11 Ways to Lighten Up Meaty Meals

Cut back on meat to keep your wallet full and your heart healthy

Decreasing meat intake and increasing vegetable intake can lead to a healthier you.

Whether you are environmentally conscious, health conscious, or just concerned about the state of your wallet, it’s probably time for you to cut back on your meat consumption.

First and foremost, cutting down on meat is good for your budget. Meat prices are at an all-time high, which is a great incentive to cut back. Beans are a cheaper alternative to ground meat for taco night, and veggie burgers have all kinds of good things going for them. Not only does consuming excessive red meat cost a lot of money, it can also cost you your life, increasing your risk for heart and kidney diseases.

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You’re also probably already eating enough protein. The average adult should consume between 50 and 75 grams of protein a day.

For a frame of reference, one large egg contains about six grams of protein, four ounces of grilled chicken contains about 36 grams of protein, and four ounces of cooked ground beef contains about 29 grams of protein. As for nonmeat options, a half cup of legumes like lentils or black beans usually has about 10 grams of protein, and cottage cheese has about 13 grams per half cup. Everybody’s favorite little seed, quinoa, contains about eight grams of protein per cup (cooked).

One way to cut down on meat is to devote one day a week, like Meatless Monday, or even one meal a day, to vegetarian meals, which can help you consume more leafy greens. For all of the other meat-filled meals in between, you can add in extra whole grains and vegetables to take the place of meat. The USDA recommends that half your plate be filled with fruits and vegetables, about one quarter whole grains, and the last quarter protein. You can sneak extra vegetables into almost every meal without forgoing flavor.

Mystery Meat

(Credit: Flickr/Global Reactions)
Take a cue from the lunch ladies and add a little mystery to your meals. If you’re making meatloaf, meatballs, burgers, or anything else that utilizes ground beef, replace half of the ground meat with ground turkey, mashed black beans, lentils, or even minced and sautéed mushrooms. No one will be the wiser, and your heart will thank you!

Portion Control

(Credit: Flickr/gay.goy.gourmet)
The recommended serving size of meat is three to four ounces a day, or about the size of a deck of cards. To make this look a bit more satisfying, try pounding out smaller portions of meat with a meat mallet.

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Julie Ruggirello is The Daily Meal’s Recipe Editor. Follow her on Twitter @TDMRecipeEditor.