Our Healthy Habits Coach shoots down common roadblocks to making healthier, tastier meat-free meals for the whole household.
EXCUSE: My son is very athletic. He’s worried he won’t have enough energy without meat.
SOLUTION: People of all ages need protein each day, but daily recommendations for protein are easily met. Great vegetarian sources include whole-grain carbs, eggs (one egg has the same amount of protein as an ounce of meat), lentils, nuts, and low-fat dairy foods. Make sure he has a good source of vegetarian protein at each meal, and he’ll have all the energy he needs.
EXCUSE: My husband thinks a meal isn’t a meal unless there’s meat.
SOLUTION: In the early 20th century, our culture was driven to eat more meat, in part because our economy depended on cows and agriculture. The idea that you must have meat at every meal is, frankly, antiquated. Take a good look at your husband’s favorite dishes. I bet you’ll find something he likes that doesn’t have meat. Egg dishes, such as breakfast casseroles, are usually popular. Or try heartier dishes, like vegetable potpies, stir-fries, nachos, or enchiladas. Clue him in to the health benefits of going without meat every once in a while. Hopefully, he’ll come around to see the benefits—both in taste and health—that being a part-time vegetarian bring.
EXCUSE: My vegetarian daughter only wants to eat fake “meat” products.
SOLUTION: Veggie burgers and soy-based foods have their place in a healthy diet—in moderation (they can be high in sodium). But transitioning family members to “real” food doesn’t have to be an exercise in futility—sometimes, the best foods are the simplest ones. Portobello mushrooms and eggplant are two great centerpieces of meatless meals. Marinate them in lower-sodium teriyaki sauce, and grill them just as you would meat. It’s a knife-and-fork kind of meal that feels substantial. Have pasta with pesto and roasted vegetables, or a whole-grain salad with beans, vegetables, or fruit.