There are many reasons why people choose to eat a vegetarian diet. Reasons might include animal welfare concerns, human health considerations, being conscious of the carbon footprint of meat, and many more. A lesser known reason is the amount of water used to produce meat actually exceeds the amount of water used to grow the same weight of vegetables.
For example, it takes nearly 15,415L of water to produce a kilogram of beef. That’s enough water to last you a little more than 21 years if you drank the recommended 2L a day! On the other hand, producing a kilogram of chicken roughly requires 4325 litres of water. That’s enough water to last you almost 6 years if you drank the recommended 2L a day!
You can also get the nutrients that meat provides through plant-based alternatives. Beans, lentils, and chickpeas are all examples of foods that are high in protein, and actually often more affordable than meat options. On top of that, producing a kilogram of lentils only requires 50L of water – a lot less than is used for meat.
We challenge you to eat at least 1 vegetarian meal a week and to let us know your favourite recipes!
Here’s one of the Biosphere’s favourites that you can try to help you get started!
- 2 cups water (half water, half vegetable broth)
- 1 cup green lentils, well rinsed
- 2 Tbsp olive or grape seed oil
- 1/2 medium white or yellow onion, minced (plus more for serving)
- 2 cloves garlic, minced (2 cloves yield ~1 Tbsp)
- 1/2 medium red or green bell pepper, diced
- Sea salt and black pepper (to taste)
- 1 15-ounce can tomato sauce
- 1-2 Tbsp coconut sugar (plus more to taste)
- 1-2 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
- 1-2 tsp chili powder (plus more to taste)
- 1 tsp ground cumin (plus more to taste)
- 1 pinch smoked or regular paprika (optional)
- To a small saucepan, add liquid (I used 1 cup water, 1 cup vegetable broth for added flavor // amount as original recipe is written // adjust if altering batch size) and rinsed lentils and heat over medium-high heat.
- Bring to a low boil, then reduce heat to a simmer and cook uncovered for about 18 minutes, or until tender. The water should have a constant simmer (not boil). Drain off any excess liquid and set aside.
- In the meantime, heat a large skillet over medium heat. Once hot, add oil, onion, garlic, and bell pepper. Season with a pinch each salt and pepper and stir to combine.
- Sauté for 4-5 minutes, stirring frequently, or until the peppers and onions are tender and slightly browned.
- Next add tomato sauce, coconut sugar, Worcestershire sauce, chili powder, cumin, and paprika (optional). Stir to combine.
- Once the lentils are cooked, add them to the skillet as well, and stir to combine.
- Continue cooking the mixture over medium-low heat until completely warmed through and thick, stirring occasionally – about 5-10 minutes.
- Taste and adjust flavor as needed, adding more chili powder and/or cumin for smokiness, salt for saltiness, coconut sugar for sweetness, or worcestershire for depth of flavor.
- Serve the mixture on toasted buns with sliced onion. Best when fresh, though leftover sloppy joe mixture will keep in the refrigerator up to 4-5 days, or in the freezer for 1 month. Reheat in the microwave, or on the stovetop, adding water or vegetable broth if the mixture has dried out.