How can I eat less red meat?

If you are interested in becoming vegetarian, perhaps transitioning to being a vegan,  start by reducing your overall intake of  red meat i.e. beef, lamb and pork.  Perhaps you have watched the Game Changers documentary? Or What the Health? Reducing your intake of red meat is considered good for the planet and good for your health so let’s get started.     Eating poultry isn’t bad for our health, and eating fish is particularly good so when transitioning, make sure to include these foods for a healthy nutritional intake.  Irrespective of your reasons here are some tips to help you along.

How much red meat do you consume?

  1. Start out by assessing how regularly you consume meat. Is it a bacon roll for breakfast, a ham and cheese sandwich for lunch followed by a burger or spaghetti bolognaise for dinner?  You have a long way to go! I think you are responsible for planetary issues : )  Teasing! The point is, if you know how much you normally eat, you have a baseline from which to bounce. From your baseline intake it’s easily measurable to see how you might be able to change. Of a possible 49 meals per week, based on a 3 meal per day 7 days a week scenario, write down how many meals actually contain meat.  That’s your starting point.
  2. Choose a meal or a day. If you never eat meat at breakfast, but it’s always part of your other two meals then changing perhaps your lunch to a plant based, or white meat option (chicken, turkey or fish) provides a straightforward and simple win.  You can still eat red meat at dinner but you will be sitting back, feeling good that you have been making efforts throughout the day to reduce your overall intake of red meat.  If your overall intake is already low, and you want to change further then choose a day to be completely plant based.  Meatless Mondays is a great place to start.  You can obviously combine both options and have both meat free meals and meat free days.
  3. Reduce your serving size. Another way to reduce your overall intake is to vegetable up your plate and reduce your serving size when you do eat red meat.  Having one less sausage or a mix of veggie and meat sausages, or adding a tin of kidney beans to your meat based bolognese will budget friendly your meal and add some plant based protein and fibre.
  4. Plan your meals for the week. No matter what type of healthy endeavour you are trying to achieve, when it comes to food, planning is key.  There is not a dietitian in the world who will argue this point.  We know from all the trials around health behaviour change that having a meal plan is crucial to making food based change happen.  After all, you have likely been eating a certain way for a very long time.  When you first start planning you don’t have to make the menu complex.  Instead go for easy wins e.g. scrambled egg on toast rather than a full English breakfast, or baked potato, beans and cheese rather than a meat sandwich at lunch.
  5. Think differently. Once you have started reducing your overall intake of meat you can then start to get a little adventurous:
    1. Check  supermarket magazine for recipes;
    2. look online,  checking  reviews  for tips on how to make that recipe different, or maybe easier;
    3. Google your favourite chefs who always have amazing recipes available for free – my favourite veggie chefs are Nigel Slater and Jamie Oliver for veggie recipes, for bread and cake it’s Nigella all the way;
    4. Ask your friends – most everyone has a vegetarian or vegan friends these days, they are often the source of the best recipes.
  6. Watch your portions. Plant based protein is not as filling as animal based protein and it’s very easy to over consume.  Be mindful of the recommended servings sizes with any recipes you are using. Sometimes it’s sticking to the portions around those plant based meals that then becomes difficult. But that’s a weight loss story.
Felicity Lyons

Hi there! My name is Felicity. I am a registered dietitian and sports nutritionist with a proactive approach to healthy living. My job is to interpret the complexity of nutrition science and translate it into messages and guidance that you can understand. Healthy Living? It's easier than you think!