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Having Trouble Going Vegetarian? How to Lower Your Meat Intake Without Going Cold Turkey

Tips to eat less meat without making a radical dietary change.

Going meat-free has a lot of perks. Being vegetarian or vegan is good for your health, good for the environment and can save you money. But if you have dietary restrictions or allergies, it can be hard to cut meat out of your diet entirely. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t take steps to eat less meat and lower your carbon footprint. Here are a few tips on how to lower your meat intake, without cutting it out of your diet entirely.

1. Pick one day a week to not eat meat.

This is the easiest way to start cutting meat out of your diet, and you’re making a weekly commitment that can have long term positive effects. Having a “Meatless Monday” will give you time to buy ingredients to prepare meat-free tasty meals. Even just taking one day off of meat is positive for the environment and your health. Use these days to try out protein substitutes like tofu, beans or peas. You can test out what you like so that if you want, you can make vegetarian meals on other days of the week. If you’re feeling ambitious, try giving up meat for an entire week.

2. Commit to not buying meat at the grocery store.

Again, this one won’t work for everyone. My dietary restrictions can make it hard for me to find a suitable vegetarian meal if I’m eating out. However, at the grocery store I can control what I buy, and this past year I committed to buying no meat. Instead of meat, at the store I’ll buy substitutes like beans, veggie burgers or vegan meat substitutes if I’m having cravings. Plus, not buying meat at the store can save you a lot of money if you’re budgeting or looking to spend less.

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3. Ask vegan or vegetarian friends for their favorite recipes.

People who have committed to going vegetarian or vegan will definitely have tips for you on how to balance your diet. They can also provide you with yummy recipes that are meat-free. Going out or cooking at home with vegan or vegetarian friends can help you be mindful of your meat intake. Do some research and find vegetarian or vegan-friendly restaurants in your area and try eating there. Supporting vegetarian and vegan restaurants can be good for your community and the environment.

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4. Instead of saying “I’ll never eat meat again,” try phases.

Going cold turkey on eating meat can be hard, sometimes impossible. Instead, try setting ground rules for yourself. Maybe try not eating red meat for a month, or not eating pork for a week. See how your body and diet feel without them. Try putting in more fish into your diet, or just commit to eating chicken. Making small changes could potentially change your diet for the long-term, or just allow you to try new things while, all the while, lowering your meat intake.

If you’re trying to commit to eating less meat, think about the drawbacks of meat.

Meat can be hard to cook, and can take a long time. It can be expensive at the store. Having a plant-based diet is proven to help you lose weight or become a better athlete, if that’s a goal on your list. If you’re looking to eat less meat, make sure you’re still getting a healthy amount of protein. There are plenty of protein alternatives, just do your research on which ones are best for you. However, don’t beat yourself up if you’re struggling to cut out meat entirely. Take your time, test out meals, and create a dietary plan that works best for you.

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Also published on Medium.

Mariel Cariker is a recent graduate of Boston University, where she...