A new study confirms the already well-documented link between eating a lot of meat and increased risk of disease and earlier death. That seems extreme, I know, but there's both good science behind it and a silver lining.
The bad news: red meat particularly is closely associated with a wide spectrum of chronic diseases such as cancer, diabetes and heart disease.
The good news: replacing animal protein with plant protein is equally associated with a decreased risk of death. (Death is, of course, inevitable. But beefing up your plant intake can both forestall that inevitability and make the intervening years more pleasurable.)
An added benefit of relying more on plants for our nutritional needs is that, generally, the North American diet consumes way too much protein, and that generally comes from high meat intake. Plants do have protein (and not just beans or legumes), but they have less protein per volume than meat, about 10-12% protein on average. The kicker is that 10-12% protein is actually the healthy optimum for most healthy adults.
I am realistic, and realize that cutting out meat entirely is a big ask of people (despite the manifold personal, financial and environmental benefits of doing so). To be honest, I include meat in my diet occasionally - for nutrition and pleasure. A deliberate decrease - however much - of meat consumption and a corresponding increase in plant consumption is scientifically shown to have that much beneficial effect.
Reducing meat intake (particularly red meat, but let's lump all land-based meats in this category) can drastically reduce the risk of disease and early death. If that dietary vacuum is filled with a variety of fresh, whole, non-processed and ideally organically-grown plants, the needle starts to swing the other way: adding years and energy.
Think on that when planning for dinner, and put together a colorful fruit salad, baked vegetables and a whole grain side (brown rice, whole grain pasta, whole grain pizza, etc.). Fill up their plate with tastiness, and they may not even notice the absence of meat!