Not Sure How to Eat Less Meat? Start Here


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Eat Less Meat Start Here

One thing to keep in mind is that you don’t need a mock meat product for every meal! There are so many incredible foods that easily take the place of meat in your diet, including beans, legumes, tofu, and tempeh. These go great with any dish just like the animal would!

This blog post will give you some simple tips on how to get started eating vegan food.

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I remember asking “What’s for dinner?” pretty much every day growing up. The answer always revolved around meat.

“Mom, what’s for dinner?”

“Chicken.” “Steak.” “Salmon.” “Beef ravioli.”

Even to this day, my plate doesn’t feel complete if it doesn’t have a protein source.

Quinoa and veggies as a meal seems odd. Even though that would give me all the complete protein and calories I would need!

I always feel the need to add in beans, tofu, or mock meat to create a “balanced” meal.

I’ve been vegan for 5 years as of this writing. My wife has been vegan for more than 13!

When she decided to not eat any meat or animal products I was supportive. But I had no idea how that was going to work out! Back then, veganism wasn’t as talked about and convenient as it is today.

Family had no idea what to think. That made holidays and gatherings a bit more difficult. Meat substitutes? Yeah, there were Bocca Burgers…and they were terrible! Tasted like cardboard.

And eating out? Forget about it! it was so hard to find a restaurant that catered to vegans in any way.

Today is different. More and more people are trying to eat less meat. Mostly for their health. The Standard American Diet (appropriately referred to as the SAD diet), with its overreliance on animal products, is not healthy by any stretch of the imagination.

But where do you start when your meals have revolved around meat your entire life?

here are some tips and simple substitutions you can make to easily turn any animal-centric meal into a plant-based dish. Even if your family isn’t on board yet! These will allow you to cook for your family and substitute for yourself without having to make two or more separate meals!

I’m all about simplicity!

Tofu Is Like Chicken

Chicken tastes like, whatever. That’s why it goes so well in so many dishes! It takes on whatever flavor you cook it with.

Tofu is the same! It has a mild taste that compliments any dish.

Even if you eat meat, tofu is such an easy and quick way to add protein into dishes! I eat it all the time with veggies.

Never worked with tofu before? First, learn how to drain and press your tofu so that it will take up your favorite flavors. It’s incredibly easy. Don’t let this step intimidate you!

Then, simply learn how to cook it. Again, it’s a piece of cake. Marinate it (just like chicken or meat), and then bake it, fry it, heat it in a skillet, or toss it in your air fryer.

Really, it’s so simple. Here’s my go-to for tofu:

  1. drain and press your tofu and let it sit for 10 to 30 minutes (to make this easy, pick up a tofu press)
  2. cut your tofu into cubes and toss into a nonstick pan on medium heat
  3. cover with onion powder, garlic powder, smoked paprika, and liquid coconut aminos
  4. mix the cubes with your spatula so every cube is well coated
  5. continuously move around the skillet so that they don’t stick
  6. stop cooking before the outsides of each cube are hard or crusty (they just need to be good and warmed all the way through, and let the coconut aminos caramelize a bit)

I have no idea how much of the ingredients above I use. A lot! I don’t worry about too much here, just too little.

Want simpler? Put the tofu cubes in the sillet and cook them until they’re browned on all sides. The cover them with soy sauce, tamari, or liquid aminos and cook for another minute or two. Done.

Or, try these amazing tofu recipes, and then match them with any dish you are making for your family.

Beans, Lentils, and Tempeh Are Easy Meat Substitutes

Tempeh is another soy product, similar to tofu. But tempeh is whole fermented soybeans as opposed to tofu, which is blended and then pressed soybeans.

I have to be honest here. When I first started substituting animal protein for vegan sources, I hated tempeh. Loved tofu, hated tempeh.

Tofu was so easy to work with and it takes up flavors amazingly well.

Every time I cooked tempeh it turned out dry and bland. Honestly, I didn’t put that much time and effort into figuring out how to cook. I just tried to cook it like tofu, which I normally do very quickly and last minute.

I’m not much of a chef!

Here’s the secret to amazing tempeh…marinate it!

