Are you struggling to reduce the amount of meat in your diet? You wouldn’t know it by talking to a person who eats a trendy carnivore diet but cutting back on meat has health benefits. What are the health perks of eating less meat and adding more plants to your plate? Studies show that adding more plant-based foods to your diet may lower your risk of developing cardiovascular disease, hypertension, type 2 diabetes, and some forms of cancer.
Even if the idea of going entirely plant-based doesn’t appeal to you, you can get health benefits by simply reducing the quantity of animal-based foods you eat and replace them with plants. A meta-analysis of 25 studies published in 2016 found eating a flexitarian diet lowers the risk of metabolic syndrome, high blood pressure, and type 2 diabetes.
Why plants? When you eat plants, you get dietary components that aren’t in animal foods. Only plants contain significant quantities of fiber, a dietary component most people don’t get enough of. In fact, research shows Americans get only half the quantity of fiber they need. Plus, loading your plate up with plant-based foods and less meat is better for the environment and supplies your body with antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds that are unique to plant-based foods.
You may want to reduce the amount of meat in your diet, but if you’re accustomed to eating meat at most meals, you may not know where to start. Here are some practical ways to cut back on meat and not feel hungry or deprived.
Use Beans or Even Mushrooms as a Meat Substitute
Beans and lentils are one of the best sources of plant-based protein, and they pack a fiber punch too. In fact, legumes are also a tasty, versatile, and inexpensive substitute for meat. Grab a recipe for bean and lentil burgers and learn how to put together a fiber-rich version of your favorite slider without meat. In fact, beans and lentils pack some of the same nutritional punch that veggies do. Plus, beans, especially black beans and small red beans, are among the best sources of antioxidants. Surprisingly, small red beans contain more antioxidant punch than blueberries.
For some recipes, substitute beans or lentils for a portion of the ground meat you typically use. You can also buy pre-packaged burgers made from a variety of ingredients like soy or pea protein. However, some packaged plant-based burgers contain a long list of processed ingredients. If possible, make your own at home from legumes. You’ll get a healthier version and save money too.
The next time you crave a burger, substitute a portabella mushroom for that meat patty. Mushrooms have a meat-like texture that makes them an ideal meat substitute. Grill a portabella mushroom on the grill and place it between a bun with all the fixings. You can even make portabello steaks by marinading portabella mushrooms in olive oil and balsamic vinegar with your favorite seasonings. Then, bake and serve.
Take Part in Meatless Monday
Meatless Monday has become a tradition for people trying to cut back on meat. By consuming only plant-based foods one day per week, you’re helping the environment by reducing your carbon footprint. Plus, you’re giving yourself a chance to explore more plant-based options. Get creative by trying new plant-based recipes posted on sites like Pinterest and vegetarian websites. As you cut back on meat, you may find that you enjoy the taste and health benefits that fruits, vegetables, and other plant-based foods offer.
You can also explore soy-based products, like tofu, tempeh, and miso, favorites of vegetarians as a protein source. Tempeh, in particular, when prepared properly has a texture similar to meat. You may have also heard of seitan, also known as “wheat meat” It, too, has meat-like characteristics that can substitute for some of the meat you currently eat. However, seitan’s not an option if you have a wheat allergy or are gluten sensitive.
Learn How to Prepare Plant-Based Foods in Delicious Ways
Nothing makes it easier to reduce meat than knowing how to make delicious plant-based alternatives. These days, more cooking shows feature plant-based or vegetarian dishes and show you how to prepare them in appetizing ways. The more knowledge you gain, the more comfortable you’ll feel putting less meat and more plants on the table. Learn how to prepare delicious and nutritious meals with more plants and less meat and you’ll discover less is more when it comes to meat on your plate.
Get Out the Grill
Grills aren’t only designed for meat. Grilled and roasted veggies and mushrooms offer the same smokey taste and aroma that you get when you grill meat. Popular these days, are grilled carrots on a hotdog bun as a substitute for less healthy hot dogs. Get the grill out and discover how grilling brings out the natural sweetness of vegetables such as bell peppers, eggplant, asparagus, onions, zucchini, eggplant, onions, and portabello mushrooms. You won’t miss the meat!
Add Flavorings to Get a Meaty Taste
Flavorings are another alternative to get the taste of meat without eating too much of it. Add soy sauce to recipes adds a meat-like flavor, and you can always use beef broth to add the flavor of beef without adding it to your plate. Cut back on the amount of meat you add to soups and stews by using beef broth in place of a portion of the meat. Doing this will add a savory taste and aroma without more meat.
The Bottom Line
Hope you’re motivated to add more plant-based options to your diet. Doing so is good for your health, better for animals, and helps combat climate change. Now you know how to do it without feeling deprived.
- Harvard Health Publishing. “What is a plant-based diet and why should you try it?”
- com. “What Science Says About the Health Benefits of Plant-Based Diets”
- “8 Ways to Eat Less Meat That Are Simple, Convenient, and ….” 22 Jan. 2021, https://www.self.com/story/eat-less-meat-tips.