The Meat-Eating Family's Guide to Eating Less Meat
There are plenty of reasons why families who regularly consume meat may want to reduce the amount they eat and include more vegetarian dishes in their regular meal lineup.
You may be motivated by the health factor, since a vegetarian diet has been linked to a healthier heart, lower rates of cancer, and less risk for type 2 diabetes. Or you might be inspired to eat more veggies for the planet, since buying meat (beef in particular) adds more to your carbon footprint than your car emissions do. In turn, you could be seeking out vegetarian dishes because of concerns for animal welfare, a classic motivator for dropping certain foods from your plate. And if you're looking to reduce your family's grocery budget, making meatless meals will really help out your wallet.
But no matter what your reasoning, it's not as hard as you'd think to add more vegetarian meals to your weekly routine. Check out our helpful hints and delicious recipes below to get started.
How to Change Your Family's Diet
Start With One Small Change at a Time: Maybe your main goal is to get healthier. Rather than cutting out all meat at once, many people find it easier and are more successful by first planning a couple of meat-free meals per week, then eliminating four-legged animals (cows, pigs, bison, deer, elk), then two (chickens, turkey) and then seafood. It's much easier to go gradually than to suddenly feel like you don't know what to eat or can't eat anything and panic. It also curbs cravings if you know you can still enjoy some of your familiar favorites and are only changing one thing.
Plan your Meals Ahead: The downfall of any diet is not being prepared. Look through some of our top-rated vegetarian recipes. Get a vegetarian cookbook from your local bookstore or library whose recipes sound like something you and your family would enjoy eating and bookmark a couple of new things to try. Make a meal plan for the week, shop for the ingredients, and prep what you can ahead of time on the weekend. During that time, you can also cut up lots of fruits and veggies to snack on all week.
Pool your Resources: There are plenty of books, blogs, and websites out there that can be helpful for finding ideas and tips to making the transition easier. Social media is helpful in getting your friends to weigh in on some of their favorite vegetarian meals. Learn about ingredients that may be unfamiliar to you that are staples of a vegetarian diet, like tofu, and introduce new things to your family. Scribble down your reasons for eating less meat on a post-it note and put it on the fridge to remind yourself why and stay motivated.
10 Vegetarian Recipes Even Meat- Eaters Will Love
Far from feeling deprived, eating less meat will make you feel empowered by making food choices that will have a positive impact on your health, the environment, and animal welfare. Here are 10 great ideas to get you started.
Full of tomatoes, peppers, three kinds of beans, and corn, this warming chili cuts out the meat with little prep. "Break out your soup pot and fix up a batch of this delicious, spicy vegetarian chili today!" says user calead910. "It's ready in no time, and packed with vegetables, beans — and flavor!"
Green lentils, hearty mushrooms, and savory veggies make the chunky base for this dish. Serve over a bowl of pasta or polenta for a well-rounded meal.
Try this burrito out for a meat-free taste of Jamaica. "Tofu, cheese, rice, black beans, pineapple, jicama, and a Jamaican jerk sauce in a flour tortilla, topped with hot salsa and sour cream," says recipe reviewer Cayce Lynne.
Meatless egg-based quiches are a great option for families that like eggs but are trying to cut out meat. Other popular combinations include cheddar and broccoli or mushroom and Swiss. A savory option for weekend breakfast or anytime, this flavorful quiche is packed with spinach and cheese.
Full of veggies and enough gooey, cheesy goodness to please any family member. "Making the most of simple, fresh ingredients found at your local Farmer's Market, these quesadillas make great appetizers or a quick and healthy meal," says recipe creator Jennifer Baker. "Serve while hot with your favorite salsa, sour cream, and guacamole."
There's no need to eat out when you're craving sushi! Make your own rolls at home with this easy recipe.
Savory and satisfying, these bean burgers are better than store-bought and a meat-free option for burger night. "You will never want to eat frozen veggie burgers again," says recipe creator LAURENMU. "These are so easy, and you'll be proud to have created such a vegetarian delight."
Squash is one of the most versatile things a vegetarian can choose. Pack scooped out zucchini with a variety of meatless fillings, like this recipe. "A great vegetable dish that can be used as a centerpiece or as a side," says user jackie. "Can be lovely when served with tomato based sauce and a green vegetable, or I have even had them with traditional roasted vegetables at Christmas."
One successful way to get your family to try new meatless dishes is by letting them pick and choose what goes into the dish with a build your own option. This dish can combine hash browns, tofu scramble, peppers, and herbs accordingly. "Tofu scrambles up just like eggs, and with some clever spices, even non-vegans will barely notice the difference," says recipe developer isachandra. "Try setting out toppings to let family or guests assemble their own burrito bowls."
Quinoa is a great source of vegetarian protein. It can be made ahead and stored for the week and also freezes well. "This bright and colorful salad is a great summertime recipe (or anytime you want to feel like it's summertime). Light and citrusy, it's a whole new way to enjoy quinoa," says user scrumdiddley. "Lime juice and cilantro give a refreshing kick, while quinoa and black beans provide tasty vegan protein."
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