Marinate it for at least 30 minutes. The longer the better. Whip up a marinade, cut your tempeh, mix them together in a Ziplock-style baggie, pyrex, or Tupperware container, and let it sit.

I try and do this early enough in the day, and then I shake it up every time I go into the fridge to just make sure every piece of tempeh is really well coated.

Then, bake your tempeh, heat it in a skillet, or place it in your air fryer. Simple!

Here’s the recipe:

  • 1/4 cup tamari, soy sauce, or Bragg’s Liquid Aminos
  • 2 tbsp maple syrup
  • 1 tsp liquid smoke – I get the hickory smoke flavor
  • 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder

You’ll get the best results if you place the tempeh strips in your appliance of choice (just the strips! not the excess marinade) and let it cook until it’s almost done. Pour the rest of your marinade over the almost fully cooked tempeh strips just before they’re done and let them caramelize in the sauce.

Your tempeh will turn out flavorful and moist. Incredible!

Let’s Talk Meat Alternatives

13 years ago, meat substitutes were a joke. the companies that were making them were great companies with vision, but they just didn’t have the product nailed yet.

Especially if you weren’t vegan. Vegans were excited to purchase from vegan companies, didn’t want foods that tasted like or resembled meat, and were kind of willing to eat anything that wasn’t an animal.

But the rest of us? We wanted meat. Or at least something that was close enough that we didn’t really notice the difference.

Today, you’re in luck. Plant based products are everywhere!

Not only are new vegan companies popping up all the time with incredible products, but most companies are jumping in the game.

The people have spoken loud and clear. While many may not want to be vegan or give up animal products for life, many are trying to eat less meat.

Beyond Meat and Impossible are two of the most popular products right now. You’ll find at least one of those brands in pretty much every major grocery store, and many fast-food restaurants carry them as well.

These are amazing substitutions that your family will love. Even your biggest meat-eater!

My dad loves meat. He’s trying to eat less. But he’s just not going to give up meat entirely. But he actually prefers the taste and texture of Beyond Burgers to ground meat burgers!

He lets them thaw and then reshapes them with Worcestershire sauce (you can buy vegan Worcestershire sauce in the store or use this recipe to make your own) added. Then he grills them.

Beyond Meat also makes several kinds of sausages, a meatless ground, and a meatball substitute.

Use these in place of burgers, in pasta dishes, as sausages instead of hotdogs, or for a meatless Taco Tuesday.

Larger grocery stores will usually have their own brand of mock meat similar to Beyond or Impossible.

Watch the Edgy Veg compare Beyond Beef and Impossible

My suggestion…start with Beyond Meat. I think it’s the closest match and easiest to sub in the beginning. But then try some of the store brands. They’re good and usually quite a bit cheaper!

Your local store’s natural section will also have a bunch of other substitutes.

Tofurkey makes deli slices for sandwiches or appetizers, and a brand called No Evil makes a bunch of meat substitutes.

Try them! You’ll like some, others you won’t. You’ve been through this before. You know which brands of things you like. You have your favorite yogurt, ice cream brand, or tuna fish.

You’ll find the plant-based brands you like as well.

Are Mock Meats Healthy?

That depends on what you mean by “healthy.” Are they as healthy as whole foods, like beans, grains, veggies, and fruit? No. Are they healthier than meat? yes.

Yes, mock meats are processed. They have a lot of ingredients, including oil and salt. So, definitely not something you want to eat every meal, every day.

But red meat, even though it’s technically whole food, isn’t good for you. Even white meat and poultry (think boneless, skinless chicken breasts) are high in saturated fat, cause damage to your heart and circulatory system, and has been implicated in several cancers. (1, 2)

And processed meat is really not good for you. So much so that it’s listed as a group 1 carcinogen. The faster you can get processed meat out of your diet the better.

So the less meat you eat the better, even if that means substituting some of your meat meals with a processed alternative.

Non-Dairy Products Are Easy to Find

Plant-based, nondairy products have made huge leaps and bounds lately as well! Again, not just from vegan companies. Even Ben and Jerry’s have their own line of non-dairy ice creams.

