Going full vegetarian or vegan is a difficult proposition for folks who love steaks, chicken, and hamburgers, but there’s no question that eating a diet with less meat in it is healthier. “Meatless Monday” menus are a fantastic start, but why not look for recipes that provide protein from a source other than meat? You may not realize this, but you can pack plenty of protein into a diet that’s low in meat.
Use Meat as a Flavoring Agent
Make the meat a detail, not the main event. One way to do this is to make soup. Include plenty of fresh herbs and spices, along with protein-heavy vegetables. For example, put together a soup with a base made of chicken or beef bone broth — there’s your meat. Load up the pot with peas, lentils, and other sprouted beans to get your daily dose of protein. Corn, kale, and mushrooms are also rich in protein. Add some noodles or dumplings to your soup and you have a healthy meal that feeds the family for days.
Make a Massive Salad
Image via Flickr by portmanteaus
A salad is another tasty way to enjoy a healthy meal that doesn’t contain a lot of meat. The key is to fill your salad with fruits and vegetables that contain protein. Since it’s a salad, you can also toss in seeds, nuts, low-fat cheese, and boiled eggs. Make your own salad dressing using yogurt as a base, since yogurt is also dense in protein. Top off this colorful, delicious entrée with a scattering of meat. Use grilled chicken, a few pieces of lean steak, or your favorite fish.
Substitute for Meat
It’s possible to cut down on meat by substituting in other foods, as well. You can bulk up ground beef, chicken, or pork using tofu or tempeh, for example. If you’re making hamburgers, tacos, meatloaf, or chili — anything that calls for ground meat, basically — substitute a third or even half of the meat called for in the recipe. You’re still getting meat-based protein, but you’re not eating nearly as much. It’s a healthy alternative.
Incorporate More Meat-Free Days
Relieve the guilt of your meat-eating days by instituting more than just Meatless Mondays. For instance, if your household celebrates “Taco Tuesday,” try a vegetarian taco or burrito every few weeks. Introduce a “Salad Saturday” into the weekly menu plan. Take your favorite recipes and give them a veg-heavy twist. It’s easy to take lasagna and create a vegetarian version instead. The same applies to lots of your favorite foods. You can try veggie burgers and hot dogs, as well, or you can experiment with using ground beans in place of meat.
There’s no need to stop eating meat altogether, unless that’s your personal choice, of course. Cutting down rather than cutting out is a gentle, gradual way to introduce your body to different forms of protein, which you may even find you enjoy more than meat. Even if you simply halve your meat intake, you’ll find you feel healthier.