Go Flexitarian: 5 Ways to Eat Less Meat Without Going Full Veg

5 Ways to Eat Less Meat Without Going VegetarianOlha Afanasieva / Shutterstock
Reducing your reliance on meat is good for your health, good for the planet, and good for your wallet. Of course, for many people, the idea of never taking a big bite out of a flame broiled burger again is too much to bear. If you fall into this camp, we’ve got good news – there are plenty of ways you can eat less meat without swearing it off permanently. Here are 5 ways you can shake the meat mindset without bypassing bacon forever:

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Make Meat Go Further

Remember, a single serving of meat should be about the size of a deck of cards – meaning a whole chicken breast is closer to two servings than one. When you do have meat, think of it as an accent rather than the main event. Recipes like soups, stews, stir fries, and pulled chicken or pork make a little bit of meat go a long way.

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Find Substitutions

Many of your favorite recipes can be given a meatless makeover. In fact, after trying the veggie versions, you might even find you prefer them to their meaty counterparts. Try subbing:

  • Brown lentils for ground beef. Lentils cooked in vegetable broth with onions and spices make a delicious stand-in for beef. Try them in tacos, casseroles, and pasta sauces, or simply serve them over rice for a hearty, filling meal.

  • Chickpeas for chicken. Garbanzo beans are low cal, high protein, and relatively bland on their own – which makes them crazy versatile, just like chicken. Mash them, bake them, fry them, or use them raw in stir fries, curries, pasta dishes, salads, and more.

  • Marinated tofu for anything. Tofu takes on the flavors of whatever it’s marinated in, so soak it in your favorite sauce or dressing overnight and then bake, grill, or stir fry it to perfection.

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Only Use Meat When It’s Absolutely Necessary

Craving a juicy grilled steak? Have at it. But if the meal you’re making doesn’t require meat, don’t use it. It comes down to changing your mindset from one that expects meat at every meal to one that considers it a treat. If you want to try a delicious gourmet chicken recipe, then do so, but don’t just throw a handful of ground beef in your pasta sauce because “it wouldn’t be a meal without meat.”

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Designate Meat-Free Times

There are lots of ways to ditch meat without eschewing it entirely. Some people designate certain days of the week to go meatless. (Many prefer Mondays, probably because of the alliteration.) Others skip meat at breakfast and lunch, but enjoy it with dinner. Others follow a vegetarian diet at home, but still indulge in meat when eating with friends or at a restaurant.

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Mix It Up

Cutting down on meat shouldn’t be a grueling task, but it can sure sound that way if your idea of a meatless dinner is raw tofu – or, even worse, your regular meaty meals completely unchanged, except without the meat. The thing about meat-based meals is that the side dishes tend to be pretty bland – think mashed potatoes and iceberg lettuce. When the side dishes become the star of the show, they need to become more flavorful.

Use your commitment to eating less meat as an opportunity to try new things, like vegetable curries, veggie-packed pasta salads, and bean-based soups. Use spicy sauces, exotic cheeses, and different cooking methods (like roasting vegetables) to add exciting flavors, and you won’t find yourself spending every dinner asking, “Where’s the beef?”