Although I have been a voluntary vegetarian for most of my life, I know cutting out meat is not for everyone—for many people, having meat in their diet is healthier for their lifestyle. There are those, however, that keep meat on their plate because they’re not sure how to make the leap to a vegetarian diet. If you find yourself in this category, regardless of whether you want to go full-plant eater or simply become an except-for-chicken-sometimes vegetarian, here are three of my favorite tips on cutting down on your meat intake.
1. Don’t quit cold turkey.
Just like with anything else you enjoy, it’s hard to suddenly stop altogether. I’ve seen lots of people make the mistake of deciding to cut all fish and meat products out of their life on a whim, and then feel guilty when they slip up and eat a hot dog four days later. This guilt turns to feelings of failure, and that perceived ‘failure’ makes it even harder to stay focused and motivated to keep going.
If you decide to stop eating meat, cut out one meat product at a time. Actively decide that you’re about to have your last steak, instead of deciding that retroactively. After your last steak, wait a week to have your last hamburger, etc. This way, you’re getting yourself used to the idea that you’re going to quit eating meat, so it will be easier to stop for real and not fall back on old habits. No guilt necessary!
2. Start replacing meat products with substitutes.
Even though you might be about to have your last hamburger, you can still have the next best thing. There are endless meat substitutes for you to experiment with—have fun trying and tasting new ones until you’ve found your favorites. If you’re looking for something to directly satisfy that urge for meat, try The Impossible Burger—this sizzle-on-the-grill patty looks and tastes like the real thing, but it’s made from wheat, potatoes, and the iron-rich molecule heme. Meat products that mimic the taste and texture of meat should help you ease into a meatless lifestyle (if you haven’t tried imitation chorizo, you’re missing out).
Once you’ve found your preferred meat substitutes, you can start putting your own spin on them—I’d recommend melting pepper jack cheese on garden burgers or grilling a juicy portobello mushroom cap and slapping it in a bun in place of a patty. Pro tip: cover it in Sriracha. Trust me, it’s amazing.
3. Explore variety!
Don’t get me wrong—I like a good salad as much as the next person, but just because you stop eating meat doesn’t mean that salads have to to be all you eat. Even vegans, who adhere to a much more restrictive diet, enjoy a full menu of non-leafy cuisine. One of my favorite non-meat dishes to make is a stir fry with either rice or rice noodles sauteed with broccoli, tofu, cashews, soy sauce, and pepper flakes. Sometimes I even go nuts and make my own peanut sauce to go with it. See? Not a salad.