A Beginner’s Guide to Eating Less Meat

With more and more people eating less meat (be it for health or environmental reasons), you’re probably toying with the idea of doing the same. But as a seasoned meat eater nearly your entire life, the idea of going partially or fully vegetarian may seem like a difficult task. It doesn’t have to be! Below are a few guidelines to follow in order to easily transition into eating less meat each week.

1. Begin with Meatless Mondays

Starting slow is your best bet towards eating more meat-free meals down the road. If you try to go from zero to vegetarian in one shot, that is an exercise in failure. Begin with one day each week (#MeatlessMonday, of course!) where you add a new recipe to your rotation and, with time, you’ll be enjoying meatless dishes on a more regular basis.

2. Eat what you already know and love

You may not realize this, but you likely have a few meatless recipes you already enjoy in your back pocket. Maybe it’s mom’s cheesy cannelloni, a hearty bean soup or a gooey grilled cheese sandwich. By cooking these familiar recipes, eating vegetarian won’t feel like a chore because, technically, nothing has really changed.

3. Give your favourites a meatless twist

Love yourself some General Tao chicken? Or a cozy plate of spaghetti and meatballs? There are so many great dishes that have all the flavour of these classics, but minus the meat. That’s because while substituting the meat with a meatless protein⁠—like tofu for the chicken, or an eggplant and chia seed blend rather than ground meat⁠—the recipe is also imbued with the spices and seasonings of its traditional counterpart, which means the flavours you already love are still all there.

Did you know?

Tofu is flavourless, so it is great at soaking up flavourful marinades and sauces like a sponge! Simply dice a block of tofu, toss the pieces into a marinade and let sit overnight for maximum taste. Or, if cooking a stew or a curry, as your dish simmers, the tofu will absorb all those delicious flavours.

4. Don’t forget the protein

If you’re thinking, “Well, I’ll just eat my favourite salad more often!” and call it a day, remember that lettuce, vegetables and dressing do not a filling meal make. Always ensure that each dish contains a healthy serving of protein, as that is what your body still requires after you’ve cut meat from your diet. Some of these include eggs, nuts and seeds, beans, chickpeas and lentils. So be sure to include a hard-boiled egg or two in your salad, add some chickpeas to a vegetable soup, and find a few tasty ways to enjoy lentils.

5. Try a few meat substitutes

We’ve come a long way from only having tofu readily available at the grocery store as a viable alternative to protein. Those following a vegetarian or even vegan diet certainly aren’t lacking in choice nowadays! There’s now tempeh, seitan, textured vegetable protein (which can be used as a substitute for ground meat in tacos or a pasta sauce), plant-based burgers and sausages that cook up like the real thing, jackfruit (a great substitute for pulled chicken or pork), and even boxed “chicken” tenders and nuggets for the kids.

6. Experiment and have fun

The whole point of enjoying new recipes is to try something you may not have otherwise tried before. So be open to new ingredients, try different textures and flavours, lean into your fear and curiosity. You just might be surprised. And the more vegetarian recipes you try, the more likely you’ll find a few you love.