Diet and climate change

Scotland is facing a climate emergency. If you already eat a lot of red or red processed meat, one thing you can do to help both the environment and your health, is to eat less.

There are quick and simple ways to do this in a healthy way. 'A lot' of red or red processed meat is more than 70g each day, which is around two slices of roast beef or two sausages.
  • Red meat is any meat that is dark in colour, such as beef and lamb.
  • Processed meat has been cured, smoked, salted, or otherwise preserved in some way, and includes bacon, burgers, sausages, hot dogs, salami, ham and peperoni.
  • While pork is also classed as a red meat, it often has a lower environmental impact.
  • White meat such as poultry also has a lower health and environmental impact.

70g of red or red processed meat might seem a small amount, but you could have a slightly larger amount 2-3 times a week.

If you already eat less than 70g a day, you can still reduce you red and red processed meat intake if you want to.

The swaps below will help you do this in a healthy way and you can check out our vegetarian and vegan page for more information.

Eating less processed meat is also good for your health, as it can often be higher in fat and salt than some other protein sources.

Find out more in why should I eat a healthier diet?

Red and red processed meat free days

  • You don't need to make huge changes straight away, starting off slow is easiest.
  • Try a meat free day, a meat free meal, or having a smaller portion of meat
  • Small changes over time can add up to a big impact.

Replacements and swaps

Red and red processed meat can be swapped for a number of other foods:

For meals such as chillies, curries and casseroles you could use less meat. Instead add extra vegetables such as carrots, peppers or mushrooms.

Bulking out sauces with extra vegetables can help you reach your 5 a day, increase your fibre and make meals go further.

Eggs are a great source of protein, and can be added to a salad, sandwich or stir fry instead of meat.

Beans and pulses, for example lentils and chickpeas, are high in protein and one 80g portion counts towards your 5 a day. These could be added instead of meat to curries or pasta dishes, or used to bulk out meat dishes and make it go further.

If you normally have red and red processed meat on your sandwiches, try replacing with egg, fish or hummus with sliced vegetables like peppers and cucumber

You can find recipes on how to cook with these foods on many websites online.

You can find recipes on how to cook with these foods on many websites online.

Red and red processed meat substitutes

  • Meat substitutes, such as tofu, soy protein, seitan or mycoprotein are good alternatives to red and red processed meat.
  • However, these products can be high in salt, so check the label if sold in a package or as part of a ready meal to choose the lower salt option.
  • Find out more in checking the label.

Shopping habits

How you shop can also help the environment:

  • Meal planning and using shopping lists can help you stick to what you need and help prevent food waste. Find out more in our section on meal planning.
  • Remember to take your re-usable shopping bags.
  • Tinned or frozen options, such as tinned lentils or frozen peas, last longer and can help reduce food waste. They are also usually cheaper than fresh. Find out more in our tinned food pages.
  • Avoid excess packaging if you can, and recycle where possible.
  • Buy smaller packs of red and red processed meat, like mince, if planning to use less. when cooking.
  • Buying in bulk and batch cooking can also help waste less. Find out more in our batch cooking page.
  • Shop for fruit and vegetables that are in season if you can, these are farmed locally and don't travel long distances to reach us.
  • Scotland has great tap water so you may wish to avoid buying bottled water where possible. Remember your re-usable bottle to fill up on the go.
  • Eat Well, Your Way also has pages on healthier and cheaper ways to cook, which includes tips on freezing, batch cooking, storing leftovers and avoiding waste.

Sometimes supermarkets sell ‘wonky’ fruit and vegetables for cheaper which helps prevent food waste as well as saving money.

Dairy products

You can also, if you choose, reduce the amount of dairy products you eat to help the environment.

  • If you want to reduce the amount of dairy products you are eating, start by using a little less of things like butter, cream and cheese.
  • Choosing to eat lower amounts of these products and low fat options can be healthier. For example choosing lower fat versions such as semi-skimmed milk, reduced fat soured cream, reduced fat crème fraiche, single cream (instead of double), lower fat cheese and natural yogurt.
  • If choosing non dairy alternatives, look for products that are unsweetened and have added calcium (often called "fortified"). Most dairy alternative products which are organic are not calcium-fortified.
  • Non dairy alternatives, such as soya, oat, nut or rice milks, often have added vitamins and minerals. However, these can be high in sugar and salt, so it is helpful to check the label and choose those that are lower


Eating out

It can be tricky to eat less red and red processed meat products when eating out, as menu options are often based on these types of meals.

If you are having red and red processed meat based meals when eating out, try reducing the amount you eat at home, for examples having a meat free day.

Making a change

How to make small, manageable changes to what you eat and drink.

Make a change