Despite overwhelming scientific evidence that shows meat-free diets are better for your health, the environment, and animal welfare, many are reluctant to embrace a plant-based diet. Perhaps one of those people was once you. Myths and misperceptions surrounding veganism make changing someone’s mind about eating meat tougher than a well-done steak. If you're plant-based yourself, you can probably think about one or two loved ones who you would love to see give up meat for their health. Instead of pushing them hard, share with them what prompted you to make the switch. Instead of trying to change their approach, telling them what changed your mind can be a gentler, more effective way to have them consider another perspective.

When trying to convince someone you care about to try ditching meat and dairy, it’s essential to address the misinformation around adopting a plant-based diet. Tell them: Don’t write off veganism as a bunch of salad leaves on a plate until you’ve explored the growing world of meat alternatives, which now are plentiful, and make the transition that much easier. Before they bite into another beef burger, offer them a chance to try your favorite alternatives like Beyond or Impossible. Remind them about the dangers associated with meat consumption.

Anytime you challenge someone’s long-held beliefs, you’re going to be met with resistance. Rethinking meat is no exception. However, when you tackle the misconceptions and layout the proven benefits, you have a good chance of changing someone’s mind.

A Plant-Based Diet Can Boost Your Immune System

Tell someone you're vegan and they look at you like you're "one of those" people who probably bike everywhere and weave sandals out of hemp. That is both an old and new view of vegans, because the movement has had many iterations dating back to the 70s and before, and since its inception sustainable fashion, leather-free sneakers, boots, and yes, biking, have all taken on a new-found mainstream cool.

But when it comes to eating for your health, especially to avoid heart disease, diabetes, cancers, and high blood pressure, the urgency of eating healthy has led nearly one-quarter of all Americans to say they are consuming plant-based foods, even if they are not fully vegan or plant-based at the exclusion of all meat or dairy. Coronavirus showed up on our radar in early 2020 and since then more consumers as eating more fruits and vegetables, taking vitamins C and D, and other supplements in an effort to protect their immune system and build up their response to the virus. Eating plant-based is no longer something you do for your future health and wellbeing, now it's something you do to be healthier today, right now.

"But Where Do You Get Your Protein?"

Still, most die-hard meat eaters will tell you they need meat for protein, or for strength, or to cut down on carbs, and still, they’re reluctant to make the switch to plant-based eating. Consequently, those of us who follow plant-based diets have trouble getting our loved ones to accept their eating choices. Opening someone’s mind to the benefits of veganism starts with breaking down the myths and misconceptions they believe to be true.

Let's assume that the loved one already knows that a diet high in plant-based foods and low in animal products lowers their risk of death from all causes–including heart disease, diabetes, and cancer–by 24 percent. They may tell you it's inconvenient or more expensive, both not true: You actually save money at the grocery store when you cut out meat, an estimated $1,260 a year. But when you tell them that, some people will still say they’re not willing to sacrifice taste.

What these meat lovers don’t realize is that it has never been easier to eat plant-based. In response to an increase in demand from consumers, restaurants, supermarkets, and food manufacturers are preparing, stocking, and developing a variety of affordable and tasty meat alternatives. Furthermore, rethinking meat doesn’t mean you have to give it up entirely. You can take steps to adopt a mostly plant-based diet and still reap the benefits of removing meat from your diet.

The Many Health Benefits of Removing Meat from Your Diet

Many people turn to plant-based diets to reap the health benefits of removing (entirely or partially) meat from their diet. Even if you can't get their attention on the long-term health effects of a plant-based diet, you can tell them that plant-based foods lower the risk of inflammation and infection, and help their digestive health. Want to get really personal? Tell your loved one who spends too much time in the bathroom or suffering from gut health issues that consuming red meat can lead to constipation which puts excessive pressure on veins throughout your body. On the other hand, vegan and plant-based diets are high in fiber which aids digestion and reduces vein stress.

While constipation is undoubtedly a negative side effect of too much meat in your diet, an even more serious consequence is the potential for antibiotic resistance. To boost growth rates and prevent infections, livestock farmers include antibiotics in the feed of food animals such as cows, pigs, and chickens. Over time, germs build up a resistance to antibiotics, and when a human catches one of these infections, drugs are ineffective. Why this matters more now: When someone contracts COVID-19 it's the secondary infections that make them sickest, so while the coronavirus is not resolved by antibiotics, the secondary lung infection like pneumonia is.

In recent years, public health investigators have noted that drug-resistant infections from food animals are steadily rising. To avoid building up a resistance to antibiotics, you should reduce your meat intake or cut it out of your diet entirely. Going vegan or embracing a mostly plant-based diet will support beneficial bacterial functions and help to protect you against intestinal diseases.

Getting to Know Meat Alternatives

Despite scientists and health experts spelling out the repercussions of eating too much meat, some people are still hesitant to make potentially lifesaving dietary changes. If you’re still on the fence about veganism, you need to explore the world of meat alternatives. It’s a lot more varied (and a lot tastier) than many people realize, and it can be a great way to transition from being a meat-love to incorporating more plants onto your plate.

Just because you decide to give up meat doesn’t mean you’ll never bite into a burger again. Companies like Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat are hard at work developing plant-based products that look and taste like actual meat. Food manufacturer Lightlife offers a tasty bacon alternative with zero cholesterol. These plant-based products are similarly priced to meat-based products which dash the misconception that a vegan diet is more expensive.

There are meat replacements for virtually any situation. You may have already tried tofu in stir fry, but it works as a replacement for eggs or cheese. Need a stand-in for chicken or beef? You can use seitan in pretty much any recipe that calls for them. Don’t forget about mushrooms: A portobello burger has a hearty flavor and surprisingly meaty texture.

Organizing a taste test of a variety of meat alternatives is a fun (and convincing) way to get someone to rethink meat. Changing someone’s mind is difficult, but with a creative and fact-based approach, it’s possible.

Each day, more scientific evidence comes to light supporting meat-free diets. Regardless of who you are trying to convince, it’s important to highlight the benefits of adopting a plant-based diet as well as address the myths and misperceptions surrounding veganism. This year, instead of asking your loved one to go the whole way, try swapping out a vegan version of their favorite meal. Giving up meat is a big leap for many people, but like anything, it's doable when broken down into smaller steps.