Prior to my vegan days, I used to eat Ben and Jerry’s Phish Food every weekend. Literally. I looked forward to it. That may have been the hardest thing for me to give up. Much more so than meat or fish.

The first Ben and Jerry’s non-dairy iterations were okay. But now they’re good. The Phish Food is amazing! I can’t tell the difference. And I consider myself a Phish Food connoisseur.

So Delicious, Oatly, and Nada Moo make great ice creams.

Silk makes great yogurts.

Daiya, Miyokoss, and Violife make great vegan cheeses.

And those are just the common brands that you can find pretty much everywhere.

You can also find fancy, top-end style cheeses to replace your Brie if you like.

Milk substitutes are also available everywhere. I prefer soy because I like the consistency (it’s very similar to milk) and protein content.

Most of my non-vegan friends drink almond milk or oat milk.

Almond milk is great if you want a bit of milk flavor without a bunch of calories.

Oat milk is on the rise and is amazing.

Here you can read all about the different types of non-dairy milks and which are best for different purposes or check out a full write-up on oat milk and why it’s so healthy.

You may not be ready to cut dairy products yet. If you’re just looking to eat less meat, that’s amazing. I have found, however, that replacing dairy products is one of the simplest substitutions to make.

If you make that change for your little ones, though, make sure you choose non-dairy foods that are calcium and vitamin D fortified and have plenty of protein and calories.

Or Just Go Simple

Homemade burritos are simple to make and are really inexpensive.

Here’s a quick recipe for a chickpea, no-tuna salad that I love.

Here’s a tofu ricotta lasagna that is absolutely amazing! A little more work than the two suggestions above. but you and your family will never notice the difference. It’s that good. It’s my favorite.

Look at meals you already eat that don’t involve meat. Oatmeal for breakfast. Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Bean burritos. Bean chili without meat (or toss in some Beyond Meat Meatless Crumbles), pasta with marinara and veggies. You’re probably already eating a few meals that don’t use meat or can easily be made without the meat.

The less meat you eat the better, even if that means substituting some of your meat meals with a processed alternative.

Read for more suggestions on how to substitute out meat for you and your family.

Not Sure How to Eat Less Meat? Start Here.Frequently Asked Questions

Can you get enough protein without eating meat?

Absolutely! The RDA for protein is 0.8 grams of protein for every kilogram of bodyweight (weight in pounds divided by 2.2). The average person around 65g of protein each day, which is easily achievable on a fully plant-based diet.

Why go through all the trouble to eat less meat?

Meat is loaded with artery-clogging saturated fat, has been linked to a number of cancers, and has more of a negative impact on the environment than growing plants for food. Even small changes make a huge difference for you health and for our environment.

Are mock meats healthy?

Mock meats and meat alternatives are not as healthy as whole plant foods. However, they are a healthy alternative to eating a lot of meat.

Not Sure How to Eat Less Meat? Start Here. Conclusion

Don’t overcomplicate this. Making changes is always a little scary, but you’ve done this before.

You and your family know what foods and brands you like best. In fact, most families eat the same 15 meals or less each week. That’s including breakfast, lunch, and dinner!

Make the meals you normally make, and simply don’t include the meat for yourself (or your family if they’re on board).

Or add in some beans in place of the meat.

And don’t think about this as the end of eating meat, fish, eggs, or dairy!

Finality and ultimatums will set you up for failure before you even start.

Instead, take things one meal at a time. Find new meals you love and even some that your family enjoys.

After a short time, you’ll find that eating plant-based is really easy! Over the long run, you may find that you eat little or even no animal products.

*Author's Note: The content on this website is meant to be informative in nature, but it should not be taken as medical advice. The content of our articles is not intended for use as diagnosis, prevention, and/or treatment of health problems. It's always best to speak with your doctor or a certified medical professional before making any changes to your lifestyle, diet, or exercise routine, or trying a new supplement.

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Matt Walter, CHN, M.A.T
I studied Food Science and Human Nutrition at Washington State University and interned as a Strength and Conditioning Coach for the WSU football team. I am a Certified Holistic Nutritionist and former personal trainer and competitive CrossFit athlete. My mission is to make embracing and adopting a healthy vegan lifestyle simple and fun!

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