Whether you are excited about eating less mess or are hesitant to the change, one thing’s for sure — it can be hard. The good news is there are sneaky ways you can make changes to your diet to reduce the amount of meat you consume without it feeling like torture and I promise, you really can eat less meat this week.
These 12 options can get you started — and maybe inspire you to create more:
Rice and Beans Are the Ultimate Meat Stretcher
Stretch your meat by using rice and/or beans because these ingredients are good at taking on the flavor of other components. Choose recipes that aren’t meant to have rice or beans in them or simply reduce the amount of meat you use by adding rice or beans to it.
Here’s how: When you are using raw meat, add a cup of the cooked stretching ingredient for every pound of meat you use, then continue your recipe as normal.
Combine Meat and Mushrooms
Even if you aren’t a big fan of mushrooms, you can use them in a meat dish to cut back on the amount of meat you need. A good way to do this is to buy portabella mushrooms and chop them up to add to your meat sauce for spaghetti. You won’t even notice they are there, but you’ll be able to use less meat with this addition.
Look for recipes that don’t make mushrooms the star until you can get used to eating them. Once you accept the mushroom for what it is, however — yes, we know it’s technically fungus, but so is a truffle — many exciting dishes await to please your taste buds.
Embrace Vegetable Dishes
You don’t have to go full-on vegetarian here. Just get used to the idea of having a few meals here and there that don’t include meat. Find recipes that are full of flavor so you can really enjoy them and won’t miss the meat.
A good way to make this change is to declare one night of the week meatless night on your meal plan. This way, you aren’t tempted to skip it, and you’ll start trying new dishes each week.
Eggs Aren’t Just for Breakfast
You can switch things up a bit by eating eggs for meals other than just breakfast. We aren’t talking about breakfast for dinner that includes eggs and bacon, though. Sorry. Instead, you are going to think of your egg as a meat substitute.
You might choose something ordinary, like scrambled eggs and toast, or you may shake things up quite a bit and choose something like an egg pizza for dinner. There are so many choices out there for great dishes, so don’t be discouraged by this tip!
Reduce the Meat and Add Vegetables
Think about your go-to recipes. Do any of them combine meat and vegetables for the main course? Drawing a blank? Here’s a hint: steak kabobs, fried rice and stir-fry. These are three very popular dishes most people enjoy.
Since you’re already eating vegetables with these dishes, this won’t be a big change. You are just going to reduce the amount of meat and increase the vegetables. So, instead of using a pound of meat in your stir-fry, try two cups. Before you load that steak kabob using the pattern vegetable, meat, vegetable, meat — try vegetable, vegetable, vegetable, meat, vegetable, vegetable, vegetable.
Flavor Your Dishes With Bacon
Just because you’re reducing the amount of meat you eat doesn’t mean you have to reduce the amount of flavor. Instead, use a few slices of bacon in your dish and use the bacon fat to cook the other ingredients, infusing them with flavor.
Make Easy Swaps
Instead of making a chicken salad spread for your lunch, consider a tofu chicken sandwich spread that is full of flavor and mimics the texture without the meat. This is an easy swap because with a chicken salad sandwich, you aren’t expecting whole cuts of chicken. It’s easier to trick your brain and please your taste buds.
Create Excitement With More Textures
When you are making an all-vegetable dish, or even a mostly-vegetable dish, the best thing you can do is to vary the textures. You can include different vegetables to accomplish this, and the end result is a meal that has the same mouth-feel as chewing meat, but you get to skip the meat part.
Mushrooms Are Meaty
You’ve probably heard of the vegetarian mushroom burger, but have you ever tried it? The trick here is being open-minded and don’t think of it like a big, beefy burger as you bite into it. Just eat it.
There are many different recipes out there, so just find one that has really great ratings and head for the kitchen. You will likely still want a burger every once in a while, but if you can include this in your meal rotation and eat less meat, then it’s a winner.
Kick the Meat out of Breakfast
Ah, breakfast. Whether you sit down and have a family-style breakfast or grab something to go, breakfast is one of the easiest places to cut out meat. There are many different options for breakfast foods that don’t include meat. You also aren’t expecting to cut into a big, juicy steak for breakfast, so you can make this switch without being disappointed.
Say Hello to Healthy Grains
Some of the more “unusual” grains have a great texture that will help you make the switch from all meat to eating less. Farro and freekeh are two healthy grains packed full of texture to make your meatless meal more interesting.
Make Soups or Stews With Beans or Lentils
You can reduce the amount of meat in your favorite soup or stew recipe by cutting the amount in half and adding in beans or lentils. They have a great texture and take on the flavor of the dish, so you won’t miss the meat as much.
Bring on Less Meat!
Now with some strong tips on how to effortlessly reduce the amount of meat in your diet, you can start experimenting in the kitchen and seeing what substitutes you can make. Remember to keep an open mind, and you will likely find many new recipes that make it in your meal plan rotation each month.