After a long day of work, you’re famished. You walk into the kitchen. Yes, you should have stocked the fridge with healthy snacks like you read about, but you didn’t, and now you’re stuffing your face with something that's bad for you.
What about dinner? You’re so hungry, you want to go with take-out, but you know too much of that gets expensive and unhealthy. You decide to cook. You’re trying to cut down on meat, but almost all the recipes you know start with chicken or beef as the main ingredient. What’s in the middle of the plate if you don’t eat meat?
You can do this. And it’s worth it, for your health and your family’s. Your instinct about cutting down on animal products is right. There’s more and more evidence that meat, eggs, and dairy are major contributors to chronic diseases like cancer, heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, and others. (For some reading materials on the health dangers of meat, eggs, and dairy, see here. For documentaries and videos, see here.)
It’s just going to take some planning, adjustment, and time for meatless cooking to become as second-nature as meat-centered cooking is now, but you can do it. Here are my top tips for making progress on taking the meat out of dinner.
Cut down gradually. Don’t revamp your dinners all at once. Try new recipes once or twice a week and treat them as experiments. This is a marathon, not a sprint. See my collection of recipes chosen carefully from hundreds of websites and tested to make sure they’re tasty and reasonably quick.
Be good humored if you meet resistance. Some family members may voice displeasure with the new dishes, or the idea of going meatless in the first place. I recommend avoiding arguments or long explanations about the benefits. Just be breezy about it, telling them you’re experimenting with new recipes that are healthier. If you think they’re willing, have them watch one or more of the documentaries or videos about the connections between diet and disease. Deep down most adults realize that meat and dairy aren’t very good for them, but they may not be ready to say that.
Don’t immediately use tofu, tempeh, seitan, or other meat substitutes. I’ve seen many family members turned off by these ingredients, especially at first. There are plenty of recipes (like the ones in my collection) that don’t call for these ingredients. On the other hand, some new products, like Beyond Meat, have become popular. They have several different beef and chicken varieties and might be worth a try if you can find them.
Supplement entrees with side dishes and salads. To avoid complaints that the new dishes aren’t filling enough, make one, maybe two, easy side dishes that will fill out a hearty meal.
Please comment below, ask questions, or send me an email to let me know how it’s going. Keep up your spirits. If you’re like most of us, you grew up in a household where dinner centered on meat. You inherited family recipes whose main ingredient was meat. Websites and magazines churn out hundreds of new recipes every day featuring meat as the main ingredient. It isn’t easy to un-do all that. Don't give yourself a guilt trip, and do this gradually but consistently. Best of luck!