I do enjoy a good steak or burger now and then, but in recent years, I’ve been making an effort to fill my meals with more veggies and, occasionally, cook a meatless meal. I don’t want to go vegetarian; I’m simply aiming for my meals to skew more towards plants.

The recently revamped 2019 Canada’s Food Guide recommends this, as well. Two of the main tweaks to the guide includes having lots of fruits and vegetables (think half your plate) and eating plant-based proteins more often than ones derived from animals, such as meat, fish, dairy and eggs.

Why should you reduce your meat consumption? There are plenty of reasons, but let’s start with the health rewards. Research studies show vegetarians generally eat fewer calories and less fat, weigh less and have a lower risk of heart disease than non-vegetarians. So cutting back on your usual meat-heavy diet can have health benefits. A recent review of studies on plant-based diets published in Progress in Cardiovascular Disease, found that the risk of death by cardiovascular disease is reduced by 40 percent, amongst other heart-healthy benefits. And here’s encouraging news if you feel it’s impossible to give up meat. You don’t have to follow a strict vegetarian or vegan diet in order to benefit from more plant-based meals. A 2018 study conducted at Erasmus University Medical Center in Rotterdam, Netherlands, found a link between plant-based diets and a lowered likelihood of being overweight or obese when you’re middle aged. So swap meat occasionally and you’ll still benefit from eating more plants.

Besides the health benefits of eating more plant-based foods, there’s also the environmental impact of a carnivorous diet. Producing the meat we eat takes a huge toll on the environment becaue it requires more fertilizer, pesticides, transportation and land to raise the animals. And we haven’t even touched on the greenhouse effects from animals that produce methane gas or fertilizers that release nitrous oxide.  Raising animals to consume is causing an estimated 18 percent of the greenhouse emissions linked to global warming. Growing plants to eat calls for a lot less fossil fuel, water and land. Here are 11 ways you can reduce your carbon footprint.

How to Eat Less Meat

One of the easiest ways to ease into eating a more plant-forward diet is to plan for Meatless Monday. It can, of course, be any day of the week (or aim for two days a week!) that you prefer.  The key, I’ve found, is  establishing a set routine, so you can easily wrap your head around adopting a new habit. Knowing that every Monday is the day I’ll be eating meatless meals will put me in the right mindframe to plan my grocery shopping and recipes around this schedule. Here’s an added bonus to consuming more plant-based proteins in place of meat; they tend to be less expensive than meat, so you can save money on your grocery bill, too.

5 Delicious Ways to go Meatless

There are plenty of delicious, satisfying recipes to try, and once you discover a few that you enjoy, they can become part of your regular rotation of meatless meals. A few that will not have you missing meat whatsoever:

  1. It’ll be BBQ season soon and these portobello burgers with pesto, provolone and roasted red peppers comes together so quickly. They’re a great option to have on hand at summer parties for the vegans and vegetarians on your guest list, and a simple lunch to whip up for yourself.
  2. I know tofu can be a bit of an acquired taste, but if you’ve only had it prepared in a way that was supposed to mimic, say, a beef burger, then it’s time you tried it as an ingredient in and of itself. This sweet and spicy crispy baked tofu is fantastic as a side dish, but I also like to add them to a rice or quinoa bowl or a salad. It calls for firm or extra-firm tofu, which is often more palatable for people who don’t like the squishy texture of soft tofu.
  3. If you’re an Instant pot devotee, this Instant Pot lentil soup is for you! It comes together in less than 20 minutes and is loaded with a variety of veggies! Plus, lentils are a great source of protein; a half-cup of cooked lentils provides about 12 grams of protein.
  4. Snacks packed with protein can help you feel satisfied and allow you to power through your busy day, without the crash and burn you’ll have after wolfing down a doughnut mid-afternoon. Instead of beef jerky or a boiled egg, some plant-based snack options that are easily portable include edamame (one cup provides 17 grams of protein, plus vitamin K and folate), and apple slices dipped in nut butter, giving you sweetness, fibre and antioxidants from the apple, plus protein and potassium from the nut butter.
  5. If you’re like me, when you think breakfast, you think eggs and bacon. Break out of that habit with some recipes in this round-up of vegan breakfast ideas. The gingerbread waffles and Greek chickpeas on toast sound unusual and flavourful and will be a nice break from the same old classic breakfast.
Cara Rosenbloom

Author Cara Rosenbloom

Registered Dietitian Cara Rosenbloom is the president of Words to Eat By, a Toronto-based nutrition communications company specializing in writing, recipe development and nutrition education. Read her blog and connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.

More posts by Cara Rosenbloom

Join the discussion One Comment

Leave a Reply