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16 Legitimately Useful Tips For Anyone Trying To Eat Less Meat

Small — but effective — tips, tricks, and habits.

Love meat — but looking to eat less of it? 🍽

Maybe you want to cut back on spending — and meat is the most expensive thing on your grocery bill. Maybe you're worried about its environmental impact. Or maybe you just want to cook more of everything in 2020, and that includes (really good) vegetarian- and vegan-friendly options.

Whatever your reason is, we're into it! There are easy, everyday ways to eat less meat — and they don't always have to include giving it up entirely. Here are some to get you started.

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1. If you're used to having meat at almost every meal, start by cutting it out of just one: breakfast.

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Replace bacon and sausage with meatless (yet similarly protein-packed!) options — like breakfast tacos or vegan-friendly scrambled chickpeas. On the sweet side, swirl nut butter into oatmeal, prep blend-and-go smoothie packs, or top toast with high-protein spreads.

Recipe: Breakfast Tacos with Eggs & Avocado

2. Devote at least one dinner a week to beans.

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When it comes to meatless dinner staples, beans are a total MVP. They're cheap, versatile, easy to cook and store, and loaded with with protein and fiber. For starter recipes, check out these 21 meat-free dinners that all start with beans.

Recipe: Sweet Potato Black Bean Chili

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3. Only eat meat on certain days of the week.

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Everyone knows Meatless Monday, but if you're looking to go beyond that, expand it. Maybe it's Slow Cooker Sunday, Meatless Monday, *and* Bean Wednesday. (Last one needs a better name, I know! 😂)

4. If you're cutting back little by little, consider ditching red meat first.

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Experts agree that of everything we eat, beef has the biggest negative impact on the climate. (Read more about why here.) So if you're looking for a way to reduce your carbon footprint, red meat is a solid place to start.

Recipe: Creamy Mushroom Stroganoff

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5. To easily boost protein at any meal, memorize super-charged toppings — like chia seeds or edamame — then put them on everything.

Top noodle bowls with edamame, or sprinkle Greek yogurt with chia seeds. For protein-rich snacks, roast up a batch of spicy crispy chickpeas, or pair fruit with creamy peanut butter-yogurt dip.

Read more: 21 High-Protein Snacks To Eat

6. If you're making a big dietary change, make sure you're still getting the nutrients you need.

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For example, if you're not eating meat at all, you generally need about twice as much iron as meat eaters. As Nita Sharda, R.D. and nutrition consultant, explained to BuzzFeed: There are two types of iron — one comes from animals, and one from plant-based foods and grains. The latter doesn't absorb into your body as well as the former, so vegetarians need to seek out more of it. Iron-rich foods — like beans, lentils, kale, and spinach — are a great place to start.

(Read more about nutrients to watch for and the CDCs daily intake recommendations here.)

Recipe: Hearty Kale & Lentil Salad with Parmesan

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7. Pair up with a friend or family member.

Hannah Loewentheil / BuzzFeed

Whether it's a roommate, parent, or partner, tag-teaming is a great way to keep everyone motivated along the way — no matter what your end goal is.

8. When making a recipe with ground meat, swap half of it for mushrooms or lentils.

"If you're making beef patties for the grill, add in a handful of lentils to the beef mixture, and that way you're easing your taste buds into the taste a bit," Nita Sharda, R.D. and nutrition consultant, told BuzzFeed. Other ideas? Use less meat and more beans with chilis; or mix in chopped mushrooms or tofu crumbles with casseroles or tacos.

Recipe: Meat & Mushroom Country Casserole

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9. Remember that you don't have to cook everything from scratch.

Hannah Loewentheil / BuzzFeed, Melissa Jameson / BuzzFeed

Even as someone who loves to cook, there some things that I won't even bother making from scratch — and one is veggie burgers. IMO they're usually overly complicated and not worth the fuss. So reminder: No shame in the grocery store game! Especially when so many great packaged options exist.

(Need recs? I'm into Praeger's California burgers: They make a veg-packed version with no fillers, and Costco sells them for cheap. And my colleague Hannah loves Beyond Meat vegan burgers if you're looking for one that tastes more like beef.)

10. Adjust your plate proportions — and let meat take a co-starring role.

If you're used to meat taking up the majority of your plate for most (or all) dinners, play around with proportion. Aim to keep meat to a third or fourth of your plate, and load up with everything else. 😋

Plate #1: Cauliflower Gnocchi, Parmesan Asparagus & Garlic-Honey Salmon

Plate #2: Fettuccine, Roasted Broccoli, Sautéed Mushrooms & BBQ Shrimp

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11. Take a second to figure out which meat-free substitute you're most likely to enjoy...

Ghazalle Badiozamani / The Kitchn

There are so many out there now — and it's worth taking a second upfront to learn about your options and figure out which one you might find the most value in.

Read more: A Personal Guide to the Best Vegetarian Meat Substitute for You

12. Then actually start cooking with it!

Joe Lingeman / The Kitchn

For example, if you want something that mimics the taste and texture of real meat, soy chorizo is a great starter. It crumbles and cooks in the same way, with a lot less fat than real chorizo.

Recipe: Trader Joe's Dinner Bowl with Soy Chorizo and Butternut Squash

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13. Bookmark these easy meat-free dinners — and let an appliance do all the hard work for you.

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Want maximum flavor with minimal effort? Start with these ideas for the slow cooker and Instant Pot. They're toss-and-go so you don't have to babysit the stove.

Full list: 22 Crock-Pot & Instant Pot Dinners That Are Packed With Veggies

14. Be realistic about what you *wont* give up.

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Maybe it's that perfect lox bagel for breakfast, or animal-style In 'n' Out every now and then. There's nothing wrong with trying to make small, intentional changes in other ways — while still standing by the items you can't see yourself ditching anytime soon.

What are your best tips or tricks for eating less meat? Share in the comments!

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