It can be a great source of iron, protein, and nutrients, but for a variety of reasons many people choose to reduce the amount of meat in their diet. Maybe it's the saturated fats, the cholesterol, the high cost, the thought of animal cruelty, or the risk of cancer associated with processed meats. Whatever your reasons for wanting to cut back on meat, you may find it challenging if meat has always been your go-to main course. Challenging, but not impossible.
With these seven meal ideas you can still get the iron, protein, and nutrients your body needs for health and wellness—without the meat.
Italian dishes offer plenty of ways to get creative without meat. Fix yourself a Mediterranean style meal by combining whole-grain pasta with vegetables, tomato sauces, cheeses, spices, and beans. You'll get plenty of protein from the cheese and beans. Try raviolis, lasagnas, and various noodle dishes.
Who said eggs should only be eaten for breakfast? Egg dishes are delicious and nutritious for any meal of the day. Add mushrooms, leeks, onions, spinach, broccoli, tomatoes, cheese, milk, and spices to make frittatas, omelets, or quiches. Create a sandwich with eggs and vegetables. Or just eat eggs as your main course—hard-boiled, scrambled, or sunny-side up.
Baked potatoes make the perfect food to pile yummy toppings on top of. Cut back on calories by avoiding the butter and sour cream and choose healthier options. Get creative with your potato and add ricotta cheese and tomato, broccoli and cheese, onions and mushrooms, arugula and sea salt, or eggs and avocado. What about a Southwest-style potato with salsa, beans, corn, cilantro, onion, and cheese? And you thought potatoes were just plain and boring!
You know a thick-crust pizza with mounds of cheese and processed meats isn't good for you, but did you know there are healthier ways to make a pizza? Start with a whole-grain thin crust and add tomato-, garlic-, or pesto-based sauce, a little cheese, and all the veggie toppings you want. Healthy examples include spinach, tomatoes, mushrooms, onions, kale, olives, zucchini, or peppers.
It's simple to make yummy soup or chili without meat. For protein add beans, legumes, tofu, or vegetarian meat substitute to your spices and vegetables. Find a variety of vegetarian soup recipes online for ideas. Make a big pot of soup and invite friends over to enjoy a meal together or save leftover soup for lunch the next day.
Whether you prefer tacos, enchiladas, nachos, or quesadillas, you can easily make Mexican dishes without meat. Use refried beans or quinoa as your base and add tomatoes, onions, corn, black beans, salsa, cilantro, avocado, and cheese. ¡Muy bien!
Many vegetarians include tofu or tempeh in their diet as a high-protein replacement for meat. Made from soybeans, these foods are simple additions to soups, noodle dishes, stir-fries, burgers, quiches, or pasta.
Start with a base of greens (green leaf lettuce, kale, spinach, or Romaine) and pile on vegetable toppings like peppers, mushrooms, tomatoes, onions, and cucumber. Or make a green salad with fruit toppings like apple slices, strawberries, figs, or avocados. Great sources of protein for salads include seeds, nuts, hard-boiled eggs, tofu, or beans. Remember to choose low-calorie dressings made with olive oil and vinegar rather than high-calorie cream-based dressings.