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5 Ways to Cut Back on Meat in Your Diet
Here’s how to reduce the amount of meat you consume

When you switch to a diet that focuses on eggs, beans, nuts, whole grains, veggies, and fruits, your health will reap the benefits — and so will the environment. But what if cutting meat out of your life feels too drastic or intimidating to consider? Fortunately, just reducing your meat consumption without giving it up altogether is also a great choice for yourself and society. Here are five helpful and easy tips for making other foods the focal point of your meals.

Pick a meat-free meal or a meat-free day

If you usually eat meat with breakfast, lunch, and dinner, consider setting aside one of these meals as a no-meat zone. You could do this every day or just start out with one meal per week. If you’re feeling a little more ambitious, CNN Health suggests picking one whole day a week to go meatless for every meal.

Use meat as a seasoning

If you’re not ready to take meat out of any meals, start by using it as more of a seasoning than a main attraction. For example, instead of eating several slices of bacon with your breakfast, you could fry a single slice and crumble it into your scrambled eggs. Making a pot of chili for dinner? Cut the amount of ground beef in half and add an extra can of beans. With this approach, you can still enjoy the taste of meat even as you cut back on the quantity you consume.

Explore meat substitutes

There’s a whole world of diverse and flavorful meat substitutes out there, and finding your favorites will make it ultra-easy to cut back on meat. The Harvard School of Public Health notes that legumes like lentils and beans provide lots of filling protein and fiber and very little saturated fat. Nuts and seeds have many of these same qualities. Meanwhile, soy-based options like tofu and tempeh offer a meaty experience without the meat. These ingredients can be the centerpiece of your meal, serve as meat substitutes in your favorite dishes, and much more — the possibilities are endless.

Find new ways to build flavor

Meat contributes a certain savory, rich taste that’s known as “umami.” According to Harvard, you can also get this taste from many non-meat sources, including cheese, soy sauce and other fermented foods, tomatoes, and mushrooms. Roasting, grilling, and sautéing vegetables is another excellent way to build umami flavor. Beyond umami, you may also want to incorporate a greater variety of herbs and spices to keep your non-meat dishes as interesting as possible.

Start by reducing red and processed meats

If you’re not ready to cut back on meat altogether, there’s another good place to start — reducing your consumption of red meat. Per Harvard, red meat production accounts for more greenhouse gas emissions than any other food. So, reducing the beef, pork, and lamb in your diet can make a serious impact even if you’re replacing them with chicken or fish instead of non-meat options. 

Whether you’re on the verge of transitioning to a vegan or vegetarian diet or just looking for ways to trim meat from a few meals per week, these tips will help you work toward your goals without guilt, stress, or drastic and unsustainable changes.

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