Eating less meat is difficult, and I don’t recommend you become a vegetarian overnight. What I do recommend is that you become a gradual vegetarian and incorporate aspects of the vegetarian diet. Here are a few ways to help your mind do what is right for your body.
Tell your friends and family that you are eating less meat and want their help with your lifestyle change. Getting their support is crucial in the beginning, but over time you will need less and less input to keep you honest. It’s important to enlist people you can trust who will not pressure you into eating meat.
Eating out can be quite easy, with just a little bit of planning. Most restaurants now offer at least a few vegetarian entrees. At Mexican restaurants, some of my favorite dishes include black bean burritos and chile rellenos. Italian restaurants offer great pasta dishes, as well as eggplant parmigiana, which is always a hit. Asian restaurants are usually a good bet since most dishes can be modified to have tofu to replace meat.
Vegetarian entrees are usually easy to find unless you live in the middle of cattle country. Then it might be a problem! Be gentle on your body if you decide to eat a steak or prime rib. Your body has gotten used to digesting less meat, and to overwhelm it with a big meal of beef may not be the best thing to do. Choosing the smallest cut on the menu can help, as well as getting extra veggies. If that’s still too much, a take-home carton is always an option.
At-home dining is where you will see the most change. When vegetarian burgers first came on the market, they weren’t delicious. In fact, they tasted like cardboard, and they had to be loaded with condiments to be edible. A real beef hamburger was hard to beat. Fortunately, due to customer preferences and the passage of time, plant-based “meat” has improved.
Here are a few veggie “meats” that I enjoy.
- The Impossible Burger-If you’ve ever had an Impossible Burger at a restaurant, you’ll know that they are delicious. Impossible burgers are now available in the bulk ground beef form at your local grocery store. Beyond Meat also put out non-meat patties. Plant-based burger patties do not brown up as quickly as real ground beef patties. The trick is to sear your burger on the outside so that it tastes crispy. Grilling on the BBQ is also an excellent option. It also makes a great base for casseroles. These last a long time so I always keep at least two packages in the fridge
- Sausages- Lightlife has a great brand of veggie sausages. It had an outer skin for holding the sausage together. But the sausage “meat” itself was quite bland. It could have used a few herbs in the mix. Fortunately, it was accompanied by fried onions and sauerkraut, so the meal itself was quite tasty. Veggie hot dogs can be slapped on a bun, slathered with cheese, catsup, mustard, and relish, and they will be good, no matter what the original taste!
- Vegetarian meatballs are delicious to add to pasta dishes, these are some of my favorites from Gardein. They tend to fall apart if heated too long, so add them at the last minute to any dish you serve. I always keep some on hand for when I’m undecided on the big meal of the day, or when company drops in unexpectedly. (Those were the days…)
- For those picky eaters, chicken nuggets are always a good option, Morning Star makes some great ones, that can be baked or fried to golden perfection.
If eating only vegetables is too drastic a change, keep fish in your diet. If I’m having a green salad, I top it off with tuna or salmon. Tape a picture of a typical “Mediterranean Diet” to your refrigerator and plan your meals accordingly. This is an easy way to move away from red meats, and eat more heart-healthy foods.
It’s important to discipline your mind. If you have pizza rolls or taquitos for lunch (there’s that snacking again!), tell your dinner hunger pangs that you’ve already had your meat of the day and that you have decided not to have any more. Granted, there is not much meat in pizza rolls and taquitos, but your mind knows that it’s true. You’ve had your meat for the day. So don’t cheat.
Be prepared for the need for a midnight snack. Vegetables are digested much quicker than meat. They will not “stick with you” as meat does, and you may feel hungry sooner. The good thing is that since veggies are low calorie you can pile them on for a filling meal. It can also help to keep nutritional drinks or shakes on hand for late-night stomach growls. I also keep yogurt and fruit cups on hand for a late-night snack.
So there you have it – how to discipline your mind and still change your life. Medical science is acknowledging the critical role that vegetables play in our overall good health. Believe it!
Healthy Vegetarian Recipes >> Mexican Salads
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