There are numerous reasons to eat less meat. Here are just 5:
- A Meat-Rich Diet Can Be Bad For You – Whilst meat can be a valuable source of protein and other nutrients, too much meat – especially red meat – has been linked to increased risk of diabetes, heart disease, high cholesterol and even some cancers. Most of us omnivore know that we should eat less meat.
- Ethical Considerations – The traditional vegetarian and vegan stances against animal cruelty have continued to make inroads into our moral position when it comes to what we eat.
- Ethical/Environmental Considerations – Meat production is bad news for the environment – from logging rainforests to providing grazing land for cattle to the methane that those very cows release into the atmosphere. See here to read more about the environmental effects of meat production.
- Destroying Wildlife – Land clearing and modern farming practises are devastating the natural habitat of thousands upon thousands of animals, birds and insects which we will never get back once lost.
- Adding to Global Poverty – Wealthy meat producers slash and burn land once worked families who simply farmed for themselves. Those small-holders have little choice but to work for the big corporations for whatever wage they can get.
I could go on, but will save a more detailed discussion of this for another post.
The bottomline is that cutting the meat in your diet and upping the veggies is a win-win. Both for yourself and the planet.
So how can you eat less meat if you really love it?
How to Eat Less Meat
Cut the amount of meat that you put on your plate.
The fact of the matter is that most of us in the developed world eat too much. Full stop.
And we would definitely benefit health-wise and environment-wise if you reset our appetites to eat less meat.
Living with plenty has led us to eat until we are full, rather than stopping before we get there – which is usually sufficient for our needs.
If you baulk at the idea of dropping your steak altogether, start modestly by reducing the amount of meat that you serve yourself. There are some easy ways to achieve this:
- Slice meat to make it look more plentiful – Rather than serving everyone a huge steak each, try slicing just a couple of T-Bones and dress them in a herby oil. A pile of sliced steak looks generous, even when it is a much smaller portion than a solid slab of flesh.
- Bump up your mince – Try adding a handful of brown or green lentils to a bolognese (sorry Italian friends!) or a can of black beans to a ground beef taco.
- Choose quality over quantity – Make the most of the meat that you eat. Wagyu is expensive, but amazing. Thankfully, a little tends to go a long way. So rather than buying a huge great rump steak to chew your way through, treat yourself to a small, marbled Wagyu steak once in a while. You’ll probably enjoy it more whilst consuming less.
Hopefully, you’ll be able to up this to 2 or 3 meat-free days a week, but again, just making a small tweak can lead to much bigger changes over time.
So choose a day of the week and make it meat-free. Plan what you are going to cook when you do your food shop and stick to your veggie rich plan.
And if you’d like to know about becoming a fully-blown flexitarian, see here.
Up the Veggies
But seriously, this goes back to cutting the amount of meat that you put on your plate. After all, you’ll have no choice but to eat less meat if you serve less meat.
Dish up less meat and more veggies, pulses and complex carbohydrates. After a couple of weeks you’ll find it comes naturally.
Invest in Inspiration
If you’re like me, you find after a while that you’re tending to cook the same old thing. And you’re bored.
So shake things up with some new recipes. And if that means buying a couple of dedicated plant-based cookbooks, so be it. Bookmarking a couple of good vegetarian cooking websites or YouTube Channels may also help you with ideas.
If you are looking for meat-free meals with lots of flavour and texture, my personal favourite is Yotam Ottolenghi’s Plenty cookbook – a modern plant-free bible!
Beans and lentils are varied, tasty, cheap, filling, good for you and adding them to your diet is an easy way to eat less meat.
When the first big Covid-related Lockdown hit in Melbourne I was relieved to see that whilst the fresh meat and toilet paper had all vanished from my local supermarket, there was still a bountiful supply of dried pulses. And then I was slightly alarmed as it confirmed my fear that people just don’t eat them as much as they should!
Canned beans and lentils are perfectly acceptable. However, why not be brave and buy a bag of a dried variety? All you need to do is soak your chosen beans in a bowl of cold water overnight. The next day, you have a couple of options.
You can toss your soaked, swollen beans directly into a stew or casserole and leave them to cook along with the other ingredients – this is especially good for things meals that sit in a slow cooker or in the oven for a long period of time.
