I have been a vegetarian for over a decade, so my family is used to eating little to no meat and I have MANY recipes that are fully meatless. Truthfully, cooking meat is one of my least favorite things ever, so I am thankful that my family doesn’t complain about the lack of meat in our diet. My two girls and husband will eat meat, but he is the one who does the majority of the grilling or cooking of meat in our house.

I recently did a continuing education credit (did you know I am a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist?!) about how to promote a more flexitarian diet for economical, health and environmental reasons. The flexitarian diet promotes eating all foods, but focusing on what it available and more cost effective to the person. It also promotes eating what you are in the mood for and never cutting one food or food group out entirely. So, a flexitarian could eat a steak dinner one night and a vegetarian breakfast the following day and not worry about the inclusion of meat in one meal and a lack of it at the next.

The production of meat does have a negative impact on the health of the Earth. Doing our part to reduce consumption of meat helps to ensure that our children have a healthy planet to enjoy with their kids. We also know that eating more of a plant based diet is beneficial to one’s health. So replacing some meat protein with plant based protein, even a couple times a week, can improve your health – primarily cardiovascular health. The prices of plant based meat alternatives are fairly stable and do not often change from month to month. As the prices of meats does change from day to day, relying on plant based alternatives can mean a more stable monthly expenditure on food. These are just a couple of good reasons to adapt a more flexitarian diet.

I know that plant proteins can be overwhelming to many, so I have a couple of simple tips and tricks that will help you reduce your meat intake. These are each small measures that are meant to be stepping stones on your journey to eating less meat. I’m not advocating for you to become a vegetarian or a vegan – although if that is of interest to you these are good stepping stones too.

  1. Go half-sies on meat and plant protein. This is particularly easy for dishes like tacos, pasta and chili. Try using half the amount of ground meat in your chili and add a can of black beans. Or shred a block of extra-trim tofu and cook in the fat and seasonings of your ground meat for tacos. This ensures that the mouth feel of your meal remains the same and you still get the meat taste you are used to, but you’re reducing the overall volume of meat that you’re buying and eating. Also, the price of meat can vary greatly from one month to the next, so reducing your total cost is helpful to your monthly budget. There are also meatless products that can act as a direct replacement for meats (for example a meatless crumble is a direct replacement for ground meats). By adding these product into your meals in small quantities can exposure your family to the food while reducing meat consumption.
  2. Taste test the many plant based meat alternatives and stick with your favorites. Take it from someone who has tried ALL of the meat alternatives on the market – they are not all made the same. I recently tried a new brand of chicken tender alternatives and I couldn’t stomach the texture of them – that’s okay, they’re just not the brand for me. My favorite brands are Morningstar Farm, Boca, Quorn and Impossible. You may like none, some or all of these. You won’t know until you try! IF you find one that you and your family like, try out all of the different variations within the brand and have fun with it!
  3. Commit to a full meatless dinner once a week (or more!). This may be the most daunting measure of them all. By committing to trying out one completely meatless meal a week provides you an opportunity to break out of your comfort zone and really try out all of the meatless products available to you. You also do not have to use one of the products on the market at all. Black bean tacos in place of ground beef or turkey is an easy substitution that still provides protein in the meal without the unknown of a new food item. One of my favorite fully meatless meals is taco pizza – I am a sucker for cheese and carbs.

Taco Pizza Recipe:

  • Roll out pizza dough and cook according to directions. Store bought, yeast or sourdough – doesn’t matter! I usually make homemade dough that I cook for 8 minutes at 380 degrees before I add the toppings.
  • Layer 3/4 of a can of refried beans on top of the dough followed by a can of black beans, pint of cherry tomatoes cut in quarters, 1/2 of a white onion, diced followed by a 2 cup bag of shredded taco seasoned cheese.
  • Bake at 380 degrees for an additional 8 minutes and broil on high for 2 minutes.
  • Top with shredded lettuce and sour cream. Then enjoy!!

Do you eat meatless meals?


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