How can I reduce the amount of meat I eat?

In the light of the two recent meat-heavy posts, I thought it would be fitting to have a post about reducing the amount of meat we eat ;)

We’ve both actually been vegetarian for extended periods over the last decade (frustratingly not always at the same time!) so personally have an assortment of meat-free meals in our repetoire – but I thought it might be interesting to hear what other people do/have done to cut down their meat consumption.

As I’m sure everyone who is green enough to read this site knows, meat production has a huge impact on the environment before you even start to think about animal welfare. As meat has got cheaper over the years, a generation or two has forgotten that most meat used to be a luxury item, not an at-every-meal basic for everyone. At every point along the meat’s journey from field/pen to plate, it has direct and indirect environmental costs – so whatever we can do to cut down is a good thing.

Do you have meat-free days? Or the other way around, only eat meat on certain days/at certain events?

Do you avoid one particular type of meat/only eat one type of meat? Why?

On a blog recently – I can’t find the precise post, Google Reader Search is failing me – someone mentioned using meat as flavouring in a meal instead of a core ingredient: for example, a little chorizo goes a long way in an otherwise veg/bean heavy dish. I thought that was a good idea.

I remember a friend of ours who went veggie a few years ago told us one of his biggest problems was finding variety for sandwich fillings – he didn’t want to eat tuna but he felt that was his own non-cheese option. He had an “of course!” moment when we mentioned hummus and egg mayo (not together, yick!), because they both had a similar mouthfeel to tuna — but any other suggestions for sandwich fillings/packed lunch ideas?

If you have cut down/are veggie, what were the hardest challenges for you? How did you overcome them? If you haven’t overcome then yet – tell us what they are to see if we can offer any suggestions!

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16 Responses to “How can I reduce the amount of meat I eat?”

  1. Sarah B says:

    I’m with the “meat as a side ingredient not as the main” camp. The number of veg in our meals frequently outweigh the amount of meat. For example, I make a thai curry with one chicken breast between 2.5 people (I have a toddler) and just put mushrooms, onions, peppers, courgettes, sweetcorn etc in as well. Much nicer in fact, as you get all the other flavours.
    Another good tip is to use mirepoix (finely chopped carrots, celery and onions) as a base for chillis/bolognaises etc. I use 50/50 mirepoix and meat. Bung in some mushrooms, and it’s all good!

  2. Bobbie says:

    My better half is a dedicated meat eater, while I am an on again, off again vegetarian. Hard to make a meal plan that suits us both. My cholesterol is sky high and I really don’t need to eat meat. So I compromise. I keep the amount of meat I eat down to 3-4 bites. That is enough for me. More meat for him anyway. lol!

  3. caroline says:

    We eat meat a few times a week. Mainly through cost – we only buy good quality free range meat and we can’t afford huge amounts of that.

    I write a menu plan each week (this saves waste and money!) and that makes it easy to see how many meat meals we have. Loads of spicy recipes you can immediately substitute lentils for meat. We tend to buy meat in bulk and freeze it – half a sheep, 6 chickens etc.

    Eating non meat meals in the week doesn’t seem to be a problem. What was an issue at first was Sunday dinner. We can’t afford to have a joint every single Sunday and that traditional weekend celebration is really important to my farmborn husband. So we discovered veggie ways of making Sunday dinner special – Roast brie, lots of roast veggies and garlic and chilli cous cous is a favourite (and is much less time with a hot oven in the summer).

    So when we do have Sunday roast we make it last. A roast chicken is two sunday dinners, four chicken sandwiches (work lunch) a chicken curry, a chicken stirfry then chicken rissotto. And we really appreciate it.

    I guess it is knowing what you like and working with it. My husband won’t eat a salad in the winter but will eat nearly anything with grilled cheese on top.

  4. Erik Marcus says:

    If you want to reduce your meat intake, or even go further and transition to a vegan diet, it’s surprisingly easy. The main thing I recommend is to not focus on *cutting* out meat; instead work on *crowding* it out. Make a point of trying a few new vegan foods every week. Every time you discover something you like, you can celebrate a bit because you’ve found something that will displace a meat-heavy item you grew up eating. For instance, the first time I ever ate a falafel sandwich, I couldn’t believe how good it tasted. I actually preferred it to cheeseburgers, and I knew right away that I’d never want to eat another cheeseburger if I could have a falafel instead.

    If you’re transitioning your diet, it’s sensible to pay some attention to nutrition. I think offers the most useful online nutrition information for people moving away from a diet filled with animal products. I’ve also got a lot of useful resources at my own site, Good luck with your efforts—if you keep checking out new foods, you’re likely to find your transition easier and more enjoyable than you could imagine.

  5. I have always had a low-meat diet since childhood, but the turning point for me to go fully vegetarian was after I watched “Earthlings”, directed by Shaun Monson. It helped me in my work as an animal rights advocate and animal welfare volunteer and was the primary factor in my transition from being a “flexitarian” to a vegetarian.

    That said, you can find good meat substitutes in most vegetarian and health-food stores that are not made out of reconstituted soy-something-or-the-other. Asian food stores would have savoury sauces and condiments that are not meat-stock based. I find seaweed (roasted nori) makes a good substitute for many things that taste of seafood. Mushroom meatballs, bean burgers (Tesco has yummy southwestern style ones) and soy fish sticks — it’s nice to have meat substitutes during the transition process so you don’t have to feel as though you are making a huge sacrifice and missing all the things you love.

