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