Kristie Middleton, is a wonderful resource for everybody who is
interested in bringing more plant-based food into their daily
diets. The book offers a nice balance of research, real-life
stories, and practical ideas for slowly eliminating animal
products from your menus and your life.
Divided into three
parts —- “Why MeatLess,” “Getting Started,” and
“Recipes for Success” — the book moves from a rationale about
why eating less meat is important, to a series of
easy-to-understand data about the effects of motivation and
values on our eating habits, and onto many ideas for swapping
common meat items for plant-based foods. Of the three sections,
the final one was most helpful to me as a semi-vegetarian who
needed concrete information about different ingredients that
would accomplish my culinary goals but with many fewer dairy
and egg elements. Inserts in each chapter, too, offer bulleted
lists that I found very appealing.
MeatLess: Central Themes
One of the book’s central theme, certainly, speaks to farm
agriculture’s painful treatment of mass-produced animals.
Middleton argues that, even though most of us “want animals to
be treated humanely, there remains a cognitive dissonance in
which our daily actions don’t necessarily align with our
values” (4). She adds that “we haven’t succeeded in rectifying
our love of animals and how we eat” (5). More than anything,
she say that MeatLess is about
“reclaiming our health, eating greener, and sparing animals”
Section One: Why MeatLess?
To help us understand how we can reconcile our meat consumption
to live healthier, happier lives, the first section, “Why
MeatLess,” contrasts stories of chickens, pigs, and turkeys
allowed to live according to their natural instincts with the
same animals and their “extreme confinement and lack of
environmental enhancements” (27). The first section of the book
is a bit sprawling and ambitious, as it discusses many topics.
They definitely illuminate how animal agriculture is
contributing to global temperature rises. This section includes
lots of research study references, many of which deserved a
slower analysis and continuity among each other.
But— if you ever needed evidence why eating meat has
consequences that affect the environment, this is the book for
you. Poorly paid and trained workers in factory farms
settings (37). Animal waste cesspools that exemplify factory
farms’ impact (39). Switching from the myths that reducing
water usage through retooling household usage to understand how
much water is used to grow food crops that make up 98% of the
water footprint (42). The large extent to which animal
foods contribute to our most serious and pressing environmental
problems, including climate change, biodiversity loss, water
pollution, and deforestation (76).
The first section ends with a quick explanation of the fishing
industry: health concerns for fish and the humans who eat them,
problematic methods used to catch fish, fish farm aquaculture
illnesses, and the preponderance of feeding fish to other fish.
These final remarks of the chapter shake the reader from
talking oneself into a silent switch from meat to fish eating.
Section Two: Getting Started
Part two, “Getting Started,” helps us to understand the
psychological motivations for many of our behaviors, then
offers “tricks to help making change” — such as eating less
meat— all that much easier. As inset called “Dining Out” is
filled with lots of easy-to-locate options for healthy,
meat-free, and sometimes customized dishes while out on the
Although we sometimes struggle with finding vegetable-centric
menus, Middleton reminds us to rise to levels of
plant-consciousness with a poignant quote from Michelin-awarded
chef Alain Ducasse. “The planet has increasingly rare
resources, so we have to consumer more ethically, more fairly.”
In another persuasive reminder, an inset called “The Hard
Stuff: Top 10 Frequently Asked Questions” includes the
following statement: “Most farm animals live lives of complete
deprivation on factory farms — where they’re often crammed into
tiny cages and crates, or (in the case of chickens) bred to
grow so fat so fast that their legs may literally break
underneath them” (86). In contrast, Middleton describes the
Global Animal Partnership program, where meat producers adhere
to higher animal welfare standards. She reiterates that some
people choose “to reduce the amount of meat they eat and
replace it with products from those who treat their animals
more humanely”— yet she always reinforcing the book’s central
concept of the importance of “plant-forward diets” (87).
Section Three: Recipes for Success
The third and final section of the book, “Recipes for Success,”
starts by defining many ingredients that are part of typical
vegan conversations but may seem mysterious to those unfamiliar
with plant-based diets. This is a supportive way to
introduce the topics to follow, as it demystifies how these
ingredients translate into everyday cooking and baking.
Then the real fun starts. Over fifty recipes are divided into
categories of Breakfast, Handhelds, Soups, Sides and Sauces,
Entrees, and Desserts. In particular, I was grateful to find
plant-based recipes for some of my family’s non-plant favorite
menu items. Macaroni and Cheese Surprise substitutes cashews
for the creaminess of cheese. Who ever thought to replace
chickpeas for tuna in the all-time favorite sandwich of lunch
boxes across the U.S.? The Fresh Spring Rolls with Peanut Sauce
is soon to become a staple item on my home menus. While I wish
that there was a deeper discussion of how to bake without eggs,
the recipes for Mocha Rice Pudding and Chocolate Pecan Pie are
going to the top of my final course selections.
Looking at the Book as a Whole
MeatLess is a
valuable addition to the bookshelf of anyone who is interested
in the effects of animal agriculture on our planet or who just
wants to learn more about eating with plants. I’ve struggled in
the last year to find books with high quality vegan recipes;
this book offers those and much more. It would make a good gift
for that climate change action advocate in your family or
Review republished with permission from Vibrant Wellness Journal.
Image Credits: MeatLess cover image via Amazon. Woman Cooking
image via Shutterstock.
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