Vegetarian 5 Days a Week

Any real vegetarian would laugh at the concept of no meat only five days a week. Still, it’s a practice I have lived by since last April. Consider it a healthier lifestyle to reduce my carbon footprint.

Why do such a funny thing? Well, I have three primary reasons.

First, the impact meat raised for human consumption makes on the environment is substantial. Lamb, beef and pork all have a tremendous carbon tax on the environment, not only for the amount of grain necessary to feed these animals, but also the methane they produce.

Infographic by EWG

Second, when you eat meat it’s harder to digest. Consequently, your body is more likely to put on fat. I lost a lot of weight by simply extracting meat from my diet on most days.

Finally, it’s an act of mindfulness, part of the practice of Zen. Abstaining from meat acknowledges life, a reverence for it as embodied by the first mindfulness tradition.

Now, I struggle with this. After two or three days, I go crazy from meat craving. Then I listen to my body, and have a burger or some chicken. Sometimes, I just need protein.

And I’ve made some interesting dietary errors, such as eating carbs every damn meal for days in a row and feeling, well, fat and sick. Balance, right? Fortunately, Caitlin has experimented with some great vegetarian recipes, which saved my time constrained stomach the lameness of ever present pasta.

Eating at restaurants can be difficult. Usually, there’s at least one dish that offers a vegetarian alternative, but they are rarely the most appetizing. Yelp helps find more veggie friendly places to eat.

Finally, any critic can poke holes in this five-day-a-week compromise. They’re right. But the impact from two to four meat meals a week is significantly less than 12-18 meals.

Part time vegetarianism is just one small way to make a difference for the environment. Believe me, I feel better for it.

Are you part or full-time vegetarian? What are some ways you try to reduce your carbon footprint?

Hat tip to Sean McGinnis for turning me onto Graham Hill.


  • Geoff, it’s difficult to provide advice on whether or not one should be a vegetarian. The carbon footprint rationale is a sound one. But what it largely ignores that we are all different and have different nutritional needs at different points in our lives. Similar to you, I mostly eat vegetarian, perhaps only having meat once or twice a month. But my body requires protein, and not just plant-based protein, in order for me to function optimally. This is not a supposition; numerous practitioners have said the same thing to me. My grandmother, who was one of the first individuals to try vegetarianism (my dad tells me that their HH was vegetarian for a brief period in the 30s), had a saying that I live by today: everything in moderation. Naysayers will tell you that you must eat the Paleo way while others will say that you should never allow gluten to enter your body. I say, pay attention to the way that you feel when you eat, be mindful of ‘white’ and enjoy the meal rather than wolfing it down.

    • Certainly, we can only share our individual experience, which is what I have done. Like you my body demands protein. Post surgery five or six weeks ago, I could only make it a day without meat, red meat. It’s what my body demanded, so I gave in.

      Like all things in life, moderation matters a lot, and that’s zen, too, eh? So agree on the white.

  • Now I am awfully proud of you. I stopped eating meat in 1970, when it was a significant act of rebellion, and much harder to accomplish. You will not regret this.

  • I think it’s all about what works for you. As you know, I’ve been *mostly* doing the paleo-style eating (don’t want to call it a “diet”), but I really enjoy it. I found that I love the veggies and salads especially which I NEVER thought I would. I do enjoy meat but honestly, can go days without eating it/feeling deprived. I can tell when I don’t have enough protein, though (from meat), so then I eat it.

    • Mmmm. We are very similar in this sense. I should eat more salads, though. I am definitely on carb overload. LOL!

  • I’m a believer in the pendulum swing of life…unless immoral or illegal, all things in moderation. One day’s indulgence can be countered with another day’s sensibility. Cheers! Kaarina

  • I love this! I try to abstain from meat on most days and I feel lighter and more energetic for it. I think people should do what works best for them. I love how I feel when I eat more veggies and no meat. That said, I never want to feel ‘deprived’ or deny my cravings. I think depriving myself completely would only lead to binging on bacon and hamburgers! Bravo for writing about this, Geoff! Glad to see it has worked well for you.

    • I think you said it well, lighter and more energetic is the general feeling I get as well. Nothing wrong with a burger now and then, though, my friend!

  • Writing about how your lifestyle impacts the environment is so important. Not only does it keep yourself in check, but it inspires others who want to make a change. I love experimenting with my eating habits. I’ve dabbled in vegetarianism. But find that pescetarianism suits me better. I love sushi too much. I’ve heard great things about the paleo style of eating. may have to try that next (after this bottle of wine of course…)!

    • I agree. Not enough people do it, so I hope a few voices (Rogier is doing it, too) will turn into more voices. Sushi rocks, love fish. Mmmm, fish.

  • Hi Geoff, I absolutely agree with this approach. We eat a ‘plant based’ diet at home. Which means no meat whatsoever for all meals eaten at home (which is usually 6 days a week for us at least). If we’re eating out at a restaurant, a friends house or an event then we’ll happily eat meat. We’ve been doing this for 2 years now and love it.

    We do it for various reasons, a culmination of environmental, health and lifestyle reasons. I feel a lot better for it and know that I’m getting my ‘5 a day veges’ because you have to eat more vegetables and fruit if going without meat. It also encourages you to eat a wider variety and type of food which I love.

    I must admit I do sometimes see the odd meat based recipe and desire to cook it. But I refrain as I know as soon as I bring meat back into the home we’ll fall in the ‘easy’ trap of basing all of our meals around a hunk of meat in the middle of the plate!

  • Im so confused by this carbon footprint notion. If we did not eat meat, then there would be no cows grazing the earth? Surely not. There may even be more of them. We have hunting season for a reason – to control populations and live off the land (in a sense). Ive cut down on my meat intake myself and noticed I have more energy when I am not consuming meat but I what I want when I want to eat it – which is what you are saying here Geoff; listen to your body.

    • If people cut back on meat consumption there would be a significant decrease in farm populations. We no longer “hunt” to control population size and instead force breed animals for the soul purpose of consumption. I hope that clears up the confusion! I’m not vegetarian but am really interested in reducing my animal product intake for a variety of reasons.

  • Bravo for taking this step! I’m curious – does the animal rights aspect of this way of eating come into play for you (i.e., animals are sentient beings that feel pain, would choose to live if given that choice, etc.)?

    In no means am criticizing your choice; it’s a great change that makes a difference in a number of ways. Just genuinely curious if that aspect was a factor in your decision to change your diet.

  • I’ve been vegetarian 6 years now, but to me this doesn’t seem strange at all! I totally encourage anyone to give up as much meat as they feel comfortable giving up, and thinking about how much they really need in their diet given its impacts. That said I would also encourage those still eating meat (even just on weekends) to be aware of where their products come from and if there is a more sustainable option. Also if you want to go vegetarian, even 5 days a week, make sure you do some research and properly replace the nutrients and protein you are removing with legumes, nuts, tofu etc. That will significantly reduce the “meat cravings” :)

  • I’m vegan 6 days a week and have one cheat day but usually its because I miss yogurt and cheese….I usually skip meat except on really special occasions.

  • Right now, I’ve decided to eat vegetarian six days a week. I’m doing it for health reasons and to help lose some weight. I’ve eaten vegan and vegetarian before but always dived into it full-throttle too quickly, I feel, and it hasn’t worked for me. I’m hoping that with this modified plant-based diet, it will produce good results for me!

Comments are closed