Global per capita consumption will rise slightly to 39 kilograms per year.
“Eating more plants and going meatless is a good way to preserve your health,” said Dr. Robert Graham, who is board certified in both internal and integrative medicine.
“Eighty percent of chronic diseases we face are preventable and reversible by eating a more plant-based diet. This [pandemic] is a call to action to switch to more plant-based meals and to cook more. They are the two silver linings,” said Graham, who is also a chef and co-founder of FRESH Med, an integrative health and wellness center in New York City.
We know getting started can be difficult, especially if burgers, meatballs and sausage with eggs have been your go-tos. So here are some simple ways to start eating less meat.
I’m not talking about becoming a vegetarian overnight or even adopting a strict vegan lifestyle. These are simply easy ways to cut back on your meat consumption as meat prices increase, and they’re easy ways to improve your health, too.
10 ways to eat more plants and less meat
Plantify your favorite dishes. You can make your favorite entrees or meals plant-based with a few simple swaps, according to Palmer.
“If you have a mean lasagna recipe, skip the meat and add layers of greens, broccoli and peppers and perhaps some pine nuts and cashew cheese instead of the meat and cheese. If you love Taco Tuesday, make your tacos veggie by skipping the meat and serving black beans or a vegetarian mushroom tofu filling,” Palmer said.
Go global. Many international cuisines incorporate plant-based proteins, including chickpeas, beans and lentils.
And if you love Indian food, Palmer recommended chickpea masala in place of chicken masala.
For inspiration, check out recipes from cookbooks focused on international cuisines such as Mediterranean, Indian, Mexican, Thai and Japanese.
Search your pantry. Stocking your pantry with a variety of beans, whole grains, seasonal veggies, fruits, spices, herbs, healthy oils, nuts and seeds is the secret to eating more plant-based meals, according to Palmer. But even without conscious effort, your pantry is likely already stocked with plant-based ingredients that can be easily assembled into meals.
Canned corn, kidney beans and quinoa are among the most neglected pantry items, according to Meatless Monday’s social media followers. To “rescue” quinoa, chef Adam Kenworthy recommended cooking it in a big batch by itself; then adding cucumber, thinly sliced celery, avocado, cilantro, basil or shiso; and salt and olive oil.
Freezing tofu and then thawing it will limit moisture and give more meat-like texture when cooking, according to Graham. Additionally, when you freeze tofu before marinating it, it will soak up the flavor of the marinade better, Graham added. Note: The extra firm tofu is your best option to replace meat.
Use herbs and spices to mimic meat flavor. “Umami is the flavor that people miss from plant-based sources,” Graham said. He recommended using ingredients such as miso and tomatoes, as well as mushrooms and lentils to help deliver a meat-like taste to foods.
“One of my favorite things to cook is a lentil, mushroom, tomato Bolognese (see recipe for Vegan Bolognese below). I love it because it’s stealth health — people think they are eating meat,” Graham said.
Consider faux meat burgers. A Beyond Burger or Impossible Burger may be worth a try if you are looking to mimic the flavor, aroma and even the bleeding color of meat, though it’s wise to consider how these burgers fit into your daily nutrient goals.
Keep in mind, you don’t necessarily have to replace meat entirely in a recipe.
“I love this one, packed with Umami flavor. It is a mix of walnuts, mushrooms, lentils and tofu with tomato and spices,” said Graham.
Yields: 6 to 8 servings
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 30 minutes
• 1 cup walnuts, finely chopped
• 16 ounces brown mushrooms (Portobellini, Cremini)
• 1 8-ounce block extra firm tofu
• 1 16-ounce can brown lentils (or dried lentils)
• 1 medium onion, diced
• 1 medium carrot, diced
• 2 Tbsp olive oil
• 1 Tbsp crushed garlic
• 1 tsp dried basil
• 1 tsp oregano
• 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
• 1 Tbsp dark soy sauce or tamari (gluten-free)
• 1/2 cup tomato paste
• 1 14-ounce can crushed tomatoes
• 1 Tbsp turbinado sugar
• Salt and pepper
1. In a food processor, process walnuts and mushrooms until finely chopped and then add to a mixing bowl.
2. Crumble/mash tofu with a fork and add to mixing bowl.
3. In same mixing bowl, add the drained lentils. Mix together the walnuts, mushrooms, tofu and lentils.
4. In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, sauté onion and carrot in olive oil until the onion is softened, 7 to 10 minutes.
5. Combine tofu/walnut/mushroom/lentil mixture with crushed garlic, dried basil, oregano, cayenne pepper and dark soy sauce and stir-fry for a couple of minutes, letting the bolognese cook off some of the liquid so it’s not too wet.
6. Add tomato paste and crushed tomatoes and keep cooking until you achieve a meaty consistency, about 5 minutes.
7. Stir in sugar and add salt and pepper to taste.
8. Serve over cooked spaghetti and top with fresh basil and vegan Parmesan cheese or nutritional yeast.