Are you wanting to reduce your meat consumption, but having trouble sticking with it? Are you struggling with meatless meal ideas, or beating yourself up after you opt for a meaty entree? It’s difficult to be raised your whole life with meat being the focal point of a meal, and then to make a transition to mostly meatless meals, with veggies being the bulk of the dish. People make this transition for various reasons, and whatever your reason, we want to give you some helpful tips and perspective on what’s helped us.
I did not cut out meat overnight. Actually I did - for about two weeks. I went hard at first. I cooked us a different vegan Pinterest recipe every night, but quickly got burned out on that and stuffed my face with a buffalo chicken sandwich one night two weeks later. What I learned is that I needed to slow down and let the change happen organically rather than force it, stress out about it, or feel guilty when I “failed” at it.
Since then I have gone through phases where I eat more meat than I should and those phases always end in me gaining weight, being irritable, and lacking sustainable energy. These meaty phases come about when I’m overwhelmed with work or life events, or when I’m lazy and don’t feel like meal planning or cooking. A healthy diet has a lot to do with a healthy mind (and vice versa) and both are major components of a vibrant lifestyle. With a veggie-based diet, I feel more alert, have more energy, less bloating, I’m more regular, and leaner. Luckily I have the tools to get back on the wagon with a plantiful diet and get back to feeling AWESOME!
We compiled our own personal tips for reducing the meat in your diet, and we also reached out to other vegans and vegetarians to see what worked for them. If you’re ready to begin reducing your meat consumption, here are some simple steps to get started:
Cut out processed foods.
Processed foods contain chemicals that are engineered to make you want MORE; you’re not getting the proper nutrients so you tend to overeat. The chemical additives in processed foods combine to create flavors that are not found in nature, which means the natural foods that come straight from the earth are not going to be as appealing. Cut out these processed foods completely to begin retraining your tastebuds and your mind to enjoy real, whole foods. You’ll begin to crave the real foods which makes it much easier to incorporate them into every meal.
Keep a food diary.
This sounds really lame, I know, but do it for the purpose of recognizing how your food affects you. Become more aware of your body systems, your mental state, your energy levels. Make note of when you feel sluggish or energetic, depressed or enthused, bloated or regular, focused or distracted. These physical states are all directly linked to your diet. Then you can begin to nail down the trigger foods to eliminate, which will give you a big WHY for making a change and you’ll be more likely to stick with it.
Get on Pinterest and compile a HUGE list of popular plant-based recipes. Have an arsenal of yummy meals at your fingertips so that you don’t ever feel lost for healthy ideas. There are several awesome resources for meatless meal ideas: www.findingvegan.com.
What the Health just launched a meal planner service: https://meals.whatthehealthfilm.com Go to a cooking class to learn some new tricks in the kitchen. Read up on the nutritional requirements for our bodies to function at their highest potential and research the benefits of specific fruits and veggies. When you know WHAT you’re eating and what awesome healing properties you’re receiving from produce, you’re going to LOVE filling your body with that fuel.
Keep it simple.
“A great tip someone shared with me was to pick one group and work out from there. I eliminated any pork products, then added all other 4-legged creatures, then any type of fowl. The last group I need to tackle are things that live in the water. Knowing that every step you take toward a vegetarian (or vegan) lifestyle is keeping living creatures alive makes it easier. I knew I wanted to make a lasting change, so doing it in phases was the best way for me to change. I could have gone cold turkey (no pun intended), but the change wouldn't have lasted. Also, I encourage people to do what works best for them and ignore people who try to shame them into making more dramatic or different changes than they are. We all have to find the motivation for our own journey.” - Barbara
Start with produce.
“When you plan meals, start with the produce you want to use, and build from there. It's easier for me than starting with the protein and having to figure out a meat substitute. I also tend to use all my produce that way, instead of letting it go to waste.” - Ava
Adjust the protein for your favorite meals.
Think of your favorite meals like spaghetti and meat sauce, or chicken parmesan, lasagna, tacos, etc. The protein in each of these dishes can be adjusted to be meatless! We suggest opting for non-processed, whole food versions rather than highly processed, pre-packaged “meat substitutes” you can buy in stores. Think: walnut and lentil meat, roasted eggplant, tempeh “bacon” or “ground beef.” Yes this take a little more work up front, but through the magic of “Batching” you can make these items once and tweak them throughout the week to complement a variety of your meals.
PS: here is our Eggplant Rollatini recipe - you do NOT miss the meat: http://www.thekalewhale.com/kwshow/episode2?rq=eggplant
We hope these tips help you get started on the path to a more plantiful vibrant life! Leave a comment with challenges you encounter in going meatless or any additional suggestions that may help our readers ditch the meat :)