Better Off Well


10 Ways To Transition To More Plant-Based Meals

I'm excited to be taking part in the FARM MeatOut this Friday, March 20th. Of course, that's not a huge stretch for me but I'm excited that a bunch of my friends are taking part, too. Going meatless for a day lets people see that it's not so bad and pretty easy to do. Over time, meatless meals can take up more of the week. For the first time in U.S. history, the nutrition advisory council to the FDA has recommended that Americans eat less meat not only for their health, but for the health of the environment. Some facts about meat from Tufts University and the World Watch Institute.

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1. 22% of land worldwide is used for grazing livestock, while 33% is used for growing livestock feed.

2. 51% of global greenhouse gases are attributed to livestock. Think processing and lots of burps.

3. 70% of grain grown in the U.S. is used to feed livestock.

4. Animals raised for food produce 130 times more excrement than humans. It ends up in miles-wide lagoons that pollute waterways.

Read more about the impact of meat from Scientific American and the Environmental Protection Agency.

But if you're like me, you grew up in a meat-centric kind of home. Meat plays a very important role on the plate, while veggies and grains are the supporting actors. I had to take things in baby steps, and most people find that works best for them, too.

So here are a few tips of my own and from friends- even guys- who eat more plants than meat these days...

1) Start with red meat. Since science shows that red meat wreaks the most havoc on our heart health and on the environment, leaving that off the main menu can make a big difference.

2) My friend, Matt, who started adding more veggies after his stroke at age 41, suggests a hearty Italian dish, like pasta primavera, with lots of sauce and veggies. He prefers the nuttier taste of brown rice pasta.

3) Frank says to start with smoothies. "Adding those into your day ensures you get a healthy, vegetable-filled kind of day."

4) Serve an appetizer dish while you're prepping dinner. If your brood fills up on olives, artichokes, marinated mushrooms, nuts, and hummus, they will be less likely to complain if there is no meat with the meal and you'll feel better knowing they got some extra nutrition into their bodies.

5) "Lots of rice and beans", says Debbie. Then she adds tomatoes, spinach, garlic, onion, celery, and sometimes squash. Stuffed peppers are a big hit, too. "I just make sure there are many and that they are really stuffed with lots of quinoa and veggies."

6) Julie says a rice steamer is a great investment so the grains you use to supplement your meals always come out perfectly.

7) Matt also says that stir-fry and stew keep him satisfied. My favorite stew has quinoa with eggplant, bok choy, green bell pepper, garlic, onion, and Italian Herb spaghetti sauce from Whole Foods.

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8) Julie suggests mushrooms, and I second that! Mushrooms add a lot of flavor and meaty texture to a meal. One fabulous example is in this hearty Glam Chowder that I've made twice now. Sooooo delicious and so filling.

9) Meat alternatives can be an option, but most of them are filled with additives and less-than-desirable ingredients. Gardein's gluten-free products are sometimes in my fridge.

10) And lastly, some fave recipes from readers and friends...

Quinoa with Sweet Potatoes, Kale, and Pesto

Black Bean Chili with Chocolate and Coconut

Black Bean and Quinoa Enchilada Bake

Spicy Barbecue Chickpea Burgers

Lentil Joes- Vegetarian Sloppy Joes

Not-Tuna Salad