Makin’ it Meatless: How to Transition to a Meat-Lite Diet

Makin’ it Meatless: How to Transition to a Meat-Lite Diet

Happy Food Day!

Food Day inspires Americans to change our diets and our food policies. Every October 24, thousands of events all around the country bring Americans together to celebrate and enjoy real food and to push for improved food policies.

And I’m thrilled to be a part of the Food Day Blogger Takeover — an effort by 15 real-food food bloggers to help YOU adopt a real food diet.

For my contribution, we’re going to talk about how to transition to a meat-lite diet — even if you are a meat and potatoes type of family!

Why go meatless?

Going meatless even once a week has a host of benefits, both for your personal health and the health of the planet!

Even eating vegetarian once a week can:

  • reduce your risk of getting cancerMakin' it Meatless, Transitioning to a Meat-Lite Diet on
  • reduce your risk of heart disease by almost 20 percent
  • reduce your risk of getting type 2 diabetes
  • lower your body weight and body mass index
  • and help you live longer overall!

As if that weren’t enough good reasons, meat has a huge impact on our environment, so eating less has a positive impact on the health of the Earth.

  • According to the United Nations, the meat industry generates nearly one-fifth of greenhouse gas emissions that are contributing to climate change — way more than cars or even airplanes!
  • Meat requires huge water resources, far more than vegetables or vegetable protein. It takes 1,800 to 2,500 gallons of water to produce a single pound of beef!
  • A lot of fossil fuels go into producing meat as well. On average, it takes 40 calories of fossil fuel energy to produce one calorie of feed-lot beef, while it takes only 2.2 calories of fossil fuel to produce one calorie of plant-based protein.

ratatouille_crostiniGoing meat-light can also be good for your budget. The website Learn Vest found that for an average day, vegetarians saved more than $2 on the cost of food over meat eaters, while vegans saved even more — almost $3.50. That may not sound like a lot, but if you have a family of four, and you save $2 per person every week of the year, that adds up to more than $400 in savings over the course of a year.

Of course it’s possible to eat cheaply if you eat meat, or eat expensively as a vegetarian, but going meat-free once a week certainly has the potential to save you money!

And we’re not even asking you to go entirely vegetarian. Even cutting out meat for one day a week, you’ll make a positive impact on your own health and the health of the planet.

How to make the switch — painlessly!grilled_Brussles_sprouts

Adopting Meatless Mondays (or any day of the week you choose!) can be super simple, even if you are a meat-and-potatoes household.  Start with these tips and make small changes, and before you know it, you’ll be enjoying your meat-light diet without even thinking about it.

  1. Make a plan. It’s like that old saying: If you fail to plan, you plan to fail. Don’t expect that meat-free meals will magically appear in your kitchen. Get your meal planning on and plan your week around at least one meat-free day per week.
  2. Start with vegetarian meals you already like. When you’re just getting started, pick meals your family already likes. How about pancakes for dinner? Brainstorm a list of meatless meals your family already likes and work those into the rotation. Familiar favorites will ease any transitional pain.
  3. Which meals can you make meat-free? In addition to favorites that are already vegetarian, there are probably some meals you eat that can easily transition to meat-free. For example, if you usually make spaghetti with meat sauce, why not try it with just red sauce? Already doing taco Tuesdays? Try making them with tasty refried beans. Family a fan of stir-fry? Try it with baked tofu from the refrigerated case at your market.  And speaking of tofu…
  4. Don’t try to replace your meat, at least not right away. There’s no need to replace your meat with meatless soy or other meat replacement products. No matter how much they try, soy crumbles don’t really taste like ground beef, and your family will notice the difference! Instead, look for meal ideas that don’t include tofu or other meat replacements. If you’re worried about protein, go for beans, nuts, cheese, or eggs instead.
  5. Switch to “happy” meat. Wait, what? What does buying grass-fed, free-range, responsibly raised meat have to do with going meat-free? I’ll tell you what: it’s expensive!  When I made the commitment that my family was going to only buy higher quality meat, I realized right away that we were going to have to eat less of it to offset our budget. This is a GOOD thing, because it’s a strong reason to get your meatless Mondays going. The budget is a powerful motivator. 😉Service Review: Hello Fresh Delivery on

And a bonus idea: Start making meat-light meals. Healthy diets like the Mediterranean diet and the Okinawan diet regard meat, especially red meat, as a condiment rather than the main course. Once I started focusing on using less meat, I found lots of ways to reduce the quantity we were eating at any given meal. For example, my mom used to make her famous chili with two pounds of ground beef. Now I make the same amount with half a pound of meat, and add extra beans to make up the difference. It still tastes great!

A Meatless Monday Game Plan:

  • Start with breakfast.  Most of us have at least a few breakfast favorites that are already meat-free, so this should be the easiest meal of the day. Enjoy cereal, yogurt, toast, pancakes — whatever you choose! Just hold the bacon and sausage.
  • Brown-bag it. Lunch is another easy meat-free meal. Peanut butter (or other nut butter) sandwiches are a perennial favorite for kids. Grown ups can enjoy a salad, a veggie wrap with hummus, or a cup of veggie or bean soup.
  • Delicious dinners. Use the tips above and plan to fix a family favorite meat-free. Try a veggie pizza, mac and cheese with broccoli or peas, vegetable soup with crusty bread, bean burritos, veggie fried rice, or another crowratatouille_ingredientsd-pleaser. When your family already likes the meat-free meal, it’s easier to get buy-in from the beginning.

Looking for more? Here’s an entire week of meat-light meals to get you started.

This is just the beginning of the Food Day Blogger Takeover. Be sure to follow these other amazing food bloggers and look for their contributions in the following days and weeks!

Alli from Don’t Panic Mom
Amanda from Produce for Kids
April from Gluten is My Bitch
Donna from The Hanging Spoon
Emily from Colorado Moms
Gina from The Multitasking Missus
Jessica from The Balanced Kitchen
Jill from Just the Right Byte
Jory from Teeny Tiny Foodie
Kristen from Fueling a Fit Fam
Maaike from the Official Food Day Blog
Maybelline from Naturalmente Mama
Sally from Real Mom Nutrition
Susan from Real Kids Eat Spinach

And don’t forget to follow Food Day on Twitter and Facebook.
Happy Food Day!

Photo Credit: via Compfight cc

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