You’d have to be living under a rock to notice the upswing in plant-based eating. There’s no doubt that the farming of conventional meat (beef especially) is ruining the environment.
I choose to use the word ‘conventional’ when speaking of meat because I believe there’s a place in the world for high-quality, grass-fed, and pasture-raised meats and animal proteins like eggs (just follow the likes of Dan Barber and Polyface Farms to get more info on the movement behind this).
But what if you’re not ready to go fully vegan?
Not everyone is ready and that’s ok. I’m not vegan mostly because my body didn’t like it when I tried it for two years. No, not everyone can thrive on being vegan no matter what anyone tells you.
No diet is the perfect diet as everyone is different and has different nutritional requirements.
That being said just because you don’t want to ‘go vegan’ doesn’t mean that most of your meals can’t (and shouldn’t) be plant-based. In fact, eating a diet of mostly plant-based whole foods with just a bit of sustainable animal protein can do wonders for the environment and your health.
Here are a few tips on how to do it:
Add More Vegetables to Your Plate.
The old meat and potatoes mindset leaves little room for fresh veggies, but if we shift our focus a bit to add more plants to our plate we’ll start to edge out the space that was allotted for all that meat.
Fill up at a quarter of your plate with roasted veggies, a quarter to a half with a handful or two of fresh or sautéed greens, a quarter to a half a cup of whole grains, and then meat (not much room left is there?)
The thing is that we don’t need a lot of meat or animal protein. Just a bit. Think of the palm of your hand or four ounces.
But won’t I be hungry?
I bet you won’t be! There’s only one way to try it and that’s the try it!
If you’re worried about hunger, choose to eat vegetables with a high protein content:
- Spinach — 5.35 grams of protein per cup
- Asparagus — 4.35 grams of protein per cup
- Beet greens — 3.70 grams of protein per cup
- Mustard greens — 3.58 grams of protein per cup
- Swiss Chard — 3.29 grams of protein per cup
- Bok Choy — 2.65 grams of protein per cup
- Collard greens — 5.15 grams of protein per cup
- Brussels Sprouts — 3.98 grams of protein per cup
- Broccoli — 3.98 grams of protein per cup
- Kale — 2.47 grams of protein per cup
Did you notice that most of the high-protein veggies are also greens? You’ll get the best bang for your buck by adding them to your plate, as well as a whole whack of nutrients that will do amazing things for your health.
When you start to eat this way you’ll notice quickly that you don’t have to buy as much meat for your family.
Buy Higher-Quality Meat.
What? I thought we were supposed to eat less meat here??
I want you to buy higher-quality meat and less of it! Unfortunately, higher-quality meat is more expensive which is a really good reason to buy less of it.
You see, the reason the environment is in such shambles is partly because of factory and conventional meat. It’s pretty gross stuff.
I won’t go into much detail about it here (because I have limited space, and you have limited time) but this article tells such a great story about why eating high-quality, grass-fed beef and chicken is important for the earth and why focusing solely on mono-crop plants is not ideal.
What it really comes down to is that cows that live in factory farm environments are not healthy. This means when we eat that meat, we’re not eating healthy, high-quality meat. In the end, it’s not doing much for our health in a positive way. You can read all about factory farming in Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma.
What we do want to focus on eating instead are higher-quality grass-fed and pasture-raised meats.
The thing is that not enough farmers are raising cattle and other animals this way so we have to eat less of it to make sure there’s enough to go around.
If we make it a priority to buy only grass-fed, organic, pasture-raised meats, we will have to buy less of it because it’s more expensive.
I buy mine at Blossom Pure and Farm Boy in Toronto, but if you research your local area you’ll likely find farms offering the same thing (just look for those cows eating grass out in the pasture!).
Add at Least Three Vegan Meals to Your Regular Meal Rotation Every Week.
Think beyond the Meatless Monday to add a few more plant-based meals to your rotations.
This always trips up people a bit when they’re trying to eat less meat. Eating vegan meals can be intimidating.
Again, people seem to be afraid that they won’t be satiated from eating a plant-based meal, but it’s a matter of putting together a meal that has enough fat, fibre and protein. Most legumes and lentils have the added benefit of having fibre and protein.
An added bonus to adding vegan meals is that you can do it very inexpensively. Bags of lentils and beans don’t cost a lot especially when you buy them dried and cook them at home.
Here are some vegan dinner ideas:
- Lentil dahl
- Vegetarian chili
- Black olive and red lentil pasta
- Mexican rice and black beans
- Butternut squash soup
Combine Meat and Veggies for a Plant-Packed Meal
I like to add greens to my beef burgers to give them some added nutrition, but also to add a bit of heft. I’ve seen some people adding mushrooms as well for both flavour and nutrition.
Start with a pound of ground beef (or chicken or turkey) and add a handful of minced greens like spinach, kale, cilantro, or parsley. Add in a cup of minced mushrooms, an egg, and some spices and you’ve got a delicious veggie-packed burger while still enjoying a little meat.
Eat the burger on a lettuce ‘bun’ and you’ve just added more veggies, yahoo!
Replace Meat with Sustainable Fish a Couple Times a Week.
Wild and sustainably farmed fish is considered a superfood and can be added to your meals more than beef or poultry. Again it’s imperative to look for sustainable fish because our waters are becoming contaminated with fish farms that don’t treat their fish properly.
Consider eating fish like wild salmon and small fish like mackerel and sardines. They have higher amounts of Omega-3 which our bodies require. Again you don’t need much. Add small amounts to your plate of vegetables and grains.
That’s it for now! I hope you got a few ideas on how to eat less meat without fully becoming vegan. Start next week with my Flexitarian Plan and you may start to notice a difference in how you feel!
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