All the evidence points to less meat in our diet being better for us. Here’s how you can get there!

If you’re reading this, chances are you’re thinking about eating less meat. Great decision! You’ll very quickly find you don’t crave meat as much and that you have more energy and just feel better all around. Here’s our quick guide to helping you reduce the amount of meat you consume.

The new Health Canada food guide has significantly reduced the amount of meat protein—and now, more than ever, we hear about people going vegetarian or vegan. People are also reducing the amount of milk and cream in their diets; ever tried oat milk? It’s delicious!

Amazingly, it can be fairly easy to reduce the amount of meat you eat and you’ll find you actually sleep better, have more energy, and less inflammation. In our household, we reduced meat by around 70% and rarely eat beef.

Step one – Your mindset

It’s important to keep in mind that you don’t have to go all-in vegetarian or vegan right away! Or to get stressed out that you’re not doing it right. The key is to take your time and keep to some favourite recipes you and your family already enjoy. Like chili for example. Instead of using ground beef or chicken, pick up some pre-made “veggie ground,” which is usually a mix of barley, lentils and other high-fibre, high protein plant-based ingredients. Enjoy a chicken curry? Substitute firm tofu instead of chicken. With both of these alternatives, you can still enjoy similar textures and all the great taste!

Step two – Get some recipes together!

Check out our Healthful Gourmet section on the website and do some searches on Pinterest, where there’s always great recipe ideas! This is a great chance to put some excitement back into your meals. Look for easy-to-make meals like stews, soups, curries and noodle dishes.

Step three – Do a meat inventory

Take a look in your freezer and fridge and see how much meat you have. Then look at your weekly grocery list and meal plans if you have one. Think about how many meals you eat out during the week too. Add it all up. Many people are surprised at how much meat they’re actually eating!

Step four – Make up a meatless day or two

In our home, we started with meatless Monday, then slowly got down to about two to three meat meals for dinner a week with most lunches as salads or leftovers. Start slow and work up to it. It really helps to have some fun recipe ideas ahead to try them out. You’ll be surprised how quickly you build up a whole new menu of awesome vegetarian recipes!

Step five – Think about texture substitutes

One of the reasons we seem to prefer meat is because of texture. For burgers, spaghetti sauces, chilis and the like, you can substitute veggie ground as mentioned above. It’s often cheaper than hamburger, faster and safer to cook and you can get it unspiced or pre-spiced. Most grocery stores across Canada carry it, such as Sobeys, Loblaws, FoodLand, Provigo and others.

For chicken dishes, you can often substitute with tofu. There is soft tofu, firm and extra firm. If you want a similar substitute for a chicken-like texture, we recommend extra-firm tofu. Before you season or marinate tofu, it’s good to press it down to remove excess water. Put the tofu on a plate, followed by a clean dish towel or paper towel, and then some cookbooks on top for weight. Tofu is really good at picking up flavours from marinades. You can also toss it in flour and fry it for a little to make it crispy. Tofu is very versatile as a substitute. The same goes for tempeh, a fermented soybean product known for its “nuttier” flavour and stable texture, it absorbs flavour wonderfully and is just as nutritious and high in protein as tofu!

You’ll be amazed at how quickly you can prepare and cook some of your favourites and the new favourites you’ll find along the way, just without the meat part! Bon appétit!

Author: Giles Crouch. Giles is part of the Optimyz team and enjoys writing articles for the web. He mostly writes about the intersection of technology and society as a digital anthropologist.

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