Help Dad Ditch Meat: 5 Reasons He Should and 6 Tips to Make It Happen
There’s no better gift than good health. This Father's Day, help your dad or any important man in your life say goodbye to meat — for good. While he may love grilling season, there are so many important reasons for him to ditch meat, whether that be for his health, the environment, or the animals. Below, an overview of why it’s time for pop to part ways with that (conventional) burger, and simple tips for making the transition to meat-free living easier.
Why Should Men Ditch Meat?
1. Quitting meat is good for your heart health.
“As men age, their bodies will naturally begin to store fat around the midsection of their abdomen,” says Trista K. Best, MPH, RD, LDN, at Balance One, referencing this study. “This location of fat can lead to a higher risk of heart disease and stroke. The fat contained in meat, saturated fat, along with physical inactivity and other lifestyle choices will increase the fat stored in this area.”
Elaborating on that, Michelle Routhenstein, MS, RD, CDE, CDN, Cardiology Dietitian, author of The Truly Easy Heart Healthy cookbook, chimes in, “A recent study showed that higher red meat was associated with smaller ventricles, poorer heart function, and stiffer arteries, which are all markers of poor heart health. The reason why this may be is that red meat contains high concentrations of saturated fat and TMAO production which stiffens arteries and promotes dangerous plaque formation, which leads to narrowing of the arteries and future cardiac events.” Yikes, we’ll pass on that.
2. Meat can increase your risk of cancer.
Another convincing reason for men to cut down or eliminate meat? No lesser organization than the World Health Organization has categorized red meat as a class 1 carcinogen, of the same level as smoking cigarettes. Read this to dad: The WHO states: "Consumption of processed meat is “carcinogenic to humans,” and that consumption of red meat is “probably carcinogenic to humans. Skip the dogs and opt for meatless choices this Father's Day.
A recent study out of the UK found: You can lower your cancer risk by 14 percent just by ditching meat. (And while he's at it, help him wean off milk since dairy consumption raises risk of prostate cancer by 60 percent, according to another scientific review out of Loma Linda University in California). But start with meat, since that's a win against all diseases.
“According to a study published in Nutrients, red and processed meat consumption was linked to a higher risk of gastric cancer, which men are more prone to get than women,” says Brittany Lubeck, MS, RD, and consultant for Oh So Spotless. Need more proof that plant-based is the way to go, read this article on how to eat to lower your cancer risk, according to a Harvard study (spoiler: it’s a healthy plant-based diet).
3. You don’t need to worry about breaking up with meat impacting your testosterone levels.
If dad has heard that eating vegan can influence his testosterone levels, think again. “Men no longer need to worry about a plant-based diet decreasing their testosterone levels because that theory has been proven as untrue,” shares Lubeck, citing this study on the association between plant-based content in diet and testosterone levels in U.S. adults.
4. Ditching meat basically reduces your risk of a lengthy list of health conditions.
It’s not just heart disease and cancer risk that meat consumption affects...but also diabetes and obesity. “Contrary to popular opinion, men need to watch their meat consumption to avoid over-eating saturated fat that can put them at higher risk for heart disease, diabetes, and certain cancers,” says Lubeck. “Plus, a plant-based diet has been found to reduce instances of metabolic syndrome, obesity, and coronary heart disease.”
Further elaborating on that, Best adds, “a vegan diet reduces risk of metabolic syndrome in men, as well as women. One study shows that the mortality rate for stroke was 22 percent lower in men who followed a plant-based vegan diet."
Research has also found that a mostly plant-based diet may reduce the risk of dementia, too. Some doctors are even urging their clients to go plant-based to reduce their risk of getting sick from coronavirus.
5. It’s just not that cool.
For your health. For the animals. For the planet. Eating all that meat is partly a societal thing, unfortunately. “Meat and men seem to go hand-in-hand. One study by the University of Hawaii at Manoa found that men who felt anxious about the status of their maleness chose to eat more meat in order to restore their masculinity,” explains Lubeck. Just like smoking was once “hip,” meat and barbecue culture has a certain association with manliness, even though there is no shortage of incredible vegan bodybuilders and athletes who thrive on a plant-based diet.
Besides, instead of harping on the meat = manliness factor, how about reflecting on some sobering stats with that platter of meat: “Men would greatly benefit from limiting their meat consumption because of the research-backed science that shows high red meat consumption is associated with an increased risk of heart disease. “[In a study published last year by Al-Shaar et al.] for every additional serving of red meat per day, it increased coronary heart disease by 12 percent!” That heaping platter of ribs doesn’t look so good anymore, huh?
Bonus: If your dad goes against the grain and embraces a plant-based or mostly plant-based lifestyle, he may inspire those in his circle to do the same. (Read: Uncle John.)
Tips for Helping Dad To Stop Eating Meat
1. Start slow.
“Going plant-based doesn't have to be done cold turkey. This is a change that is sustainable only if the individual is completely on-board and convinced of the benefits,” shares Best, highlighting research that shows that healthy plant-based diets are associated with lower risk of all causes of mortality in U.S. adults.
“This is why I recommend weaning yourself off of meat slowly,” she continues. Best recommends eating plant-based one day a week for a whole week followed by two days the next week. “He can do this until he is at a full week or if he feels it is becoming easier he can go for more days at a time until he reaches his goal,” says Best.
2. Reframe the way you look at the plate.
A little creativity at mealtime goes a long way. “Instead of the meat being the center of the meal, view it as the side dish. Then [tell your dad to] consider taking a poll of how much red meat [he is] eating in an average week, and set a realistic expectation to slowly titrate back,” suggests Routhenstein. “It may be easier to swap red meat for grilled chicken or even dark chicken breast initially. Focus on the plants first by filling up your plate with vegetables in a fun way — grilling the vegetables, using a seasoning blend you would use on the red meat on the vegetables instead, or trying different plant favorites from varying cuisines.”
3. Try the “divide it in half” tip.
Routhenstein says if dad is used to eating two red meat burgers at a barbecue, it may be helpful to have one red meat burger and then one grilled black bean burger or vegetables. Following this rule of thumb might help make adapting to a more plant-based way of eating easier for your favorite fella. “Or if [he is] making a homemade burger, bulk it up with cauliflower rice, frozen spinach, spices, and mushrooms which will add more plants, but also cut back on the actual red meat consumed.”
4. Befriend plant-based protein sources.
“Some options for men looking to substitute meat with plant-based protein include tofu or other soy products, beans, lentils, quinoa, and nuts,” says Lubeck, adding that a veggie burger or Impossible Burger are other options (as is the Beyond Burger and other similar products), but she cautions people to watch out for the saturated fat in some of those. “Adding a delicious fruit and vegetable smoothie with a scoop of protein powder to your day is a great way to meet daily protein goals when cutting back on meat,” she adds.
5. Eat more vegetables.
But make them taste amazing. “Eating more vegetables is easier than it sounds. If you are already a grill master, you can cook your vegetables on the grill,” says Lubeck. “Veggies can be added to skewers or straight to the grill top. Some vegetables that are especially good when cooked on the grill are zucchini and other squashes, onions, bell peppers, and mushrooms.”
6. Get dad to try new recipes.
Whether it’s buying him a plant-based cookbook or, better yet, cooking with him in person, this is a great way to help make the shift to meat-free living easier. “Trying a new plant-based recipe on a weekly basis will allow him to discover new foods he didn't know he liked and rule out others,” shares Best, adding that after keeping this up for a month or two, he’ll have a whole roster of plant-based recipes he enjoys. “I recommend one of these recipes be a meat alternative for the grill, like mushroom caps.” (Fellas just love their grilling.)