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How to Eat Less Meat

For the sake of the health of the planet and our family (not to mention the pocketbook), we are always looking for ways to lower our meat consumption. Here are some methods that have worked for my family.

Use meat as a seasoning rather than a main dish.

I could eat vegetarian (vegan would be much tougher) if I really wanted to. I could do it. But the truth is, I like a little meat. One of my favorite ways to enjoy the taste of meat while consuming less of it is to use meat as a seasoning rather than the main attraction of a meal. A perfect example is my delicious hearty lentil soup. This filling soup is mostly lentils and vegetables, but the few ounces of bacon plus chicken broth make this a very flavorful and hearty soup.

Learn from world cuisines.

I don't believe in fake meat or meat substitutes. Those have zero appeal to me. I prefer to learn from those cuisines that feature delicious and filling meatless or low-meat meals as a matter of course. Thai, Chinese, Indian, Middle Eastern, and Italian all come to mind. Pretty much every world cuisine has at least a few amazing dishes that fit the bill, and some cuisines are almost entirely meatless or low meat.

Bump up the veggies; dial down the meat.

This is an old trick of every frugal soul. Whenever I make a recipe, I just bump up the number of veggies called for and use less meat. If a recipe calls for 1 1/4 pound or 1 1/2 pound meat, I'll use just a pound. If it calls for half an onion, I use a whole one; 2 carrots, I'll use 3 or 4; and so on. Just be sure to adjust the amount of liquid and seasonings to account for additional vegetables.

The Big Salad

We are lucky to live in a place where fresh salad greens are available year-round at the farmers market. My husband and I have gotten into the habit of having a big salad almost every night with dinner (note that one serving of greens is 3 oz. or about 2 cups packed tight which makes a pretty substantial salad). By eating our salads first, we effortlessly increase our veggie intake, while decreasing our portion size of the main dish, which often contains meat. To make your salad deliciously enticing, add nuts, a strongly flavored cheese such as parmesan or goat cheese, and seasonal veggies or fruits (a few of my favorites: tomatoes, strawberries, persimmons, kiwi, and halved grapes). During the winter months when little else is available we often use apples. Also consider using homemade dressing. It's so much better and worth the effort if you eat salad regularly. I love the basic vinaigrette recipe from my tried-and-true America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook. Takes about 5 minutes to make, has several delicious variants, and lasts all week.

Rarely eat meals where a slab of meat is the main attraction.

I occasionally make a salmon fillet, meatballs, or turkey burger for dinner, but much less often than I used to. When I make meatballs, we go through nearly a pound of ground turkey in a single meal. When I make a stew with a pound of meat in it, or tacos with a seasoned ground beef and vegetable mixture, that pound of meat easily stretches to 3 or 4 meals.

Buy the good stuff.

When you pay more for meat, you naturally use less of it. And are also loathe to waste it. Since I started buying only organic chicken and local grass-fed beef, I am very careful about how it gets used. Conversely, when you eat less meat, you can afford the good stuff.

Eat less.

Americans eat 300 more calories per day than folks a couple of decades ago. And not because we are expending any more calories. So those extra calories are just making us fat. By eating smaller portions of meals that feature meat, you can reduce your meat intake without changing a single other thing! Using smaller plates and bowls is an easy way to trick yourself into eating less (this simple technique works even when you know that you tend to eat less with smaller dishes).

Currently about half of our meals are meatless, and I estimate that we consume on average less than two pounds of meat per week. 

How much meat does your family consume in a week?
How do you eat less meat?

Related Posts

Save Money on Food while Going Green (The Cost of Going Green, Part 2)
10 Ways Omnivore’s Dilemma Changed My Life
How I Shop for Food
Things I Avoid Eating
Lentil Cheese Loaf/ Vegetarian Meatloaf (Meatless Monday)
Hummus from Dried Beans in 5 Minutes

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