If things were up to me, I would be a vegetarian and eat a completely plant based diet. But Mr. Real Food is a meat lover and my daughter can’t imagine a life without meat. So we had to compromise.
Our compromise ended up being meatless meals 2 or 3 times a week. While I could just make a separate meal for myself that does not include meat, it’s important to me that everyone eats the same food. After all, I’m not running a restaurant here. One special order would lead to the next and I would end up serving multiple meals each day. Considering it is challenging enough to get one meal a day on the table, there’s no way I can handle 2 or 3! The only options I offer are take it or leave it :).
The trick to getting your family to eat meatless meals is to make sure that it’s not a sacrifice for them and not noticeable. There are many options available that will provide the same taste and texture and not require the use of meat.
Before we get into the tips to help your family eat less meat, I wanted to share some of the reasons I feel it is important. I’ve seen many of the documentaries about how meat is produced and how animals are treated cruelly. And I am very sympathetic to animals as well. While that gets to me, it’s not my main decision to go meatless. Seeing programs of animals in nature gets to me too. There is a food chain that nature has dictated. Even our earliest ancestors hunted animals and ate them.
My reasons are more environmentally and health-based. You can read more detail about the reasons here but I’ll give you a quick summary.
Health and environmental benefits of reducing meat consumption:
- Cancer risk: Studies show that diets high in fruits and vegetables may reduce the risk of certain types of cancer. Red and processed meat consumption have been linked to colon cancer.
- Reduce heart disease: Replacing saturated fat-rich foods with foods rich in polyunsaturated fat reduces the risk of heart disease by 19%. That’s a pretty significant decrease!
- Fight diabetes: Higher consumption of red and processed meat increases the risk of type 2 diabetes.
- Curb obesity: People of low-meat or vegetarian diets have significantly lower body weights and body mass indices. Reducing overall meat consumption can prevent long-term weight gain.
- Improve your diet: Consuming beans results in higher intakes of fiber, protein, folate, zinc, and magnesium with lower intakes of saturated fat and total fat.
- Reduce your carbon footprint: It is estimated that the meat industry generates about 20% of the man-made greenhouse gas emissions that are leading to climate changes worldwide (this percentage is far more than from transportation). Decreasing meat consumption, even just one day a week, can help slow this trend.
- Minimize water usage: Watering livestock uses far more water than is used to grow vegetables. One pound of beef requires approximately 1,800 – 2,500 gallons of water!
- Help reduce fossil fuel dependence: An average of about 40 calories of fossil fuel energy go into every calorie of feed lot beef compared to 2.2 calories of fossil fuel energy needed to produce one calorie of plant-based protein. Reducing meat consumption is an easy way to cut fossil fuel demand.
Protecting the environment for future generations is important to me but ensuring my family is happy and healthy is my main priority. If I can do that by providing them with a healthy diet, that’s exactly what I will do!
But how does one do this, particularly when the family is resistant and thinks there needs to be a slab of beef on their dinner plate?
I’ve put together 5 of my best tips to help you provide more meatless meals for your family.
There are many products available now such as vegan cheese, tofu crumbles, or vegetarian lunch “meats”. While these are processed products, they provide the same taste and texture as the real things, making them a great way to transition away from actual meat. Meatless crumbles make excellent tacos that your whole family will love!
Make their favorite foods
Replacing some of their favorite foods with a plant based alternative is an easy way to make the change go undetected. Using meatless crumbles in tacos or spaghetti makes it blend right in and veggie burgers can look and taste very similar to their all-beef counterparts. One of my favorite veggie cuisines is MorningStar Farms® Veggie Bowls. Not only are they super convenient, Veggie Bowls are made with Chik’n Strips, Steak Strips and Veggie Sausage Crumbles™. Both the Chik’n Strips and Steak Strips are 100% vegan and lightly seasoned. With 23g of protein and 150 calories, they provide just as much protein as real meat but are a healthier option. Veggie Bowls are ideal for busy families, health conscious eaters, vegetarians and carnivores alike. With options such as Chik’n Pot Pie, Chik’n Tikka Masala, Italian Sausage Bake, Japanese Soba Noodles, Moroccan Medley, there’s something for everyone!
- 3. Make hearty, meatless mealsCertain dishes don’t need meat at all. Hearty soups are perfect for winter and can be packed with veggies. Pasta shells can lend to the heartiness. Red beans and rice is an easy slow cooker meal that satisfies even the heartiest of appetites.
Spice it up
Using non-seasoned foods like tofu can be pretty bland. Tofu, especially, is easy to marinated and season and absorbs flavors well. Marinating it in teriyaki sauce is a delicious way to make tofu look and taste like teriyaki chicken. Sautéed with a variety of veggies and thrown over rice, you’ve got a quick and easy meatless dinner.
Don’t make meatless a big deal
Making your family feel guilty about eating meat is a sure-fire way to encounter resistance. Offering healthier and tasty substitutes without making a huge deal about it will likely result in a more positive result. Not pointing out the absence of meat is often the best solution. Eating more plant-based meals is better for your family and better for the world but it can still taste great!
Do you regularly eat vegetarian meals? Tell me about your family’s favorite meatless meal in the comments below! If you’re ready to find some more green inspiration be sure to check out the awesome ideas here as well as the great vegetarian dishes that Morningstar Farms offers.