Ever since the early days of this blog, I’ve written about maintaining a diet that doesn’t revolve around meat. There are a lot of reasons you may be considering doing the same, especially with the start of 2018.
The approach I take to my diet is called flexitarianism – a largely plant-based diet that still includes meat occasionally. You can see how this plays out in real life by looking at any one of my menu plans. Some weeks contain more meat than others and I’m still working on returning to my mostly meat-free ways from pre-pregnancy, but that’s what I love about flexitarianism. It’s flexible.
If your plans for the new year include reducing your meat intake, try some of these tips:
1. Start with one day or one meal a week – Meatless Monday is an organization that aims to help people give up meat just one day a week, but you don’t have to stick with Monday. Any day will do! I started out by making all my lunches meat-free and it was a great way to dip my toes into a less meat-filled life.
2. Begin a recipe collection – I have over 4,000 recipes stored in my Evernote account and many of them are vegetarian. Start your own collection by exploring websites like Oh My Veggies, Isa Chandra, Naturally Ella, and Minimalist Baker, or searching vegetarian recipes on Pinterest (here’s my meat-free Pinterest board!). Finding ideas for things you’ll want to make will definitely make the transition easier.
3. Check a cookbook out of the library (or buy one!) – Want recipes that don’t exist online? There is a wealth of great vegetarian cookbooks available. Some that I enjoy include How to Cook Everything Vegetarian, The New Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone, The Meat Lovers Meatless Cookbook and The Complete Vegetarian Cookbook from America’s Test Kitchen.
4. Use meat as a condiment or side – There are many recipes online labeled “meat-lite” which still use meat, but in much less quantity than you might otherwise. Serious Eats has a whole category of these sorts of recipes. Use these recipes as inspiration to help create meals that involve, but don’t star, meat.
5. Choose beans or soy products instead of meat at the supermarket – I used to be really afraid of tofu and tempeh, but now I look forward to eating them. Often these items cost less per pound than meat and the packages often include recipe ideas. There’s also a wealth of pre-made vegetarian meals and meat substitute products in the freezer and produce sections of most grocery stores.
6. Swap out the meat in recipes you already love – I’ve made many successful meals just by using beans instead of beef or chicken, and I’ve shared recipes here for Tofu Picatta and Eggplant Parmesan. Dawn Jackson Blatner, the author of The Flexitarian Diet, has a great graphic of flexitarian swaps.
7. Enjoy some new sauces or toppings – There are those who would agree that meat-free is boring and doesn’t taste very good, but that doesn’t have to be the case! Explore new spices, seasonings, and sauces to increase your interest in the foods you’re eating.
8. Explore seasonal produce – Eating and cooking anything is better when you’re working with quality ingredients. Even supermarket produce that’s in season is usually better (and cheaper!) than out of season items. Choose seasonal items that you’re actually excited to eat and you’ll be more likely not to miss the meat.
9. Host a cookbook club – I’ve never done this, but I love the idea (as shared on The Kitchn and Serious Eats) is that a group of friends chooses a cookbook, then each person chooses a recipe from the book, makes it and participates in a gathering with the other group members. It sounds like a great way to try out a variety of dishes from a single source – like a vegetarian or flexitarian cookbook!
10. Plan your meals – Meal planning, in general, keeps me sane, but it also helps me reduce the amount of meat I eat. For me, making meat the star is an easy way to make a meal – pick a meat, a grain and a vegetable and a meal is born! Intentional meal planning means that I have a plan that allows me to make sure all the ingredients on hand. When it comes time for dinner, I don’t have any excuses.