Sustaina-Minis, Meatless Edition: Practical Strategies to Reduce Reliance on Meat
Over the past few years, and especially the past few months, our family has made significant efforts to reduce our meat intake. This is for a few reasons, including the environmental impact of meat production and possible health risks associated with eating meat.
Even the Canada Food Guide now recommends that we:
"Choose protein foods that come from plants more often. Plant-based protein foods can provide more fibre and less saturated fat than other types of protein foods. This can be beneficial for your heart health."
There's also the ethical aspect. I've eaten meat all my life yet when I look an animal in the eye, the last thought on my mind is that I'd want them on my dinner plate. I'm also learning that animals raised for our consumption are often treated poorly (especially in factory farming conditions) which is not something I want to support.
All that being said, I recognize that food choices are incredibly personal, and influenced by many factors (culture, family traditions, food availability, food insecurity, etc.). I don't think there is one "correct" way to eat and I would never tell anyone what they should or shouldn't eat.
If you are interested in some practical strategies that my family has found helpful in our personal mission to reduce our meat intake, read on!
1. Befriend Beans & Pulses
I prefer focusing on foods I want to eat more of rather than foods I want to avoid. Beans and pulses are high on that list! Excellent sources of protein, fibre, vitamins, and minerals, most of us could benefit from including more beans and pulses in our diet. Our family favourites include hummus, chickpea mash (a sandwich spread), falafel, lentil tacos (or taco bowls), lentil shepherd's pie, bean burritos, and white bean artichoke dip. My husband and I are also big fans of dal (lentil curry) and chana masala (chickpea curry).
2. Breakfast for Dinner
Who doesn't love breakfast for dinner? When trying to think of meatless meal options, I've always found dinner the hardest, as that's typically been our meatiest meal of the day. So sometimes I like to take "dinner" out of the equation and just serve a breakfast-style meal at dinner time instead. From whole wheat french toast, pancakes, or waffles to tofu scramble or scrambled eggs with breakfast potatoes, there are a ton of yummy choices!
3. Include Familiar Meals Minus the Meat
You may already eat meatless meals from time to time, like perogies, cheese cappelletti, or vegetable soup. Consider purposely including a familiar meatless meal once per week (i.e., Meatless Mondays) or trying meatless versions of family favourites. For example, if you're making spaghetti or bean chili, try leaving out the beef for a change. If you're a fan of chicken wings, try buffalo cauliflower bites instead. You don't always have to reinvent the wheel to come up with a meatless meal. (Corny rhyme not intended!)
Along with each of these strategies, one of my favourite things about reducing our meat intake is that we've placed a greater emphasis on eating a wide variety of vegetables, fruit, nuts, and seeds. For example:
Serving hummus with veggies
Having fruit and veggie smoothies along with a breakfast-style meal or making smoothie bowls for a healthy dessert (my kids absolutely love these!)
Including a variety of steamed, mashed, roasted, or raw veggies along with meals
Adding a side salad (or serving a hearty salad as a main)
Topping stir-fries, salads, yogurt, or smoothie bowls with chopped nuts and seeds
I hope these ideas are helpful to you if you're aiming to reduce your reliance on meat. In my experience, food habits don't change overnight, but bit by bit it is possible to transform the way we eat - for our health, the planet's, and/or the animals'.
Disclaimer: The ideas in this post are not meant to be taken as health advice. Always do your own research before making any dietary changes.
If you'd like another perspective and some great resources on eating less meat or going completely meatless, be sure to check out this interview-style post: Q&A with Aaron: Embracing Plant-Based, From Vegan to Reducetarian.