by Alyssa Bauman, Nourished.ca
I love this time of year, filled with fresh intentions to eat healthier, stress less, exercise more, and feed the family more nutritious meals. But with that comes the need to weed through the slew of new health finds, wellness trends, and lists of what to eat and not to eat.
While the meaning of wellness is individual and also constantly changing, eating more plants is a culinary crusade that is here to stay. Science has proven that reducing our intake of animal products is not only better for our health – disease prevention and weight loss – but also better for our planet and the future of our children.
So what does lightening your meat and dairy load really look like, and how is it attainable for busy families and picky eaters? If you’re a meat eater, I’m not suggesting that you give up meat entirely. Like with everything, it takes baby steps. Find what works for your family and continue to expand on what works. Here are some tips to help you and your family consume more plants and less meat.
1) Go meatless for one entire day. Discuss the why’s and how’s together at the dinner table. If your kids are old enough, I can not stress this enough, get them involved in the entire process from planning, to cooking, to eating.
2) Fill half of your plate with produce. No matter what the meal, shift the balance of plant based foods so that they make up at least 50% of your plate. You will boost nutrition, and save calories. Instead of meat being the main, make smaller portions and boost up the servings of vegetables and beans.
3) Incorporate more nuts and seeds, more beans and lentils, and other plant-based proteins onto the plate. Edamame and hemp seeds are both fantastic sources of plant-based proteins. Try new ways of cooking/marinating tofu, and many of the veggie-based ‘meats’ on the market. Note: Remember to still read labels. If you don’t know what something is, do not purchase it.
4) Extend the meat you do serve. That old cost-saving method of making meatloaf with veggies and breadcrumbs? Give it a modern spin. Lentils or quinoa have the perfect taste and texture to substitute for 50% of your ground beef in a dish. Instead of serving big chicken breasts, stir fry small portions over lush beds of fresh veggies or sauté with veggies for a pasta primavera. Make fish tacos with small portions of fish nestled into tortillas with big mounds of colourful slaw and veggies, instead of serving up big slabs of salmon.
5) Snack on fruits and veggies. Replace the granola bars, cookies, and chips at snack time with chopped veggies served with protein packed dips like hummus or other bean dips, and tortillas and guacamole.
6) Switch to a non-dairy milk. While other options might not be as effortless, there are infinite varieties of plant-based milk products available. My favourite are almond, coconut and hemp. Most of them are fortified with calcium and vitamin D to keep your bones strong, and B12 – a vitamin unique to the animal world – helps with red blood cell formulation.
8 Easy Meat Swaps:
- Try cauliflower rice to replace beef/turkey in things like chili and lasagna
- Walnuts and/or lentils to make taco meat or anywhere else ground beef is used
- Use jackfruit (available in packages) to make pulled pork
- Portobello mushrooms to make steak strips for fajitas, or to use as burger patties
- Eggplant, cauliflower, or tofu sliced thick for steaks
- Seitan, tempeh or tofu as meat substitutes
- Avocado instead of butter
- Black bean burgers instead of beef