Forage

whole food ~ well made

A recipe by Lynne Curry for seared carpaccio salad at finecooking.com.

10 Easy Ways to Eat Less Meat for Earth Day and Beyond

Happy Earth Day!

It’s a good time to talk about a weighty topic: shifting our meat consumption. But that just sounds so… unappetizing.

How about eating in balance?

Much better. How about eating mindfully?

Exactly! That is what Forage is all about: buying and cooking whole foods of all kinds for wellness and happiness.

It is not about excluding entire categories of foods–unless, of course, your own health and wellness needs demand excluding dairy, or gluten, or eggs, or nitrates, or anything else that doesn’t work in your life for any reason.

Whole chicken
One pasture-raised chicken whole chicken provides for many meals, from breast to bone.

Food is a personal journey. And the choice to eat meat is a personal thing.

But with choice comes responsibility. Right?

The scientific information about environmental degradation and climate change impacts due to industrial meat production make a strong case for eating less meat. I’m on board with that 100%.

Eating In Balance

Once a vegetarian, I now consider myself a veggie-centered omnivore. Veggies rock my world {especially now that it’s spring}. They are the be-all and end-all of my cooking inspiration.

I love well-raised local meats, but I don’t eat a lot of meat at any one time or even over the course of a week. So, eating less meat is sort of a longstanding habit.

Another thing about me is that I’m not very good at following rules around food. I tend to rebel against them, unless it’s for a short period of time, like a week or a month.

I mean, I have followed all kinds of popular diets from Whole30 to Clean to cleansing fasts for a fixed period of time.

But this is about lifelong habits, and I prefer another approach.

Beef barley soup in bone broth at lynnecurry.com.
A little bit of meat with good broth makes a beguiling beef and barley soup.

Mostly I consider what I want to eat, what ingredients I have on hand and what will make the best-tasting foods and make me feel good and satisfied. Above all, I relish variety, freshness and flavor!

And that’s what I get from all types of real food.

How can I eat less meat?

There’s a lot of advice how to reduce meat or phase it out completely. Some popular strategies are:

I think that all of these are definitely worth trying. Everything helps to reduce our dependence on meats.

beef-tostadas-sideview
Beef and bean tostadas put the meat in its proper place.

But I also wonder how well these all-or-nothing strategies serve us. If it’s only either/or, that doesn’t actually change our mindset around meat eating.

For example, what is our guiding principle when we do eat meat?

I prefer to think of taking a different approach to meat eating all the time. So that even when we are eating a meaty meal, we are still eating a whole lot less meat.

10 Ways to Eat less meat

My strategies show you how to eat less meat even when you are eating it. So, if you’re looking to slim down the portions of meat you eat without giving it up completely, I’ve got 10 ideas to guide you.

