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It seems like everywhere you look, there are meat alternatives to be discovered. From the Impossible Burger to Beyond meat, the world seems to be turning a corner to lessening their meat consumption. But why?
You may not be convinced that meat alternatives are worth introducing into your family’s life. Meat is absolutely delicious, and we’ve been eating it all of our lives so why stop now? There are so many reasons to reduce your meat consumption – including the impact that meat has on the environment.
Why eating meat is bad for the environment
While most vegetarians will tell you to make the switch to meat alternatives to protect animals, there are also environmental impacts that go into meat consumption. Meat production releases a huge amount of greenhouse gasses into our atmosphere.
Climate Central informs us that, “In the average American’s diet, greenhouse gas emissions resulting from the food they eat is about the same as the emissions resulting from the energy they use.”
While you’re likely looking at ways to cut down on your energy bill and greenhouse gases, switching to or trying out meat alternatives in your diet can also be added to a list of ways to save our environment.
Is meat good for your health?
We were all likely raised with the idea that meat is the center of the meal, and the rest are sides that complement it. But is eating meat with every meal good for you? While meat contains a lot of protein and other nutritional value, consuming it can lead to health issues like weight gain, diabetes, and heart disease.
According to Heart.org, “In general, red meats (beef, pork, and lamb) have more saturated (bad) fat than chicken, fish and vegetable proteins such as beans. Saturated and trans fats can raise your blood cholesterol and make heart disease worse.”
When you’re looking at meat alternatives for health, start by looking at the meats that you should cut out. Red meat is the unhealthiest, as it’s packed full of saturated fat, but eating chicken and fish (when served correctly) can provide some key nutrients that your body needs.
Read more: 10 Vegetarian recipes for the instant pot
Where to start cutting out meat
Not everyone is up for the task of becoming a vegetarian. But with so many meat alternatives out there, it’s so much easier to transition into becoming a “meatless” family or incorporate more vegetables into your diet!
Replacing your diet with meat alternatives is not always a simple process. If you’ve eaten meat with every meal for years, your body will likely crave it and make you feel like you’re not full after each meal. Starting the transition into a more veggie-friendly diet can be a slow, easy, and even fun process. Here are some ideas to get you started:
Start with one meal a day
You don’t need meat with every meal. There are so many ways to substitute the “center of your meal” with just a recipe change. Instead of having bacon and eggs for breakfast, opt to eat a bowl of granola! Simply cutting out meat in one meal a day can help ease you into more meat alternatives down the road.
Once you’ve gotten the hang of not having meat with every meal, try it for a day! Spending one day a week of eating meat alternatives or no meat can have a huge impact on the environment. Meatless Mondays tells us that, “Producing ONE quarter-pound beef burger uses up enough energy to power an iPhone for 6 months”. If you can have that much of an impact on the planet by cutting out meat for one meal, imagine how much you can impact it by cutting it out for a day!
Meatless Mondays goes on to tells us “Research suggests that people are more open to trying healthy behaviors at the start of the week. Monday offers an opportunity to “reset” and get back on track after any lapses over the weekend and studies show people that get back on track at the beginning of the week are better able to maintain progress over time.”
Maybe Fridays are your family day, and it would be easier to get everyone on board with meat alternatives on that day – and that’s totally fine! Research says that Mondays are a great way to get people on board after “resetting”, but sometimes Friday’s can be easier as it is the day that offers the most closure.
Make it a Family Project
Communicating with your family on why you’re starting to include more meat alternatives is a great place to start. Simply talking about your reasoning will not only help your family understand, but it will give you confidence in your decision. When you’re talking about cutting out meat to your family, communicate the reasons, and ask for their opinions on how they would like to make changes. This will help them feel included and more onboard to try meat alternatives!
Now that you’re set on cutting back on your meat consumption, let’s talk about some of the best meat alternatives that are out there!
- Beyond Meat
Meat alternatives that still taste like meat are a great substitution! Beyond Meat is a company that has a number of plant-based meat alternatives. Some of these items include plant-based burgers, sausages, and even ground beef!
Their website is also full of recipes on how to prepare these meat alternatives to taste just like the real thing! It’s definitely a great place to start, especially when your body is still wanting to have meat as the center of each meal.
Meat alternatives don’t necessarily have to focus on replacing meat in your diet. You may have grown to not like the taste of meat and instead are looking to replace the nutritional value you need when you don’t have it in your diet. Grains are packed full of fiber and help keep our digestive systems healthy.
Diets like Whole30 have been extremely popular in the past few years, but cutting out grains may not be the best idea for you, especially if you’re also trying meat alternatives. One Green Planet tells us, “Whole grains are filled with antioxidants, and are rich in fiber which can help you stay full if you’re having a difficult time replacing the meat in your diet”.
Not only are grains a great addition to your diet, but there is also a huge variety in how to serve them. You can add a side of rice or quinoa to any meal, but adding grains into your soups and salads will not only add in extra nutritional value, but it will also add a bit of texture that you may feel like you’re missing.
You may be hearing this word and think “But I cannot stand the texture of tofu!”. If you’ve eaten tofu and had a problem with the texture, then don’t worry! There are so many different ways to prepare and eat tofu that you may just need to experiment with it again.
Soaking tofu in sauces like soy sauce and sushi vinegar can make a huge difference by giving it a bit of a kick taste-wise. Then all you have to do is sprinkle a bit of nutritional yeast on it, throw it in the oven at a high temperature and watch it turn into little crispy nuggets!
When searching for recipes that include meat alternatives like tofu, it’s important that you learn how to prepare the ingredient. Just like you wouldn’t throw ground beef in the steamer, you want to make sure that you’re getting the best of each alternative by knowing how to prepare them correctly.
The magical fruit! Well, not quite a fruit, but a legume! Beans and other legumes are wonderful meat alternatives and are full of vitamins and protein. Oftentimes people’s concern about switching to meat alternatives is not getting enough protein, but beans are the top sources of protein.
But what beans should you start with? It depends on the type of dish! Luckily, there are so many different types of beans and legumes out there. From green bean casserole to Mexican food, the possibilities are endless.
Here are three unique and delicious recipes to get you started eating beans:
- Spaghetti & “Meatballs”
- Vegetarian Chili With Lots of Fritos
- Lemony Lentil and Chickpea Salad with Radish and Herbs
With so many options and recipes for meat alternatives, it’s easier now more than ever to reduce your meat consumption. Whether you’re looking to go completely vegetarian or simply cutting meat out one meal a day – each step you take has a huge effect on your health and the environment!
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