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12 Months to Better Health: How to Take (at Least Some) Meat Out of Your Diet

By Sara Butler

Meat and Your Diet

Wow, can you believe it’s October already? Our “12 Months to a Healthier You” series is starting to wind down. But when it comes to your health and wellness, you’re just getting started!

It may be decorative gourd season where you live, but this month we’re going to talk about going meatless. OK, maybe not totally meatless for all you meat lovers out there, but cutting down on the meat you eat each week.

There are many benefits to embracing vegetables and adding a meatless Monday to your repertoire for both your waist and your wallet. Read on to find out all the ways you can eat less meat without giving it up completely.

Why Aim for Less Meat?

One thing meatless diets have going for them is that they emphasize whole grains, fruits, beans, nuts, legumes, and vegetables in the diet. All of these foods are rich in vitamins, minerals, and fiber, all of which you need to stay healthy and keep your body working at its best. Diets heavy on veggies have also been linked to a lower risk of heart disease than meat-heavy diets.

Yet you don’t have to go total veg to reap these benefits. Even reducing the amount of meat you eat each week can have a positive impact on your health. That’s why it’s beneficial to look for ways you can reduce the amount of meat you eat and increase all the other stuff to have a more balanced, healthy diet.

You Have to Start Somewhere

You may not be inclined to jump right in on a less meaty diet and that’s OK. You should simply try to focus on working to reduce the amount of meat you eat. That can mean having one meal one day per week – one in which you typically eat meat – and cut it out.

Breakfast is probably the easiest meal to do this with. If you’re having a breakfast burrito with some sausage and eggs each morning, get rid of the sausage and add in some vegetables such as avocados or bell peppers. Or you could abandon your burrito altogether and opt for some oatmeal with nut butter or a smoothie. As long as you have plant-based protein involved in your breakfast, it should keep you satiated until lunch.

Discover All That Beans Can Offer

Beans are more than a magical fruit, they also happen to be a total game-changer for a Monday night meat swap. Beans are inexpensive and versatile, making them a great addition to any meal. Plus, they’re really high in protein and there are a variety of ways you can prepare them to delight your taste buds. Explore some bean-centric recipes for Monday night dinner next week, you may be surprised at what you find.

Try Out a Few Days

If you’re used to eating meat on days that end in Y, you may want to consider a different approach. Ease yourself into a more vegetable-centric dinner more than once per week. Go beyond meatless Monday and add a few more days of meatless meals to your weekly calendar. Who says that you can’t have Chickpea Thursday or Seitan Sunday, after all?

Shrink Your Meat World

Another great way to eat less meat is to give up a certain type of meat. Experts in nutrition agree that among the animal-based protein we eat, red meat is usually the worst for health and wellness. So, instead of axing all meat from your diet, consider just cutting out red meat but sticking with chicken and fish. Then you can work to refine your diet further by adding more plant-based protein and foods beyond meat to your diet.

Know Your Swaps

There are many things you can swap for meat in your favorite recipe if you’re worried you might miss it. Lentils and mushrooms both have a meaty texture, so consider using them in place of beef in future recipes. Or, you can add a little flare to your recipes by swapping half the meat with a plant-based alternative. You don’t have to go whole hog (or jackfruit) to make an impact.

Be Realistic

Everyone has a line they simply cannot cross. If you know there’s a meal you simply don’t want to give up, then don’t do it. It’s OK to have your favorite Five Guys burger from time to time or pile that lox high on your bagel. The name of the game isn’t big, sweeping changes -- it’s about making small, deliberate shifts in the way you include meat in your diet.

Challenge yourself this month to go beyond Meatless Mondays and figure out how to cut down on meat while adding more fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, and seeds to your diet. Your heart, and your wallet, will likely thank you.

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