  6. Re Erik Marcus:
    I have your book! I was just showing it on Skype to my boyfriend the other day and telling him that it is the most important literary acquisition I have ever made! I’ve read your book cover-to-cover at least twice!

  7. Cate B says:

    Veggie sandwich fillings. This one has been challenging me for ages but so far I have come up with:

    Roasted veg – needs some prep the night before but use peppers, aubergine, courgettes and roast for about 20 minutes. Use as a filling with a drizzle of pesto sauce and plenty of salad to balance the oil content.

    Bugsy – borrowed this one from an organics sandwich company. Spread humous, grated carrot and spinach with alfalfa if you can find it.

    Greek mezze – Feta cheese, olives, tomatoes and onions. Add some salad leaves for a bit of crispness.

    Grecian again – the night before cook some falafel and leave to go cold. Fill a pitta bread or two with sliced/halved falafel, a little humous or tsatsiki whichever you prefer and add lots of iceberg lettuce for a crunch.

    Toad in the wholemeal – If you don’t mind fake meat (soya/quorn/tofu etc) then slice cold veggie sausages and layer on your favourite mustard. Hot and filling!

    These are a few suggestions, if anyone has any others please let me know.

  8. mommacat says:

    I grew up a Carnivore! Now I’m different. Ya know, humans NEVER make decisions based on facts, stats or logic. It’s mostly Emotion that
    motivates us. That said, I suggest: 1) Check out what really happens in those agrifarm operations- HIDEOUS stuff! 2) Find someone, ANYONE, who makes really DELICIOUS veg foods (like an East Indian) ’cause you need to taste some veg dish that has you saying; “I can not go on living without that recipe!!!” 3) This is strange, but doable: unplug your refrigerator and give it a REALLY GOOD sanitizing job. Now don’t
    plug it back in. Ever. I know this sounds crazy, but think about this for just a minute. Really, we’ve only been using the fridge for a short time in our history… a means for keeping the corpses of animals from going bad. Ask yourself (and research food anthropology) how can you go back to eating like our ancestors did around 500 years ago? Nuts, seeds, fruits, veg….there are lots of perfectly good satisfying food choices that will fill you up and nourish you without having to murder animals and keep their corpses “on ice” in your kitchen. Most of the foods I eat start out DRY; rice, beans, pasta, nuts…Instant food; just add water. I am not a vegan but I NEVER eat cheese. Used to just love the stuff! But I feel it’s inhumane. They keep them dairy cows pregnant so they’ll give us milk…then they take the baby away from the momma
    cow and kill it if it’s a male. Momma just keeps cryin for her baby!!!!!!
    Then, as soon as possible they start that cycle all over again. When we
    drink a cows milk I think that’s stealing milk from a baby. Also, it’s bad enough that those animals are killed after a miserable life, but the lowest lowest most despicable thing is when we don’t mind breaking an animal’s heart. Back to the cheese…cholesterol city! Full of strange chems. I figgure those that partake deserve the consequenses. For the record, I don’t call myself a “vegetarian”. I am a “KARMATARIAN”.
    Welcome, to anyone who wishes to explore my philosophy. Bless You.

  9. Nome says:

    My husband and I love meat but we don’t feel the need to eat it every day, and include plenty of vegetarian meals in our diet. Lately we are trying to reduce the amount of red meat we eat and make sure our meat comes from healthy, humane and sustainable sources.

    Love, love, love this website! Thank you!

  10. Horsegirl says:

    the hardest part is when people have events and stuff with meat as the main or only dish. i have had to eat bread and potato chips for my dinner. NOT FUN.

  11. Lots of people use soya beans as a tasty meat alternative. To take advantage of the nutritional benefits from eating soya beans it is important to be well informed on how best to cook them to avoid consuming the toxins they contain. This post on the Pure Package blog explains the best way to prepare them

  12. Judy says:

    Peanut butter with shredded carrot and a sprinkle of raisins makes a very nice no-meat sandwich.

  13. Dave Voisey says:

    Peanut butter and Marmite, Peanut butter and Marmalade, Peanut butter and darkbrown sugar (mollases), Panut butter and Peanut butter!

  14. I am not vegetarian, but currently am not eating hamburger. I change my eating habits every so often. It all started when I worked at McDonalds for over 3 years in high school. Since emptying the grease vats, I sometimes gut sick at the thought of grease barrels that can be sold to diesel trucks for gasoline. Any ways, I don’t really have moral issues against meet…We trade beef for Buffalo a lot (I know its not cutting out meet but it has been a good switch).

    Sandwich fillings – hummus and cheese grilled sandwich (or use a sandwich maker). A sandwich maker makes all sorts of sandwiches new i.e. p band j grilled is wonderful – One of the best ways to eat less meat is arguably to eat more veggies. here are 13 tips. – Pardon me but I must be a bit political. The 5th poster down talks about ways to live a healthier lifestyle, while addressing some serious issues. : )

  15. I think the most important thing is to think beyond meat. Other foods besides meat can be filled with saturated fat. So, choose snack foods wisely. If you eat processed foods – such as crackers, chips, candy, or whipped toppings – eat these only in small amounts and only occasionally. Saturated fats are often hidden in these foods. That means you might not see the words saturated fat in the ingredients list, but you might see coconut oil, palm oil, palm kernel oil, or cocoa butter. All of these are saturated fats.

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