Whether or not you’d call yourself a vegetarian, there are benefits to cutting down your meat consumption – even if it’s just a little at a time.
There’s some truth to the “Meatless Monday” campaigns that encourage people around the world to go meatless at least one day each week. It’s generally agreed upon that reducing your meat intake can benefit your health and also the environment.
Vegetarian-based diets are full of fruits, veggies, grains, beans, legumes and nuts. They are high in vitamins, fiber and other nutrients. Research shows that people who eat more of these dishes tend to consume fewer calories, weigh less and have reduced risks for heart disease.
Tips for Cooking More Vegetarian-based Meals
If you’re considering cutting down your meat intake, where do you get started? You might have concerns about staying full, getting enough protein and coming up with recipes.
Consider these meal tips for crafting more vegetarian-based dishes at home:
Explore Meat-like Alternatives
Let’s get this one out of the way. Are meat-like alternatives healthy? They are rising in popularity at grocery stores for those who like the taste and texture of real meat.
Read ingredient labels carefully. Some brands are heavier in sodium, carbs and fat than real meat. However, they also tend to have more iron, calcium and B12 than traditional meat dishes.
Generally speaking, “meatless meat” is a healthier meat alternative . Still, look for brands that have the least amount of fat and sodium. They should also be rich with plant-based proteins and closely mirror the amount of protein in real meat.
Plan More Meatless Meals You Already Like
As of right now, you probably aren’t eating meat with every single meal. To fill-up your arsenal of meatless dishes, consider meals of this nature that you already enjoy. Soups, pastas and salad-like meals are great for this. So are some stir fries and breakfast foods.
Consider All the Ways to Prepare Tofu
Tofu, which is made from soy beans, is high in protein and iron. Before cooking tofu, be sure to press it to get rid of excess moisture. There are plenty of tasty ways to enjoy tofu:
- Saute: Cut into cubes, add sauce/seasonings, marinate, add to skillet with cooking oil.
- Grill: Cut into extra-firm long strips, season and grill (wait for grill marks to appear).
- Bake: Oven-bake tofu for a crisp, flavorful but less-oily entree.
- Fry: Place in heated cooking oil for a crispier texture. Add cornstarch and salt.
Make Meat Dishes without Meat
Try your favorite meat dishes without meat. For instance, have spaghetti without ground beef or meatballs, or chicken Parmesan using eggplant instead. In the mood for a burger? Go with a Portobello mushroom cap or a patty made from black beans, cauliflower or sweet potatoes.
Try New Cuisines
Many countries around the world don’t focus heavily on meat. Thailand, China and Greece are great examples. Do an internet search of ethnic foods that incorporate flavor from seasonings, sauces and plant-based ingredients.
Learn More about Protein Sources
Meat isn’t the only strong source of protein. Other great options include:
- Greek yogurt
- Cottage cheese
- Chia seeds
Lifestyle Tips to Help You Get Started
Eating more meatless meals is only a challenge if you let it be one. Start by dedicating one night a week to cooking meals at home without meat. Once you’re comfortable, try adding a couple more nights. Challenge yourself to explore new recipes and flavors that interest you.
With time, you’ll learn more about textures, tastes, prep methods and what foods satisfy your hunger. Expand on your knowledge and add more ideas to your cookbook. Invite your loved ones to dine together at the table and enjoy the masterpieces you are creating!