The Rockford Real Food Revolution Week 8: 

Limit Meat to a Supporting Role

Eating meat, in moderation, can provide protein and a variety of important vitamins and nutrients, like iron, zinc, B-12, B-6, and niacin.   However, there is mounting evidence that eating too much meat (especially processed and red meat) is associated with a variety of chronic health problems.  Click here to read more on this, including studies with scientific data.

Reducing meat consumption is one way to work on improving our health.  Eating less meat should include an increase in consumption of vegetables, fruits, and whole grains--all of which are nutrient dense.  While protein is an important part of a balanced healthy diet, most Americans get more than enough protein, but not enough fiber.  

Confession here...both my husband and I grew up in "meat and potatoes" families.  I'm not sure we could go completely vegan, but we have definitely been increasing our intake of fruits, veggies, and grains, while eating less meat.  When we choose meat, we choose organic and local when possible (Choices carries local organic beef and pork in our freezer section.)  The chicken we carry is not local, but it is certified organic AND certified humanely raised. Our frozen seafood is sustainably caught and processed.

Can you see yourself as a Flexitarian?

Flexitarian is a term used to describe a person who mostly eats a plant-based diet, but still occasionally consumes meat, poultry and fish. This seems to be a more realistic goal for us. We continue to work on it!  And if we can do it, anyone can! 

Where to start?  Change usually begins with motivation. 

Here are some compelling reasons to consider reducing meat in your diet, and increase your intake of whole grains and vegetables.

BENEFITS OF EATING LESS MEAT

(see my resources at the end of this post for more details and links to studies with data)

Your Health: Going meatless even once a week may reduce your risk of chronic preventable conditions like cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and obesity. 

The Environment:  Eating less meat can also help reduce our carbon footprint and save precious resources like fossil fuels and fresh water.  

Your Wallet:  Meat tends to be more expensive partly because of the production costs (land, feed, transportation.)  Reducing your meat intake will free up more of your budget for high nutrition fruits and vegetables.

Animal Welfare:  The majority of meat is from factory farms where animals are kept in small cages or tight spaces for their brief lives.  Eating less meat means fewer animals living in these conditions. 

ON THE FENCE? 

HERE ARE SMALL STEPS TO REDUCE MEAT IN YOUR DIET!

For those of you who are still on the fence, do not feel compelled to drop everything at once.  Keep your eating habits moving in the right direction.  Every step forward is a cause for celebration!  Try these suggestions!

TIPS FOR SUCCESS

VIA ONE GREEN PLANET

Step 1—Eliminate processed meat. The World Health Organization has classified processed meat as a carcinogen. Choose real organic, local meat over lunchmeat, hot dogs, and fast food options.  

Step 2—Cut your meat serving size in half!  At every meal, reflect on the serving size you would normally eat, and replace half of it with whole grains or veggies.  You will gradually feel fuller with less meat.

Step 3—Eliminate red meat.  After you get rid of bologna and chicken nuggets, red meat is the next to go.  It’s not as unhealthy as processed meats, but worse than poultry.

Step 4— Build meals around vegetables instead of meat.  Change the way you view your plate.  Make room for more whole grains and veggies!

Step 5—Observe Meatless Monday.  Every Monday plan a meat-free meal.  This is a sure way to begin cooking new recipes and trying new ingredients.

RECIPES!

You will have the greatest success in making this transition if you choose simple, flavorful recipes so you won't miss the meat.  Here are a few that worked for us!

SPAGHETTI SQUASH ENCHILADA BOWLS

VIA SKINNYTASTE.COM

To add a little more substance to this recipe, I did a quick saute of some sliced onions, peppers, and mushrooms and added them to my squash before topping with the enchilada sauce and cheese.  Also garnished with sliced jalapenos.  No time to make homemade enchilada sauce, so I used real food enchilada sauce from Choices :)  Click here for the recipe!

NO NOODLE VEGGIE LASAGNA

VIA WEIGHTWATCHERS.COM

No meat and no noodles!  

I know!  No noodles or meat?!  How can this hit the spot?!  The roasted veggies make up for the missing noodles and meat.  I did not use zucchini, but instead increased the eggplant (I used baby eggplant because the skin is more tender and I didn't want to peel them!)  This even passed the college kid test at my house...and it doesn't get harder to please than a meat-eating college kid :) For the prepared marinara sauce I used Cadia Roasted Garlic pasta sauce from Choices!  Click here for the recipe!

GREEN MINESTRONE SOUP

VIA RACHAELRAY.COM

This soup is a Rachael Ray 30 Minute Meal that actually is a 30 minute meal!  It is NOT completely vegetarian but is a great transition food.  I substituted uncured, anti-biotic free bacon for the pancetta and used chicken bone broth for the liquid base. The aroma while it cooks has the whole family asking when the soup will be ready to eat!  Click here for the recipe!

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