Pushing meat off your plate might be easier than you’d think!

By Kendall Wenaas
Photo by Getty Images

I’ve never been a big meat eater. In fact, in the two years I’ve lived in New York City, meat has probably been on my grocery list all of ten times. Right before the holidays I noticed I hadn’t eaten meat in a couple weeks. And I felt great! So that’s when I decided to give this whole meat-free thing a real try. After the first month, here’s what I’ve learned:

I have had to adjust the rest of my diet.

At first, my meals weren’t as filling without meat at the center, which led to snacking a ton (on anything that was nearby). Since then, I’ve increased the amount of vegetables I buy, and have been adding more grains and complex carbohydrates to my meals. I’ve really enjoyed experimenting with anything from a sweet potato-based veggie bowl to chickpea pesto pasta to avocado sourdough toast.

Meat is not the only protein source.

From chickpeas to peanut butter to hemp seeds, there are a billion high-protein, meat-free sources out there. Once I started trying them out, I realized how fun (and tasty!) experimenting with new recipes can be.

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It’s way more affordable.

Long before I became I vegetarian, I knew about the importance of eating animal products that are organic and humanely raised and grass-fed and pasture-raised and safely farmed and environmentally raised and—you get it. Unfortunately, this stuff all comes at a higher price. By abstaining, I’m avoiding any meat that’s both bad for me and the environment, plus I’m saving quite a bit of cash.

Other people have more thoughts about me being a vegetarian than I do.

For me, it’s pretty simple: I haven’t craved meat, plus I’ve read a ton of stories about the positives of eating more plant-based. On the other hand, for every five people I tell that I’m not eating meat, four of them have responded with the many reasons as to why he or she would never or could never do the same. These people rarely want to actually have a conversation about vegetarianism, so a quick “I was never a big meat eater before,” is usually enough to change the topic.

Start gradually.

Like I said before, I’m not struggling and have yet to cave. Except for gravy on my mashed potatoes on Christmas Day. But just that one time, I swear! Realistically, if you eat meat for breakfast, lunch and dinner, quitting meat cold tofurkey (hah!) probably isn’t for you. Considering I gradually decreased my intake over time, I haven’t had a problem sticking to it.

Being a pescatarian might be more for me.

Why? Well, for one, because salmon is freaking delicious. And while I’m not craving meat, I still have been craving seafood (I’ve definitely cheated once or twice). And while buying all humanely-raised animal products can be expensive, choosing one or two that I really enjoy won’t break the bank. Plus, people breathe an audible sigh of relief when you say “Oh, sure, I’ll still eat seafood now and then,” as they’re typically much more comfortable with tilapia than they are with, say, tofu.

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