Finding healthy meat is easier said than done these days. There are many reasons to reduce the amount of meat consumed, but most commonly I hear people say they were over consuming meat products filled with hormones, nitrates and harmful additives. Please don’t misunderstand. For most people healthy meats such as local grass fed beef can be a healthy part of your diet in moderation.
Meat often takes center stage in health concerns for Americans. There are several schools of thought regarding meat. Some avoid it all together, some drink bone broth for breakfast and everything in between. One thing is certian, there is more to think about that simply meat. There are types of meat, how they animals are raised and fed, how the meat is processed. Just like all other food meats that are labeled with the same cut might be nothing alike in health impact and flavor.
I also often hear people speaking of the higher cost of good meat as a reason they might reduce the amount of meat in their diet. Eat really good meat in smaller portions for the same cost is the thinking. Whatever your thinking on meat there may be a time you are going meatless or meaty less. There are some great ways to do so without compromising flavor or fullness.
The most successful strategy for peacefully introducing more vegetable filled dishes has been that of compromise. I have found that compromising flavor is not a solution. If I want to introduce meatless dishes they must be full of flavor and great texture. The compromise comes in making the transition painless. Flavorless tofu casserole leads to household disharmony while colorful and tasty dishes get compliments. At our table the greatest compliment is when they loved the food and didn’t even realize there was no meat.
Here are a few strategies I have used to lessen the meat and make way for veggies.
1. Meat is not the main dish all of the time. For some people a great meal is centered around a big hunk of meat and a potato. Adding dishes like kabobs, tacos, pasta, salad and soup into the menu reduce meals where meat is the focus while not eliminating meat entirely. This step alone reduced meat consumption in my house by 50%.
2. Double the veggies. So many recipes that are published these days are short on vegetables. This is especially true with one dish recipes that are common in busy households. Simply doubling the veggies called for in a recipe adds more flavor, less fat and calories and reduces the portion of meat you consume.
3. Use “meaty” substitutes. Using mushrooms, textured grains, beans and soy products can increase the nutrient content and lend even more flavor and texture. Some ideas might be to replace half of the meat in pasta dishes with mushrooms and chunky veggies like onion and bell pepper. Add barley or whole grains to soups. Season cous cous with taco seasoning to replace meat in Mexican dishes. Beans are great in salad and soup. Use your imagination. You may want to replace half and work your way toward a meat free dish over time.
4. Give it Time. Making changes gradually feels natural and does not lead to food rebellion. Each little change makes a difference. If it is your goal to eat less meat or better quality meats every meal counts as a success.