I’m not here to push you into becoming a vegan or anything, but the truth is out there. Red meat is bad news in a lot of ways. And as a result, many people are looking to cut it out of their diet or use less of it in their weekly cooking.
Red meat does contain useful protein, iron, zinc and vitamin B12. But eating too much red meat has been linked to all sorts of problems in the body, including cardiovascular disease, high cholesterol and bad skin. The environment also suffers, with cattle taking up a disproportionate amount of land and grain, as well as releasing greenhouse gases.
With the planet and your own body at risk, it makes sense to a least become conscious of the amount of red meat you eat, although the amount you eat already may well depend on your upbringing or culture. If you live in the Bahamas, you probably have a diet rich in seafood like conch, and if you live in Paris, the idea of not eating it might seem (to the older generation at least) a little bit mad.
Regardless of your diet right now, if you want to eat well without red meat, you can start by making small reductions. You don’t have to make meat the center of every meal. Try a smaller piece of meat with a larger side of veggies. Try meat-free Mondays or cut out meat on any day of the week. When you have settled, give it up for two days a week.
One of the main barriers to reducing red meat intake is knowing what to replace it with and what dishes to cook. Learn to love veggies. They are cheaper, healthier and full of vitamins. If you have been used to cooking with red meat your whole life, check out recipes and cookbooks for inspiration.
Though red meat is full of protein, it is also possible to get what you need from plants, even if you give up meat. Beans, chickpeas and soya are all significant sources of protein and easy to incorporate into curries, stews and just about any dish.
If you’re not ready to give up all meat just yet, chicken and fish are healthier alternatives to red meat and still provide lots of protein without so much cholesterol, saturated fat and acidity. You can cook just about any red meat dish using chicken or fish, even classics like tacos and chili. You might even find that you prefer them.
Eating out is also a great joy for a lot of people, and the time when a juicy steak is most likely to be tempting. Look for restaurants in your area that serve wholesome vegetarian food. This can be difficult depending on where you live, but most cities will now offer plenty of choices for veggies and vegans, with most restaurants having at least a few vegetarian dishes on the menu. Eating veggie food out will also show you the potential for flavors and might inspire you to cook more yourself.
It’s not easy to cut back on red meat if you have been eating it all your life. Some people will find the journey tougher than others. Take your time, enjoy finding new meals and tasting new foods, and notice how much better your body and mind feel when you eat in a more balanced way. It’s all worth it, even if it does mean less steak!