What’s a flexitarian, you ask? Why, someone who only eats yogis! (Ba-dum CHING!)
Actually, a flexitarian is someone who eats vegetarian some of the time, and eats meat some of the time. A lot of people are choosing to go this route because they know that eating large quantities of red meat has been linked to heart disease and cancer, or because they know that factory farming has a huge impact on the health of our environment—and eating less meat is one of the best ways to combat it.
It’s no joke that eating less meat has benefits for your health, your wallet, and the planet, but it can seem daunting if your family is the meat-and-potatoes sort. But never fear! I have a seven-step plan that will have you eating less meat and enjoying all the benefits—practically without even trying!
How to Switch to a Flexitarian Diet
- Observe Meatless Mondays
It may seem like kind of a no-brainer, but committing to going vegetarian just one day per week can have a big effect on your health, your wallet, and the planet. If it’s too daunting to go veggie for the whole day, try going veggie just for dinner. And there’s no need to become a “vegetarian” cook to do this—you probably already have some meals in your repertoire that are vegetarian or could easily be, like spaghetti (just leave the meat out of the sauce), tacos or burritos made with refried beans instead of meat, or how about pancakes? Ease into it at first.
- Fish on Fridays
It’s not just for Catholics any more. Just like Meatless Mondays, committing to eat fish once a week will have a big impact on your health—all those great omega 3s! Plus, any day you can leave off eating red meat is a bonus. Just be sure to pick sustainable sources for your fish.
- Halve the Meat
Use just half the meat in favorite recipes like soups, stews, casseroles—even chili. Make up the difference with extra diced or shredded veggies or beans. For example, if you have a casserole recipe that normally calls for a pound of ground beef or diced chicken, try making it with half a pound and adding extra veg. Or, pick meals where meat is kind of a condiment instead of the main course: baked potatoes with a sprinkling of bacon, pasta with just one link of sausage in the sauce (for a family of four), soup or beans flavored with a ham hock, etc.
- Eat some Eggs
Breakfast: it’s what’s for dinner! Try to make eggs the main course one night a week. They’re so versatile, you’ll have a hard time getting bored. Look past sunny-side up to omelettes, fritattas, hardboiled eggs, etc.
- Soups and Salads
Switch out your sandwich at lunch for a veggie soup or salad. Even if you top one or both with a little meat, you’ll be eating a lot less meat—and a lot more veggies. Plus, with the practically endless array of topping and add-in choices, you’ll never get bored! Afraid you’ll be hungry? Be sure to add beans or another protein source.
- Embrace Tofu
Find a few places where you and your family can love tofu. There are some mighty fine veggie burgers available on the market, and I love tofu in my stir-fries almost more than meat. Learn to love meat replacements once in a while, and you’ll save calories and carbon. Just a quick note, though: You’ll spend a BUNDLE if you try to swap in a store-bought meat replacement like veggie burgers at every meal. These are a once in a while treat.
- Vegetarian or Vegan ‘Til Six
Mark Bittman of the New York Times got lean and healthy—while still being a world-famous food writer and restaurant critic—by switching to a vegan diet every day until 6pm. He ate whatever he wanted for dinner, including red meat, but the rest of the day is 100 percent vegan. Going vegan is a tough challenge (I’m sorry; I love cheese), but being vegetarian until dinnertime is a challenge most of us could win. Aim to be vegetarian until dinner most days, and you’ll officially be a flexitarian with honors!
Are you a flexitarian? Would you ever want to be?
Take action now and leave a comment below letting us know what you plan to do to lessen the amount of meat your family eats.