Should You Eat Animal Products?

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Shorter Version

Est. Reading Time: 2 Minutes

Headlines are bursting with controversy over whether or not we should eat animal products. Meanwhile, food product companies make millions from new plant-based burgers, coconut milk ice cream, and jackfruit tacos. Deciding whether to limit animal products or eliminate them entirely is confusing. So how do we know whether or not it’s right to eat animal products?

What are we talking about, specifically?

First, we need to know that animal products include meats (beef, lamb, pork), poultry (chicken, turkey, eggs), seafood (fish, shellfish), dairy (milk, cheese, yogurts), and food products containing whey, casein, or collagen (often found in protein powders and protein bars). Animal proteins provide all the essential amino acids (the building blocks of proteins), along with most B vitamins (vitamins B12 and B6, riboflavin, niacin), iron, zinc, selenium. Certain products like dairy and eggs can provide additional nutrients such as calcium, phosphorus, choline, and vitamin A. Fatty fish like salmon provide omega-3 fatty acids beneficial to brain and heart health. Unfortunately, many of these great sources of vitamins and minerals come with loads of saturated fat and lack dietary fiber. This is known to have negative health implications.

The benefits of plant-based foods

Plant-based foods like soy products (edamame, tofu, tempeh), nuts and seeds, beans and legumes, fruits and veggies, and whole grains generally have significant amounts of fiber, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and phytochemicals all contributing to lowering risk for certain cancers, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, mental disorders and more. Plant-based proteins may be limited in certain amino acids, but are likely to be matched with another food that fills the need. Because of the natural fiber and water-based make-up, plant foods help us feel satisfied and help us with weight management.

With all things considered…

Animal products play a major impact on more than just our health. Concerns for the environment, treatment of animals, overall sustainability, and many other reasons play a huge role in this decision.

When choosing to purchase animal products, avoid factory farming.

Talk directly to the farmer about their practices. Or look for labels that confirm positive agricultural practices like 100% grass-fed or wild-caught. Simply limiting the number of animal products you consume can reduce climate change and help meet rising global food demands. Continue reading the facts in the actionable steps below before deciding.

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Actionable Steps


Read the longer version

To learn more, read these articles reviewed by our professionals to be the best on the topic: Read up on Harvard Health’s reasons to Eat More Plants, Fewer Animals. Learn more from Jennifer Troupe, RD with Should I Eat A Plant-Based Diet? Get the facts on beef nutrition with these FAQs and common animal care practices on today’s U.S. ranches.


Make a plan

Whichever lifestyle you choose, plan your meals and snacks carefully to include a variety of foods and all your daily nutrients. It’s okay to be flexible in your choice to consume or not consume animal products, too!


Keep it humane when you eat animal products

If you currently eat animal products on most days, read McKel Kooienga’s Guide to Eating Animal Proteins to learn how to make humane purchasing decisions. Stay up to date with ocean-friendly seafood choices using your state’s Seafood Watch Guide.


Reduce use

If you’re looking to simply reduce the amount of animal products you consume, keep reading Harvard Health’s tips for Understanding a Plant-based Diet and Strategies to Reduce Red Meat. McKel also has some great tips for How to Eat Plant-centric.


Stay nutritious

Deciding to go without any animal products? Read up on What You Need to Know About Following a Vegan Eating Plan to ensure you get all your daily nutrients.


Monitor yourself

Monitor how you feel on your eating plan and make any adjustments needed. Everybody is different and reacts differently to the amount of animal products eaten, so make sure you’re getting all the nutrients your body needs to feel happy!

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About the Author

shannon costello

Shannon Costello

Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN)

Hi, I’m Shannon! I’m a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, Culinary Coach, and Personal Trainer. After dedicating over 8 years to the corporate wellness world, I began my own nutrition practice. Chef Shannon Nutrition focuses on plant-based nutrition and culinary coaching. My passion for culinary nutrition grew when I worked as a cooking instructor for a culinary entertainment company. After several years as an instructor and event coordinator, I moved into the role of Director of Culinary Entertainment where I developed all the recipes, menus, and instructor trainings. My dietetic’s expertise helped the company expand into allergy-friendly and health conscious menus to suit all clients.
Full Bio | LinkedIn | 1:1 Coaching

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