Alternatively, you can boil your beans separately to add to dishes as you like. My top tip is to boil up a big bag of beans and then split it in to serve-size portions which I then bag up with my vacuum sealer and pop in the freezer until I need them. I add a portion to curries, stews, casseroles and salads as often as I can.
Substituting one of your 2 pork chops for a handful of dressed chickpeas is a great way to eat less meat.
Read this for more information on Nutrient-dense food swaps.
Healthy Lunch Options
If you are looking seriously for ways to eat less meat, then you really should consider what you have for lunch.
How often do you either make, or grab, a quick ham sandwich, or buy a meat pie or burger around midday?
You might think that a little slice of ham in a bread roll can’t do too much harm, but ham and other cold cuts are processed and one of the worst kinds of meat that you can eat for your health.
Plan ahead and prep yourself some nutritious, meat-free, sandwiches, salads, wraps and bake goods instead.
Try snacking on nuts and seeds if you get hungry between meals.
Yes, nuts are comparatively high in fats, but they are those good, unsaturated fats which can be great for heart health. Some nuts and seeds, like walnuts, flaxseeds (sometimes called linseeds), peanuts and genuine superfood, chia seeds, are rich in Omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants.
Importantly, nuts and seeds are also a great source of fibre, vitamins and minerals and, very importantly, protein. This means that nibbling on a handful of nuts when you hit your mid-arvo slump will keep you feeling fuller for longer – and hopefully not as desperate for the protein hit of a chunk of beef when it comes to dinner time.
If you are interested in a baking a delicious, protein-rich, afternoon snack, we not give our Nutty Protein Bread Recipe a go?
Similarly, add nuts and seeds to baked goods for the added nutrients and to salads at lunch and dinner time to try and replace some of that meat-based protein that your are attempting to eat less of!
Try a Meal Kit
These have really taken off in recent years – especially after the chaos of numerous Lockdowns and empty supermarket shelves.
There are a big range of companies offering meal kits, delivered to your home on a daily or weekly basis.
Organising your meals this way has a couple of major attractions:
- Convenience – The obvious bonus is that everything is bought, weighed and delivered to you and all you have to do is follow a clearly outlined recipe.
- Freedom to Experiment – And this is the big point if you are trying to eat less meat. You can try vegetarian meal options that you may not be brave enough to attempt yourself from scratch. You don’t have to source unfamiliar ingredients and, even better, there is a tried and tested recipe there to read.
Choose a Vegetarian Restaurant or Take Away
Similar to the meal kit option, perhaps the thought of learning a whole new repertoire of recipes so that you can reduce the amount of meat you consume is just too overwhelming.
So don’t. Let someone else do the cooking for you.
Remember that trying to eat less meat shouldn’t become a chore.
Next time you go out for a meal or order a take away, look at the vegetarian eateries. You never know, you might luck out on a dish that you like so much, you decide to try it to make it yourself.
Give ‘Fake Meat’ a Try
Fake meat was once something you found only in sci-fi novels, but these days plant-based meat alternatives are cropping up everywhere, from the chilled sections of supermarkets to major burger chains.
Whether you are looking for something clearly plant-based but with a ‘meaty’ flavour and texture – like jackfruit, or are happy to give lab-grown meat a try, suddenly there is no reason why wanting to eat less meat should condemn you to endless plates of tofu and nut roasts, if that’s not your thing – and just for the record, I make a mean nut roast and am happy to eat it any day of the week!
Change Your Meat
If you feel that dropping the lamb and beef altogether is a step too far, you could look at the type of meat – and by extension protein – you put on your plate.
Red meat really should be eaten in moderation. So if you want to eat less meat, but can’t ditch it totally, why not try substituting a few of your beef and lamb based stir-fries and chops for healthier alternatives like chicken, turkey (why does everyone think turkey is just for Christmas?!) and fish.
See our piece on 5 Ways To Enjoy Healthier BBQs for some summer dining tips
Experiment with High Protein Grains
Just like nuts, pulses and seeds, there are loads of grains available these days which pack a real nutritional (including plenty of satisfying protein) punch.
Much has been written about quinoa, but there are other ones to sample such as buckwheat, amaranth, millet, teff, cornmeal, wild rice, freekeh and wholemeal pastas.
A good way to eat less meat is to add a cupful of one of these ‘super grains’ to your meal – either as part of a salad or side dish, or to bulk out a stew. Again, they will leave you feeling nice and full, give you the nutrients you need and will healthily replace some of that flesh on your plate.