The 5 Day 'Eat Low on the Food Chain' Meal Challenge


There are many environmental and health reasons to adopt a mostly vegetarian or strict vegetarian diet. Even skipping meat at a few meals every week will make an impact. Here are just a few benefits:

1. Meat production, compared to growing vegetables, is an inefficient use of resources and a carbon-heavy way to produce food.

2. Environmental pollutants accumulate in animal fat, so a vegetarian diet exposes you to fewer toxins.

3. It’s easier to source your food locally, using fewer resources if you base your diet on vegetables.

A vegetarian diet isn’t for everyone. It’s challenging for people to change ingrained eating habits, especially if the whole family is involved. But with a little thought, it is possible to adopt an ethically omnivorous way of eating. This means eating low on the food chain most of the time and saving the meat (ideally pasture raised and organic) for special occasions.

The following sample plan is a healthy and delicious way to eat, balanced with plenty of vegetables, whole grains, and protein. It does involve shopping seasonally and locally and cooking your own food. But that’s better for the environment, you, and your pocket book, too! Be sure to choose organic whenever you can.

Day 1

Breakfast: Oatmeal or other hot grain cereal with seasonal, local fruit (or dried fruit in winter) and organic milk.

Lunch: Vegetable and white bean soup with seasonal, local vegetables and whole grain bread.

Dinner: A big salad with hard-cooked organic eggs, roasted beets, and other cooked seasonal vegetables, like asparagus or green beans.

Day 2

Yogurt, seasonal fruit, and local honey.

Lunch: Brown rice, bulgur, or quinoa with chickpeas, greens, and tahini dressing.

Dinner: Lentil soup with a side dish of roasted seasonal vegetables.

Day 3

Breakfast: Whole grain toast spread with mashed avocado and topped with sliced, hard-cooked eggs.

Lunch: Whole grain pasta tossed with kale or chard and goat cheese.

Dinner: Pinto bean and brown rice burritos with cabbage slaw.

Day 4

Breakfast: Whole grain toast with organic unsweetened nut butter and fresh seasonal fruit.

Lunch: Leftover lentil soup from day two.

Dinner: Pizza (store bought or homemade whole-grain crust) with fresh or canned tomatoes, local mushrooms, organic cheese, greens or zucchini, or other seasonal vegetable, with green salad.

Day 5

Breakfast: Whole grain bread with soft cheese, an apple, and a few unsalted nuts.

Lunch: Leftover pinto beans made into a whole-grain quesadilla and salad.

Dinner: Vegetable frittata and salad.

Snacks: Raw, unsalted nuts, dried and fresh fruit, organic cheese, and unsweetened nut butter all make good snacks.


All of these suggestions are intended to be general enough to use as a springboard for your own favorite recipes. Try the sites below for dependably good recipes that are similar in intent or style to the menu plans above. In addition, many CSAs (Community Supported Agriculture) and farmers’ markets provide recipes utilizing seasonal produce.

101 Cookbooks
Mariquita Farm
Honest Farm

Image: MR + G

Vanessa Barrington

Vanessa Barrington is a San Francisco based writer and communications consultant specializing in environmental, social, and political issues in the food system.