6 Plant-Based Diet Tricks for Carnivores
Numerous well-known health professionals recommend a plant-based diet for optimum health. I get that I’m supposed to eat my veggies, but just how does one transition to a plant-based diet when it seems like every recipe in your repertoire includes some form of animal product? And did I mention I’m a meat lover from way back? Systemic change doesn’t happen overnight. While I can’t say we’re completely free of animal products in our house, we do now have a more plant-based diet than I ever would have thought possible, without feeling deprived. (See also: Imagine Eating to Lose Weight (and Save Money))
Search out secret weapons
When we first started approaching a plant-based diet with gusto, I knew flavor would play a dominant role in our menu transitions. Wheat grass smoothies weren’t going to cut it at this house, and if I was planning on cutting out the ranch dressing as our favorite frugal veggie dip of choice, I’d darn well better have something phenomenal to replace it with, thank you very much. Here are the top ten secret weapon foods for going vegan I keep in stock at our house. I use the phrase "going vegan" lightly, as I know there are those folks out there who are much more hardcore about their animal product elimination than we are. That being said, once you’ve eliminated animal flesh and dairy items from a recipe, it is, in essence, vegan. So I use the term to describe the type of menus and foods we are trying to eat the most of.
Come up with hearty alternatives
One of the main concerns I think anyone has when trying out a plant-based diet is whether or not your new food choices will leave you feeling satisfied. Watercress sandwiches weren’t high on my list of lunches to try. Neither were broccoli sprout wraps. But we do love our sandwiches at this house, and we do prefer them hot. So on that note, here are ten oven-toasted vegan sandwiches for die-hard carnivores. While not completely plant-based in nature, you’ll also find several tips in this sandwich ideas article and Linsey Knerl’s meatless dishes post.
Creatively reduce your meat consumption
If simply making plant foods the main focus of your meal is your goal, then reducing meat rather than eliminating it may be the most comfortable way for your family to start. Carrie Kirby has previously given us some tips on using meat as a flavor ingredient rather than a mainstay. These strategies for saving money on meat should also be helpful.
Include protein alternatives in your plant-based diet
While I’m aware that most of us don’t require nearly as much protein as we think we do, I’m here to testify that my body still requires more than the average bear. It always has. So keeping protein consumption a consideration was important to me as I led our household into a plant-based diet program. There are numerous ways to go with this, not the least of which is finding ways to enjoy tofu as a meat lover. At some point I’ll put together an entire article on the subject. For now though, I’ll just put a few ideas and resource links out there for your consideration.
If you’re a fan of using nuts, seeds, and nut butters as your protein replacement of choice, you’ll want to check out this resource on frugal meal ideas using peanut butter. Those wishing their meatless meals to appear as close to their regular menu choices as possible might choose TVP as a meat replacement, as it works seamlessly for things like tacos, spaghetti sauces, and sloppy Joes. If beans and legumes are your thing, then check out these lentil recipes or try an easy Lebanese black eyed pea salad.
Find extra pennies for produce purchases
At first glance, it might seem that embracing a plant-based diet is going to be cost prohibitive, particularly with some of the produce prices these days. Believe it or not though, we’ve managed to spend less, even while including numerous organic groceries on our regular shopping list. By reducing meat and dairy purchases along with consciously leaving out snack products and processed foods, our overall food budget has still stayed on track, even with fresh produce being the bulk of our shopping haul each week. For more penny-pinching strategies, check out my survival mode produce list and Thursday Bram’s article on preserving zucchini.
Get baking support
Baked goods are tricky, aren’t they? You take a peek and certainly don’t see any cheese, milk, or meat lurking around. The reality is, eggs and milk are included in many of the baked goods recipes we all remember growing up with. Here are some egg reduction strategies to help you out. You might also want to check vegan baking resources or web sites for people with milk allergies for further support.
As you can see, embracing a plant-based diet is a project in progress at my house. We’ve come a long way, but it’s an ongoing process. I try not to beat myself up when we can’t make it happen at restaurants or because I’m still trying to find a butter-free option for popcorn that doesn’t whither up the kernels to an unrecognizable pile of mush. The point is, we eat way more plant-based meals than most people we know and feel healthier for it.
What are your favorite strategies for attempting a plant based diet?