Going Veggie: Adopting a More Meatless Lifestyle
Many people are eating less meat these days. “Vegetarian” is a flexible term used to describe people who exclude meat, poultry, fish, seafood, dairy, and/or other animal-derived foods from their diet. Most can fall into one of these categories:
- Lacto-vegetarian: Consumes milk and milk products, but not meat, poultry, fish, seafood, and eggs
- Lacto-ovo vegetarian: Consumes milk, milk products, and eggs, but not meat, poultry, fish, and seafood
- Vegan: Excludes all animal-derived foods, including meat, poultry, fish, eggs, and dairy products, from their diets (some vegans do not use anything derived from an animal, including honey)
People choose to eat less meat for religious, ethical, and health reasons. Meat is eliminated all at once or gradually, whatever works best for you. A registered dietitian can help design a meatless eating pattern that takes your specific dietary concerns, taste preferences, and lifestyle into consideration. Meats and dairy foods are rich sources of protein, vitamins, and minerals, so make sure to replace them with other nutrient-rich foods. Below are some tips to help you get started.
Take a look at your current diet
- Make a list of the foods and menus that you typically eat
- When do you eat meat the most:
At a particular meal, such as dinner?
In combination with other foods, such as bacon with eggs?
On certain days of the week, such as weekends?
- At which meal (or meals) can you give up meat most easily?
- Identify the foods and meals that you eat that are already vegetarian and expand from these:
Spaghetti with marinara sauce
Peanut butter sandwiches
- Plan several meatless meals using foods you already know that you enjoy
Add more meatless meals by modifying favorite meat-based recipes
- Use beans, tofu, and texturized vegetable protein (TVP), instead of ground beef or ground turkey in:
Expand your taste buds
- Find new recipes online or in cookbooks
- Try new foods
- Purchase various brands of meatless products—burgers, nuggets, recipe crumbles, hot dogs, sausage, bacon, etc
- Keep the following products on hand:
Quick-cooking grains—dry pasta, couscous, quinoa, barley, different types of rice, meatless
ravioli and tortellini, and kasha (buckwheat)
A variety of canned beans and legumes (rinse with water to reduce sodium)—black beans,
garbanzo beans, split peas, lentils, navy beans, and pinto beans
Frozen vegetable mixes
Low-sodium canned vegetables
Precut fresh vegetables—keep fresh vegetables in cold water in the refrigerator to help keep them crisp
- Check out Italian, Indian, Chinese, Japanese, and Thai foods—many meatless options are available
Cooked grains—oatmeal, quinoa, barley, and rice with dried cranberries and raisins,
chopped nuts, maple syrup, and low-fat milk or yogurt
Pancakes or waffles with sliced peaches and berries, yogurt, and nuts
Whole-grain toast with peanut butter and sliced banana
English muffin with egg, vegetarian sausage patty, soy cheese, and tomato
Fruit salad topped with low-fat yogurt and granola or high-fiber cereal
Salad bar fixings—beans, pasta, spinach, carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, corn, lettuce, and
pasta with vinaigrette dressing
Pasta salad with vegetables, olives, and veggie ham or salami
Vegetable, lentil, or bean soup with whole-grain crusty bread
Cheese sandwich with tomato and lettuce on whole-grain bread
Peanut butter and banana sandwich on whole-grain bread
Bean spreads or nut spreads on whole-grain bread or crackers
Low-fat cream cheese and chopped nuts on raisin bread
Baked potato with steamed vegetables and spaghetti sauce or salsa
Pasta with vegetables (primavera) and meatless, tomato-based sauce
Rice, couscous, or quinoa cooked with peas, corn, and beans
Tacos or burritos filled with beans, salsa, tomatoes, green peppers, etc
Broiled vegetable burgers and roasted vegetables—bell peppers, onions, portobello
mushrooms, and zucchini
Stir-fries with vegetables and tofu or tempeh, peanuts, and rice
Macaroni and cheese made with reduced-fat cheese or soy cheese
Plain or vegetable pizza made with or without cheese
References and recommended readings
Mahan LK, Escott-Stump S. Krause’s Food and Nutrition Therapy. 12th ed. St Louis, MO: Saunders/Elsevier; 2008.
The Vegetarian Resource Group. Health, environment, ethics.
Available at: http://www.vrg.org/.
Accessed January 28, 2011.
Review Date 4/11