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Staff Pick

Nancy Oglesby, CHHC, the owner of HealthWorksKC, wears many hats: Blogger, Public Speaker, Educator and Coach! After graduating from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition in 2011, she had a mission to inspire as many people as possible to create a lifestyle that nourishes their body, mind and spirit. Nancy is also a Juice Plus+ Representative.

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How Diet Can Affect Environmental Change

by Nancy Oglesby


“Yes, I absolutely think of myself as someone who cares about the environment,” she said while noshing on a barbecue rib.


I get that Paleo is all the rage these days, and there are definitely ways to make it healthy and more sustainable, but the reality is that as a diet for the planet, it is fundamentally flawed. Let’s take a look at some of the ecological reasons why reducing our reliance on meat is critical to our health and longevity.


From a report of the Pew Commission on Industrial Farm Animal Production: “… these data suggest that the present industrial model of farm animal production is not sustainable for the long term. The overuse and degradation of natural resources may be too great to allow the current form of this production model to continue to be viable.”


One, In a few hundred years, when people look back on this era of civilization, they will surely wonder about our decision-making skills. Just looking at our environment it’s clear that we are using up our planet’s resources very quickly, even while there are clear cut methods available to us to reduce the damage. Our government consistently looks away from the single biggest polluter in the country, and the world: Factory animal production. Along with producing a fifth of all greenhouse gasses worldwide, it pollutes streams and waterways, carries disease and underlies many of our most serious health problems.


Two, byproducts of industrial farming are the emission of methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide into the atmosphere (37 percent and 65 percent, respectively, of the world’s total). Methane is said to be 20 times worse for the planet than CO2 and nitrous oxide 70 percent worse.5 Combine that with the amount of waste created, an estimated five tons of animal waste for each U.S. citizen2, with limited abilities to contain it, and you can see that reducing our consumption of animal products would go far to relieve a huge burden on our planet.


I’m going to toss out some statistics:


  • 260 million acres of U.S. forests have been destroyed to provide crop land for animal feed.3

  • 70 percent of all grain grown in the U.S.. is fed to animals3

  • 2,400 gallons … yes, 2,400 gallons of water are used to produce one pound of meat.3

  • It takes 11 times the fossil fuel to create one calorie of animal protein compared to one calorie of plant protein.8

  • Americans eat an average of 270 pounds of meat a year.7 (You must be eating an extra couple of hundred because I hardly eat any.)

  • A cow in the U.S. eats 660 pounds of grain to produce 2.2 pounds of protein.

  • Animal use accounts for 70 percent of antibiotics used in the U.S. today. Antibiotic resistant infections kill more than 90,000 Americans each year.4

  • According to the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization factory, farming accounts for more greenhouse gases than all of transportation.


This doesn’t even take into account the cost to our health in terms of chronic disease, especially cancer and heart disease. So, what is the alternative? A person’s got to eat, right? It’s true, and I really don’t expect everyone to give up eating meat, but reducing consumption and choosing local, pastured animals rather than industrial farmed will have a huge impact! Here are some ways to make that happen:


  • You don’t have to quit eating meat completely. A serving of meat should be three ounces, which is one ounce less than McDonald’s Quarter Pounder. Using meat in small amounts will automatically increase the amount of plant-based food on your plate. Fill it up with non-starchy vegetables, whole grains, fruit and healthy fats.

  • Put your focus on reducing or eliminating red meat that’s traditionally raised. By reducing the amount of meat you eat you’ll be able to afford healthier quality. Look for 100 percent grass-fed beef, pastured, organic chicken and wild caught seafood.

  • Participate in Meatless Monday, and find recipes to support your efforts. Remember that not all recipes work out. It’s important to get that meaty flavor and you can achieve that by adding healthy fat, tamari, mushrooms, smoked paprika and Bragg’s Liquid Aminos. You can also use Liquid Smoke.

  • Try a vegan chili recipe. (I’ve got one that’s always a winner in my cooking classes and with the meat eaters in my life. Go to for that and more.)

  • Have a salad with every meal. You don’t have to eat it before the meal, include it as part of the meal. I grew up in a family that ate salad at the end of the meal and only had dessert if there was company.

  • Use meat as a condiment and increase the amount of vegetables and whole grains. You can do this easily in soups, stir-fries, spaghetti sauce and stews. Adding peanuts or cashews to a stir fry with just a small amount of lean chicken will give you flavor with a touch of crunch.

  • Instead of chicken on a salad, use beans. There are many varieties and they pair well with balsamic vinaigrette. Keep cans of beans handy and freeze what you don’t use. 

  • Use beans for texture. I pulse garbanzo beans in my food processor to small chunks and add them, along with ground fennel to my spaghetti sauce. It gives it a taste and texture similar to adding crumbled Italian sausage.

  • Asian and Middle Eastern restaurants are good choices as they tend to feature grains over meat. 

  • Choose restaurants that serve locally raised animal products. Call ahead and ask about the farming practices of the purveyors they purchase from. Most chefs are happy to discuss this with you.


What do you stand to gain by making these changes? Aside from supporting a healthier planet for your children and grandchildren, and stepping away from the cruelty involved in industrial farming, you’ll probably lose weight, prevent and/or reverse disease, have healthier skin and because you’re supporting your immune system, you and your family will be less susceptible to colds and flu. That’s a whole lot of goodness from one choice!


Sources available upon request.



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