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When I first stopped eating meat and became pescatarian at 11, most of my family probably thought I'd 'grow out' of it, however it feels more like the world has grown into accommodating me! I totally get that calling yourself a meat eater, pescatarian, vegetarian, vegan or any other label can feel a bit tribal. I've definitely had it from both sides; meat eaters trying to 'catch me out' because they felt somehow morally threatened by my diet choices and vegans asking why I can't just go all the way. However I'm pretty pragmatic on the topic; at the end of the day our meat consumption is unsustainable for the planet and the meat industry is truly abhorrent. The world would be a better place if more people focused on cutting down on meat instead of feeling as though they have to be perfect or label themselves as 'in' or 'out' of some sort of cult. So, today (with no judgement!) I'm sharing some tips on cutting down your meat consumption as many people's veganuary challenges come to an end and they look to apply this to their everyday life - I hope they're helpful!
Start with meat replacementsThe world of plant-based food can be a bit of a minefield and I can understand how, as a meat-eater, you might feel like your plate looks incomplete without it. So, to start with, just try swapping out meat for a plant-based alternative, such as stir-fry with soy chicken pieces, breakfast sandwiches with Linda McCartney sausages, cottage pie with Quorn mince and so on. There are now so many amazing, tasty alternatives to whatever meat you thought you'd struggle to give up.
Adapt your favourite comfort and junk foods - you don't have to give it upA lot of people think that quitting meat means no more of their treat food: 'if I go vegan, that's the end of mac and cheese', 'if I go veggie, there'll be no more beef burgers' and so on. However a quick look on the internet will teach you how to adapt your favourite foods into something free of meat or of animal produce entirely. For example - try making a creamy cashew-based mac without cheese or checking out a restaurant that serves the Beyond Burger.
Pick up a recipe book, download an app or follow a blog / Instagram pageThere's inspiration all over the internet but some of my personal resources are:
Cookie & Kate (vegetarian blog)
Lazy Cat Kitchen (vegan blog)
Simple Vegan Blog (vegan blog)
Bosh! (vegan cookbook)
Rachel Ama's Vegan Eats (vegan cookbook)
Veggie Lean in 15 (vegetarian cookbook)
Tasty (cooking videos - just filter to vegan or vegetarian)
Herbivore's Kitchen (Instagram account)
Start with lunchThis is the easiest place to cut out meat and a great way to start phasing it out of your diet. There are so many amazing salad recipes out there that quite often I'll make some sort of tabbouleh or couscous salad in bulk on a Sunday and eat it throughout the week with a pitta bread and a dollop of humous. I've also noticed some really great plant-based options popping up in meal deals at Tesco, M&S and elsewhere, for those in a rush!
Get inspiration from eating out or takeawayIf you're stumped on where to start, why not follow some vegan restaurants on Instagram for some inspiration? One of myself and my boyfriend's favourite dishes is actually a recipe from Leon that they published - their Meatless Meatballs. You can always take inspiration from food you've ordered and add your own spin or look up a recipe for something similar. There's almost too much content out there, so beginning with dishes you've tried and liked is a great way to get started.
Focus on flavourThis is a big one! A lot of the time, what you really miss the way in which meat is marinated and the herbs and spices used to flavour it, so take some time to learn about complimentary flavours and build your spice rack. I personally always use more of whatever herb, spice or seasoning a recipe advises, just as a little tip!
Check out the new plant-based products on the marketEveryone seems to be getting on the plant-based hype, so here are a few shops to try and some of my personal favourites:
M&S Plant Kitchen (I love the jackfruit pizza, 'duck' spring rolls, soy 'chicken' pieces, hoisin 'duck' wrap and cashew mac)
Aldi Plant Menu
Greggs Vegan 'sausage' roll
KFC Original Recipe Vegan Burger
Tesco Plant Chef
Do you eat meat and you're trying to cut back? If not, what made you stop and do you have any advice to share? I'd love to hear your stories in the comments!