed meat eaten daily increases the risk of colorectal cancer by about 18 per cent.
Pseudo-vegetarianism is becoming trendy. Roy Morgan Research found that the proportion of New Zealanders who said the food they eat is all, or almost all, vegetarian grew 27 per cent between 2011 and 2016.
In an age when initiatives including Meat-free Mondays and Vegan Before 6 are on the lips of many, and labels such as flexitarian (semi-vegetarian) and climatarian (based on the carbon footprint of foods) come up in casual conversation, the reducetarian movement is welcoming all types of diners to the table.
During a recent TEDx Talk, the founder of reducetarianism, Brian Kateman, united those who wish to be conscious consumers but who also consider the smell of sizzling bacon their kryptonite. Promising we can all help to change the world by ordering a smaller steak, he concluded,
"Reducetarianism is a message that allows us to focus not on our differences but on our shared commitment to eating less meat regardless of where we fall on the spectrum."
Director of Auckland-based ethical PR company Media Jam, Janelle Brunton-Rennie, says she has become a reducetarian for her own health, the good of the planet and ethical reasons.
As a fan of recent documentaries exposing the dangers of meat, including Netflix's Cowspiracy and What the Health, she says gradually phasing meat out of her diet over an 18-month period enabled her to commit to becoming a full-time vegetarian.
"Before I knew it, my drive to eat meat had almost disappeared," she says. "I felt more sluggish and lethargic when I did consume meat, so it made sense to give it a miss altogether."
For Brunton-Rennie, being a reducetarian is about decreasing her consumption of dairy products and processed foods in favour of plant-based protein. Also choosing to avoid gluten due to an autoimmune disease, her intention is to retain control over her diet, rather than restrict herself.
"I actually feel empowered to be making positive ethical and health-driven choices," she says.
Angela Berrill, a registered dietitian and director at ABC Nutrition, says that in reducing your intake of animal products, it's just as important to focus on what you are putting into your body as what you're not. When removing meat from your diet, you need to eat more protein-containing plants, such as legumes; iron-rich foods, such as green leafy vegetables; and foods containing vitamin C, to support iron absorption.
She says there are a number of different ways in which people can eat to improve their overall health and wellbeing. The most important thing with any dietary change is to consult a qualified nutrition professional, such as a registered dietitian, to make sure you're getting all the necessary nutrients to support your body.
Some types of meat are better to axe from your diet than others - processed meats being at the top of the list. "I'd recommend sticking to unprocessed lean meats, such as chicken, turkey, lamb, beef and pork, and incorporating some oily fish a couple of times a week, such as salmon, sardines, mackerel or herring."
For those taking it a step further and avoiding dairy too, calcium may be an issue, and you may need to consider B12 supplements or injections in consultation with a healthcare professional. There are plenty of cow's milk alternatives on the market, but Berrill recommends checking the labels for their protein content as "some contain hardly any at all", and keeping an eye out for calcium-fortified varieties.
"Although it does sound like a lot to consider initially," she says, "with some guidance from a degree-qualified nutrition professional, you'll be set on the right track."
See more in the print edition of Simply You Body & Beauty, out now!