The best thing about vegetarian diets is that they don’t need to be all or none. While most health experts agree that eating more vegetables is a good idea, you don’t need to eat them all year. Here’s what experts recommend if you feel the urge to try different types of meat and fish while following a meat-free or plant-based diet.
Get started by eating plants with a meaty texture
Jackie Newgent RDN, CDN is a plant-forward culinary nutritionist who also wrote The With or Without Meat Cookbook. She suggests plant-based food with similar textures and flavors to meat to satisfy your hunger pangs. You might consider some plant-based meaty picks’ as an alternative to a meal plan that includes meat, poultry, and fish. These could include tenders, chicken nuggets, and plant-based burgers and sausages.
Natalie Rizzo MS, RD, founder of Greenletes, also recommends choosing meaty, umami-rich flavors and textures. Rizzo says that mushrooms have an umami taste similar to animal protein. She adds that lentils are another plant-based protein. They can be subtracted into ground meat dishes like tacos or meatballs.
How to Eat Fish and Meat if You Are Vegetarian Or Vegan
Consider focusing on nutrients that are difficult to find in plant-based foods, and consider how you can incorporate them into your meals. Rizzo suggests that if you truly want to eat animal protein, then you should consider fatty fish like tuna or salmon. “Both satisfy your desire for meaty taste and provide healthy omega-3 oils which are hard to find in plant foods.” Newgent offers several suggestions to make meat more enjoyable in the kitchen.
- Consider meat and other animal proteins as a “sidekick”, not the main star. Consider putting a few chicken strips on an entree instead of frying a lot of chicken.
- So that you don’t overpower your taste buds, stick to milder-tasting animal proteins. You can think of turkey, chicken, and shrimp as well as halibut, cod, and tilapia.
- Consider going halfsies. Instead of making 100% chili with beans, make a 50-50 version using half the ground chicken and half the beans.
What you need to know about digesting meat on a vegetarian diet
It’s a good idea not to rush if you haven’t eaten meat in a while. This will prevent you from getting a temporary stomachache. Re-introducing many foods after elimination is a process that requires a structured approach in order to allow your digestive enzymes to do their job. High protein foods such as meat and fish require more stomach acid to aid digestion. Small portions of food are a good starting point. If you haven’t cooked meat in a while, it is important to take the necessary precautions to ensure that your meat is safe and properly handled. A meat thermometer is the best way to make sure that your meat is properly cooked.
The Health Benefits of Vegetarian Diets
It’s clear that plants are good for us! A varied and vegetarian diet is linked to lower chronic disease risks, lower cholesterol levels, and lower inflammation. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans support the recommendation to increase your intake of plant-based foods such as fruits, vegetables, grains, and legumes. This is true regardless of whether you eat meat. It is up to you to decide whether or not you want meat.