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Beyond Tofu and Beans-Simple Ways to Cut Back on Eating Meat

By: Jenny Maroux, BS, Health Educator

From college cafeterias, to the dairy aisles at food stores, to even fast food restaurants, vegetarian and vegan food options seem to be growing. Not only are the options growing, but more people seem to be interested in cutting down on how much meat they eat, whether it’s for health reasons, environmental concerns, or ethical reasons. Honestly, it’s hard to ignore the hype around cutting back on meat when there are many documentaries, books, medical professionals, and celebrities who are advocating for plant based diets.

After seeing how passionate people were about plant based eating and being curious about trying meat free options, I too wanted to cut back on how much meat I was eating. At the same time though, I couldn’t really imagine never having chicken wings at a summer barbeque or turkey on Thanksgiving again. So I started cutting back slowly, limiting how much meat I was eating to only one meal a day. Then I also started trying substitutes and finding vegetarian or vegan recipes online. After a few months, I was surprised by how little meat I was eating and it soon became effortless to limit it to special occasions only.

I’ve come up with a list of tips that I think can be helpful if you’re trying to cut back on how much meat you’re eating. I spoke with my co-workers, Bethany and Jean, who also eat mostly vegetarian diets to see if they had any tips. Here is what we came up with:

  1. Try different plant based meat options. There is a lot more out there than just canned beans and tofu! The way you cook these foods can change the texture a lot too.
  2. Change your mindset about these plant based options and know that these options aren’t going to taste exactly like meat. If you bite into a veggie burger expecting it to taste just like a hamburger, you’re probably going to be pretty disappointed. But if you make eggplant parmesan and expect it to taste like eggplant and take the time to find a recipe you like, you may be surprised by how satisfying vegetables can be in their own way.
  3. Go slow and be flexible. Flexibility is key when it comes to any type of lifestyle change. Forget about the vegetarian and vegan labels and just try your best. Whether you only celebrate Meatless Mondays, you eat meat a couple times a month, or you only eat it on special occasions, you’re making more progress than not trying at all! Once I stopped caring about being a “real” vegetarian, I was able to focus much more on what was really motivating me to change my diet than just the labels. grilling veggies
  4. Set personal goals that really align with why you’re cutting back on meat. This could be trying a new vegetable from the farmer’s market or trying a new vegetarian recipe once a week.
  5. Make meat a side dish to your meal rather than the main course. Try grilling or roasting vegetables to bring out new flavors and textures.
  6. Follow different vegetarian food blogs/videos on social media to inspire you. If you’re not super creative when it comes to new recipes, there’s no need to worry because there are thousands of recipes, Instagram accounts, Facebook videos, and even smartphone apps that feature different vegetarian and vegan recipes. It’s as simple as typing in “vegetarian recipes” into your favorite social media sites and exploring different options.

Keep in mind, just because it’s “meatless” doesn’t automatically make it nutritious. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics has some great tips and information about vegetarian meal ideas and nutrition.

If you want even more information or cookbooks about healthy eating, plant based eating, or other types of lifestyle changes, reach out to us here at the MaineHealth Learning Resource Center by emailing us or calling 1-866-609-5183.


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