Try meatless meals once or twice a week
You don't have to go cold turkey. Instead, try easing into meatless meals. Consider going meatless one day a week. If you don't like the idea of a whole day without meat, start with a couple of meatless dinners each week. Plan meals that feature entrees you like that are typically meatless, such as lasagna, soup or pasta salad. Or try substituting the following protein-rich foods for meat in your favorite recipes:
- Beans and legumes — great in casseroles and salads
- Vegetarian refried beans — a good substitute for meat in burritos and tacos
- Tofu — a perfect addition to stir-fry dishes
When meat is on the menu
When your meals include meat, don't overindulge. Choose lean cuts and avoid oversized portions. A serving of protein should be no more than 3 ounces (85 grams) — or about the size of a deck of cards — and should take up no more than one-fourth of your plate. Vegetables and fruits should cover half your plate. Whole grains make up the rest.
Flexing for your health
The term "flexitarian" has been coined to describe someone who eats mostly plant-based foods, but occasionally eats meat, poultry and fish. That kind of healthy eating is the central theme of the Mediterranean diet — which limits red meat and emphasizes fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains and healthy fats — and has been shown to reduce your risk of heart disease and other chronic conditions. Why not work on your flexibility and start reaping some healthy benefits?
Aug. 19, 2014
See more In-depth
- Sinha R, et al. Meat intake and mortality: A prospective study of over half a million people. Archives of Internal Medicine. 2009;169:562.
- Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. http://www.cnpp.usda.gov/DGAs2010-PolicyDocument.htm. Accessed June 26, 2014.
- Sofi F, et al. Adherence to Mediterranean diet and health status: Meta-analysis. British Medical Journal. 2008;337:a1344.
- With protein foods, variety is key. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.http://www.choosemyplate.gov/healthy-eating-tips/ten-tips.html. Accessed June 26, 2014.
- Zeratsky KA (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. June 26, 2014.