People eat less meat for a variety of reasons: health, money, the environment, and many others. I’ve often heard friends ask me how I manage to be vegetarian. They’re concerned about how to get enough nutrition and protein, while keeping meals varied, exciting, and affordable. As someone who grew up in a vegetarian household, I know how to reduce your meat consumption without any compromises.
Tofu is what you make it
One of the most commonly asked questions I get is, “How do you even cook tofu?” There’s no wrong answer. Plenty of people claim to hate tofu, and I personally believe those people haven’t given it a chance. Tofu is tasteless. Literally, plain tofu is like eating solid water (gross, I know), but that also means the world is your oyster when it comes to cooking it!
You can grill it, bake it, eat it raw, marinate it, put it on literally anything, and it will soak up the flavours you cook it with. A couple of my personal favourites are grilling it in coconut oil and soaking it in soy sauce.
For beginners, I would recommend starting with extra firm tofu because it’s easier to work with, but there’s lots to do with other kinds of softer tofus as well! Tofu is packed with protein and delicious in stir fry, tacos, salads, pasta, or literally anything!
Don’t worry, I also hate kale and quinoa
A common misconception about vegetarians and vegans is that they’re powered by kale chips and quinoa salad, and in my personal diet this could not be further from the truth. I honestly have never bought either. That being said, I know plenty of people who love kale and quinoa, so it’s really about finding what works for you.
There are so many options in your local supermarket, so I challenge you to get one new food item and learn how to work with it—it could be kale or quinoa, but it could also be Swiss chard, lentils, tahini, or literally anything else. A huge part of eating less meat is becoming more flexible and open to trying new things. I promise you’ll be surprised at how many non-meat options there are!
Iron is everywhere!
A lot of friends have expressed very valid concerns about wanting to eat less meat, including how they’ll get enough iron. As someone who struggled through iron deficiencies, I have some tips: Iron is in green leafy veggies—so spinach, Swiss chard, and kale—but it’s also in tons of other yummy foods. You can find it in tofu, legumes like peas and beans, whole grain cereals (lots of which you can buy iron-fortified options), cashews, and eggs. It’s super easy to incorporate these into your everyday routine, through omelettes, smoothies, or even a bowl of cereal.
Don’t be too hard on yourself
This is probably the most important piece of advice I have for those aiming to reduce their meat consumption: don’t beat yourself up! Changing your diet can be mentally and physically draining, and it’s OK to eat meat sometimes. You’re making an effort and that’s what counts. The only way we’re going to reduce global meat consumption is by everyone making their best effort. Don’t give up—you can always try again!
If you’re not used to cooking vegetarian meals, it can be super difficult to decide what to make. Here are some of my favourite resources for meal inspiration: