11 Ways to Lighten Up Meaty Meals (Slideshow)

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

Mystery Meat

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

The recommended amount of meat is three to four ounces a day. To make this look a bit more satisfying, try pounding out smaller portions of meat with a meat mallet.

Change Your Meat Perspective

Use meat as an accent piece. Dishes like stir-fry or pasta should be heavy on vegetables with just a bite of meat here and there.

Add Meaty Flavor Without the Meat

If you cut down on the quantity of meat in your dish but want to maintain a meaty flavor, add a savory flavor (also known as umami) to the dish. A few easy umami additions: dried mushrooms, toasted nuts, and caramelized aromatics like garlic and onions.

Satisfy Your Cravings


Sometimes you just want to eat meat, and that’s okay. Satisfy meat cravings by cooking vegetables using animal fat (such as Brussels sprouts cooked with bacon). You get a taste of the meat you crave and add tons of flavor to your vegetables, all while avoiding going for that bacon burger you so desperately wanted.

Focus on Flavor

Utilize your spice cabinet to pack as much flavor into each meat-based dish as possible. Try a citrus-based marinade for lean meat; it will pump up the flavor without the fat.

Side Dishes

Step up your side dish game to take the focus off of the meat. Put out a few whole-grain and vegetable-heavy dishes to accompany the meat.

No Fry Zone

Give the deep fryer a break and use your oven to achieve the crispy texture you want from fried food. Try out oven-fried chicken.

Protein Sources

When you cut down on meat, add other sources of protein like beans, grains, and dairy products to meals. For example, you can cut down on ground meat in chili and double up on beans. You also can use protein-rich cottage cheese instead of ricotta in lasagna, and Greek yogurt instead of sour cream on baked potatoes.

Make Other Meals Meatless

There’s no rule that says you have to have meat at each meal. If you know you’re going to have a heavy, meat-filled meal for dinner, balance it out with vegetable-heavy meals throughout the rest of the day.

Skip the Skin

Although it’s delicious, keeping the skin on chicken and fish adds cholesterol and unnecessary calories to your meal.