  1. Skewer it. Grilled meat on a stick is a worldwide favorite, often in the form of a kebab or satay. Sliced into ribbons or cubed and marinated in anything from teriyaki to garlicky yogurt, a little bit of meat becomes a meal when served over a pile of noodles or rice with ample fresh vegetables. Freezing the meat for 20 minutes eases close cutting. Plan on one meat kebab and two to three sticks of satay per person.
  2. Stretch it. Depression-era cooks knew how to make a pound of ground meat feed many. Make your mixture roughly three parts meat (ground beef, turkey, pork, lamb, veal or combination) to one part breadcrumbs, oatmeal, bulgur, rice, quinoa or any other cooked grains or even legumes. Add chopped onion, an egg for binding, seasonings and spice it up as you like for classic meatloaf, exotic meatballs, burgers or sliders that go far.
  3. Wrap it. Tacos are the model, but you can fold minced, cooked meat up in crepes, roti, rice paper rolls, tender lettuce leaves and nori, to name a few. Or, make a meat filling to encase in a dough—from pastries and empanadas to samosas and egg rolls. One cup of finely chopped or shredded meat makes six to eight portions to accompany with salsa, chutney or ginger-soy dipping sauce.
  4. Serve it on the bone. Eating meat on the bone satisfies a primal urge and gives the feeling of satiety with relatively small amounts of meat. Whether it’s pork ribs, chicken wings or flanken-style short ribs, this is a meal to pile on sides of coleslaw and baked beans, steamed rice and vegetables or mounds of mashed potatoes. Cut between the bones of back ribs, spare ribs or racks to make single-serving portions.
  5. Mince it. Hand-chopped raw or leftover meat is the basis for some of the world’s classic dishes—think fried rice and corned beef hash. Combine meat with cooked grains to stuff and bake into eggplant, peppers, cabbage leaves or acorn squash. The token protein—be it bacon or roast beef—serves as a major flavor boost. Or, serve slivers of meat in tiny amounts to fashion bibimbap or a stir-fry.
  6. Stew it. No amount of meat is too small—like a ham hock to season a pot of beans or a couple of chicken thighs simmered in coconut-milk—to make stew. In a pot chock full of seasonal vegetables or legumes, the cheapest, toughest cuts have a lot to offer (all the better if there’s bone). And, the more ingredients you add, the less meat you need in a belly-filling meal. Shred the cooked meat to disperse it into the stew before serving.
  7. Stuff it. There is no better side dish for roasted meats than stuffing. Rolling the stuffing inside any boneless meat cut not only fancies up the presentation but bulks up portion sizes considerably. Butterfly larger cuts, like pork loin and turkey breast, or pound flank steak and chicken breast to 1/4-inch thick with a meat mallet or heavy rolling pin. Season a bread- or grain-based stuffing well before rolling it up and securing the roll with toothpicks for oven roasting or grilling. Serve in one-inch-thick slices with extra stuffing on the side and add a gravy, if you like.
  8. Slice it thin. When holidays and other special occasions call for a large roast or thick steaks, you still don’t have to go big on the meat. With a sharp slicing knife, make 1/4-inch thick slices of ham, for example, and serve it with all the trimmings. Instead of serving a whole steak, plate slices with a generous salad; that single cut will serve three to four. Portion the leftovers in resealable bags for the freezer for a month’s worth of ready-made sandwich fillings. A sandwich may be the most familiar form for protein portion control—so long as you follow the meat-moderate panini approach and not the Carnegie Deli’s.
  9. Flavor with it: A single slice of bacon or a ham hock can flavor an entire pot of soup or stew. Split pea soup and Southern-style collard greens are both great examples of how a little bit of meat goes a long way. Or even no meat and just the fat, as in a pot of clam chowder flavored with salt pork or chicken soup that starts with schmaltz. Rendered fat from bacon, chicken and beef is one of the tastiest cooking mediums around–and if it comes from pastured animals, it’s loaded with nutrients like omega-3s.
  10. Bone broth it: You’ve heard of this trend by now, of course. A nourishing broth made from bones, it is a perfect example of whole animal eating and limiting food waste, too. You can request bones from your butcher or reserve bones in the freezer from T-bone steaks or a whole roast chicken to make your own bone broth. It’s also great that more companies are offering good-quality chicken and beef bone broths and making good use of all those bones.
Lebanese lamb and lentil meatballs on skewers with yogurt sauce recipe at lynnecurry.com.
Ground lamb mixed with lentils is a tasty way to cut down on the meat.

What are you doing to eat less meat these days? Let me know in the comments below or tag a photo #lynnesforage on Instagram or Facebook.

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One More Thing To Know

Before I go, I want to mention that my cookbook, Pure Beef, is chock full of  recipes that model how to eat less meat. Travel Oregon just gave it a big shout out as one of Oregon’s Top Cookbooks {with some amazing company}. It includes everything you need to know about buying, storing and cooking grassfed beef raised by independent farmers. Learn more.

Cover of Pure Beef, a guidebook and cookbook for everything you need to know to source and cook every cut of grassfed beef by Lynne Curry.

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