Once I’d decided to try and change how I eat, I didn’t really know where to begin. I have to admit that I get stuck a bit of a rut when it comes to cooking, particularly during the week when I have less time, so the idea of having to come up with new meals that were quick and nutritious seemed a bit daunting and put me off for quite a while.
Also, although I tend to do most of the cooking and meal planning in our house, when I first started to reduce my meat intake, it was on the understanding that my partner didn’t have to reduce his as well. And I didn’t want to impose my change of eating habits on him either because, as much as I felt making a change was the right thing for me to do, it’s about people making their own informed choices about what suits them rather than forcing them to change. However, as I’ve mentioned before, I’m all for catering to different people’s tastes but I can’t be doing with cooking multiple meals at once.
So to start off with, to ease both my partner and myself into a new way of doing things, I didn’t change any of the meals I cooked for him or add any new recipes into my repertoire, I simply substituted the meat in my portion for something else. So if we were having a meal where chicken was the main ingredient, I’d swap mine out for a different source of protein. Here are a couple of examples of how I adapted some of our typical mid-week dinners (in both cases I’ve used edamame beans as the source of protein because I like them and I think they go well with the dishes but there are plenty of other options – I’ll go into that in another post):
Chicken and Not Chicken Kung Po
A go-to quick and easy dinner for us is chicken Kung Po using Kung Po sauce from a jar. Just stir fry some chicken and broccoli, add some ginger and chilli to taste if you want a bit of extra oomph, plop the sauce in, boil up some rice and hey presto! Tasty meal in half an hour!
But whereas I would cook the chicken and the broccoli in the same pan before, instead I started cooking them separately and also boiling some edamame beans for 5 minutes or so in another pan. Drain the beans and put them back in the pan with the heat off, and then pour the sauce into the pan with the broccoli along with the rest of the ingredients. Let it cook for a few minutes then divide it between the chicken and the beans, give it a stir, boil up some rice and hey presto! Two tasty meals in half an hour!
Chicken and Not Chicken Stir Fry
It’s exactly the same idea. My usual stir fry recipe consists of chicken, a pack of mixed stir fry veg (I generally get whatever’s on offer), ginger, soy sauce and chilli to taste (a recurring theme here – I am a bit of a chilli fan!) Now I stir fry all the ingredients as usual except for the chicken, which I cook separately. Boil the edamame beans for 5 minutes and drain them, then once everything it cooked divide the veg between the chicken and the beans and serve with noodles.
These kinds of substitutions are a really easy way of incorporating more veggie meals into your normal routine without making a big change (the only real practical difference being that there’s one extra pan to wash up) or forcing others that you’re cooking for make changes when they don’t want to.
I know this is neither rocket science nor haute cuisine. But if you’re thinking of cutting down on the amount of meat in your diet for whatever reason, then this could be a good place to start.