Using reducetarianism to encourage plant-based eating habits
Reducetarianism is an approach to plant-based eating that focuses on reducing animal product consumption and increasing plant foods. Here’s how you can use this eating style to help your clients eat more plants and boost their health.
With plant-centric eating styles growing in popularity, many people are hopping on the bandwagon, and for good reason. Plant-based diets are often associated with a decreased risk of chronic disease, better weight management, and improved health, so it stands to reason that you have to be a vegetarian or vegan to reap the benefits. However, there is more than one way to eat for your health, which is great news for your nutrition clients who aren’t willing to fully ax animal products from their diet.
As a dietitian, you can use a reducetarianism approach to help your clients dip their toes into plant-based eating. Here’s what you need to know about this eating style, the associated health benefits, and how you can use this approach to encourage your clients to incorporate more plants into their diet.
What is reducetarianism?
Reducetarianism is a type of plant-based diet that focuses on reducing consumption of animal products without entirely cutting them out of the diet. This differs from a vegetarian and vegan dietary approach because there aren’t specific foods your client needs to fully eliminate from their diet, since reducetarianism is all about adding more plants and reducing animal products. As such, this movement is the perfect option for your clients who are looking to eat more plant-based foods, but are not willing or able to become a full fledged vegan.
This eating approach is also quite flexible. Since there is no “perfect” way to do it, this takes a lot of pressure off of your clients, since they can gradually reduce their consumption of animal products with respect to their own diet. This gives them the freedom to embrace plant-based eating in a way that fits their own needs.
Health benefits of reducetarianism
Eating more plants has long been associated with health benefits, so here are some ways that reducetarianism can provide positive and meaningful changes.
- Nutrition boost. Eating a plant-centric diet often provides more nutrients (such as potassium, magnesium, folate, and vitamins A, C, and E) than the typical western diet . Additionally, plant-based foods are full of fiber, free of cholesterol, and low in sodium and saturated fat.
- Linked to weight loss. Diets that are primarily plant-based have been linked to weight loss, with studies showing that they are more effective than other diets at providing sustainable weight loss . This is further backed by science, as it’s been found that those who eat a plant-based diet tend to have lower BMIs than their omnivore counterparts . While studies mainly focus on vegan diets, these results can still apply to reducetarianism, as incorporating more plant foods will provide these benefits (just potentially on a smaller scale).
- Lower risk of heart disease. Regular consumption of plant foods (like fresh fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, and healthy fats) has long been linked to a lower risk of heart disease, since plant-based diets are effective at lowering blood sugar and LDL (“bad”) cholesterol compared to diets that are not plant-based [3,4]. Additionally, studies have shown that those who follow a plant-based diet have a 75% reduced chance of developing high blood pressure, and a 43% less chance of dying from heart disease [6,7].
- Decreased cognitive decline. Research suggests that consuming diets high in vegetables and fruit can prevent or slow cognitive decline, as well as the onset and progression of Alzehimer’s disease . This is due to the high amounts of polyphenols and antioxidants present in plant foods.
- Reduces your carbon footprint. It's estimated that eating more plants and reducing meat and dairy consumption could reduce mortality and greenhouse gas by 10% and 70%, respectively, by 2050 . Research also shows that swapping beef for beans could account for 46-74% of the United States’ required greenhouse gas reductions . Learn more about how you can create an eco-friendly meal plan with this article.
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How to encourage your clients to eat more plants
Whether your client is looking to lose weight, reduce the risk of chronic disease, or simply eat a more nutritious diet, you can help them on their journey by incorporating more plants into their diet. Here are some tips to encourage a reducetarianism eating approach.
- Start small. Don't just try to push a plant-based approach to your client, respect their boundaries and start with little steps. Encourage them to slowly incorporate more plant foods into their diet to make it more manageable.
- Suggest convenient food swaps. Your client doesn’t have to fully go vegan to reap the health benefits. Start their journey with small changes, so that it doesn't feel overwhelming. You can suggest that they swap the eggs for chia seeds, for example.
- Add one meatless meal per week. Starting small can take your client to big achievements! Suggest that they start with only one plant-based meal per week, so they have time to adjust and invest in that one meal. This will make them plan it better and possibly try more interesting food combinations and recipes because it feels like a special occasion.
- Keep greens in the kitchen. Help your clients adjust by starting to add vegetables to every meal. This will help with the transition, making them adapt slowly until it becomes natural.
- Encourage plant-based snacking. Teach your clients to take advantage of convenient, easy-to-grab options (like grape tomatoes, baby carrots, apples, bananas, or nuts).
Reducetarianism is an approach to plant-based eating that focuses on reducing animal product consumption and increasing plant foods. Since plant-based diets are often associated with a decreased risk of chronic disease, better weight management, and improved health, you can encourage your nutrition clients to include more plants without fully eliminating animal products from their diet. As such, this approach helps your clients create a sustainable lifestyle that works for their needs, budget, and health goals.
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- Weikert, C., Trefflich, I., Menzel, J., Obeid, R., Longree, A., Dierkes, J., Meyer, K., Herter-Aeberli, I., Mai, K., Stangl, G. I., Müller, S. M., Schwerdtle, T., Lampen, A., & Abraham, K. (2020). Vitamin and Mineral Status in a Vegan Diet. Deutsches Arzteblatt international, 117(35-36), 575–582. https://doi.org/10.3238/arztebl.2020.0575
- Turner-McGrievy, G.M., Barnard, N.D. and Scialli, A.R. (2007), A Two-Year Randomized Weight Loss Trial Comparing a Vegan Diet to a More Moderate Low-Fat Diet. Obesity, 15: 2276-2281. https://doi.org/10.1038/oby.2007.270
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- Wang, F., Zheng, J., Yang, B., Jiang, J., Fu, Y., & Li, D. (2015). Effects of Vegetarian Diets on Blood Lipids: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials. Journal of the American Heart Association, 4(10), e002408. https://doi.org/10.1161/JAHA.115.002408
- Malar, D. S., & Devi, K. P. (2014). Dietary polyphenols for treatment of Alzheimer's disease--future research and development. Current pharmaceutical biotechnology, 15(4), 330–342. https://doi.org/10.2174/1389201015666140813122703
- Le, L. T., & Sabaté, J. (2014). Beyond meatless, the health effects of vegan diets: findings from the Adventist cohorts. Nutrients, 6(6), 2131–2147. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu6062131
- Alexander, S., Ostfeld, R. J., Allen, K., & Williams, K. A. (2017). A plant-based diet and hypertension. Journal of geriatric cardiology : JGC, 14(5), 327–330. https://doi.org/10.11909/j.issn.1671-5411.2017.05.014
- Vegetarian diets best for the environment and human health. Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine. (n.d.). Retrieved March 15, 2022, from https://www.pcrm.org/news/health-nutrition/vegetarian-diets-best-environment-and-human-health
- Substituting beans for beef beneficial for environment. Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine. (n.d.). Retrieved March 15, 2022, from https://www.pcrm.org/news/health-nutrition/substituting-beans-beef-beneficial-environment