26 May

Cutting Back on Meat

Posted by Jenna, Under Food

That Husband and I try to read scriptures out loud together each night, and after finishing the Doctrine and Covenants we decided to start reading through the bible, starting with the Old Testament. We’ve been simultaneously reading the LDS Institute Old Testament Manual for a verse-by-verse analysis of the scriptures and the paragraphs on Genesis 9:2-6 really struck me. That message, combined with a Formspring question sitting in my inbox that asks “Why do you eat meat? I’m not trying to accuse you of anything, but aren’t LDS folks supposed to “eat meat sparingly”?” made me realize that I was ready to make a change in my life. I’ve lately felt this very strong desire to spend some time analyzing my life and looking for areas I can improve. This isn’t meant to be a post analyzing this particular area of the Word of Wisdom and what “sparingly” actually means, but I knew I didn’t feel like I was eating sparingly by any measure I could come up with.

To my surprise, TH was thinking the exact same thing! Silly me, I never brought it up because I assumed he wouldn’t be interested. Once when we were having guests over I wasn’t going to include meat with the meal and he insisted that we should have some. I assumed that mean he always wanted to have meat (or fish I guess) with every single meal. I now think that he only reacted that way because he wanted to provide something he knew our guest would really appreciate?

I kept him up way too late talking excitedly about all of the different ways we could approach this change in our life. Then I woke up and realized I was feeling a bit scared of the change. I don’t know how to overhaul my habits so completely! What I want is to start eating less meat (again, still not really sure what less means, and I have no intention of becoming a vegetarian) and ideally I would like all of that meat to be local or grown with an interest in the well being of the livestock in mind. Organic isn’t as important to me as buying from growers/farmers who place an emphasis on the living conditions and slaughtering practices of the livestock they produce.

I don’t have a picture of me with my pigs to show you, so I went with this one of little me feeding calves on my grandparent’s dairy.

I told That Husband about my first experience at the county fair, talking to my mom about what was going to happen with the pig I had just auctioned off. When I realized that my sweet pig (I believe his name was Peter Pan), the same pig I had recently climbed into a sawdust covered pen with for a cuddle, was going to be roughly rounded up with a hundred or so others and shipped off to a slaughterhouse, I sobbed. I had grown to love that animal, and I had seen those trucks. How could they treat my sweet Peter Pan that way?

Now that I’m older I realize that I wasn’t sad about the fact that Peter Pan had to die, I think I knew that it was inevitable. It was the manner in which he would do so that affected me so deeply. I want to buy from and support those who believe it is possible to produce meat in a way that both provides me a bacon cheeseburger and treats the animal to a happy and clean life.

When I wasn’t focusing on cutting back on my meat, I couldn’t afford to buy this locally and humanely grown kind of meat. Now that we’re going to fixate on incorporating more beans and other plant based protein sources into our diet I think we can meet both of my goals.

The plan for now is to focus on making one day per week a “meat free” one. Then two, then maybe three. We’ll continue to cut back until we both feel comfortable with the amount we’re eating. Like I said before, I’m a bit nervous to do this because it feels like a big change to my dietary habits. I haven’t cooked a lot with beans, quinoa, lentils, and other such protein rich plant based sources in the past. I’ll also have to have greater discipline when it comes to getting out of bed on Saturday mornings and visiting the Farmer’s Market. I am looking forward to feeling more at peace with the content of my diet though.

If you’ve made this change in your own life, how did you do it? I’m of course interested in favorite recipes to bookmark, but even more so I’d love to hear a bit about the process you went through to cut back on your meat consumption if you used to have a grocery shopping/cooking mindset similar to mine.

94 Comments


  1. Good for you! Cutting back on meat is a wonderful thing! I have been a vegetarian and vegan throughout my life, and know I eat meat sparingly. My favorite super easy veggie dish to make at home is stir fry with tofu. I LOVE tofu and I really recommend trying it out. There are other “meat substitutes”, but the thing that is great about tofu is that it isn’t trying to taste like meat (because none of them do). I usually don’t follow recipes so I’m sorry I don’t have any to share, but I just wanted to offer my words of encouragement! Once you get in to it, I bet you’ll find it easier than you expect!

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  2. I really admire this, and my husband and I slowly cut back on meat for about 5 years before we became vegetarians. I think taking this slowly and in moderation is the key to success here. I cannot recommend highly enough a book that I consider to be the “Joy of Cooking” equivalent for vegetarians. It’s called “How to Cook Everything Vegetarian” (by Mark Bittman). It is wonderful because it gives you a “base” recipe, and then offers suggestions for variations so you don’t get bored. The author also includes important guidelines about techniques and new ingredients you might not be using very much if you aren’t already cooking without meat.

    For more special occasion food that is still simple and easy, I would recommend a cookbook from a famous vegetarian restaurant here in London. It is called “The Gate Easy Vegetarian Cookbook” (the authors are brothers Adrian and Michael Daniel). The food in this cookbook is absolutely delicious, but be aware that the measurements are in metric (British cookbook!).

    The best thing you can do when trying to introduce a new eating style (whatever it may be) is to plan ahead. It can be difficult to stick with more mindful (more vegetarian) eating if you are out and don’t have any good veggie options.

    Also, you may already know this because you’ve done a lot of research about nutrition, but the FDA protein recommendations are really high. A lot of people who are giving up meat worry about their protein intake, but you really shouldn’t too much. Provided you are eating a balanced diet, you shouldn’t have too many problems reaching your protein needs.

    Good luck! I’m excited to read about your journey with this!

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  3. A few years ago, my husband and I made a similar decision (we’re not LDS, but one of my grandfathers died from colon cancer and it made me think about healthy living in a much more immediate way). One thing I did was buy or borrow or checkout cookbooks from cuisines that aren’t as meat-dependent as American cooking tends to be. A few that were particularly helpful:

    The Silver Spoon: it’s the Italian version of the Joy of Cooking. There are literally hundreds of amazing vegetable and vegetarian pasta recipes that never made into the Italian-American rotation.

    Indian Home Cooking: the vegetarian and vegetable recipes are incredible, though they can be a little tedious. I’ve had better results with this book, though, than with any other Indian cookbook I’ve tried.

    Veggie Meals (Rachel Ray): for fast, painless week night cooking, I do like Ms. Ray.

    You can also download a free vegetarian starter kit from the magazine Vegetarian Times. While I personally don’t have a desire to go totally veg, there were a bunch of fantastic recipes that have gone into regular rotation at my house.

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  4. Jenna, this is a cool post. My husband and I are in the beginning steps of doing something similar. Our FM has two or three local farmers committed to free range, organic growing, and we’ve been buying and eating their meat and eggs specifically. Like I said, it’s baby steps, but we’re doing what we can. I look forward to reading about your journey with this!

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  5. Completely unrelated to meat / diet stuff, but that photo of you with the poddy calf is SO CUTE!!!!!

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  6. “I want to buy from and support those who believe it is possible to produce meat in a way that both provides me a bacon cheeseburger and treats the animal to a happy and clean life.”

    This is EXACTLY how I feel, and I’m slowly working to change my own habits (but try to remember not to beat yourself up over anything; old habits die hard!). There are health food grocery stores near where I live (so you, in a more urban area, probably have way more access than I do), and I go there to buy my meat, which they get from locally pastured animals raised and slaughtered under more humane conditions than CAFOs provide.

    The difference in the way the meat tastes is phenomenal. Not to mention, you know, my conscience. ;) Good luck! This is a great decision.

    (Regarding eating less meat, yeah, I don’t know. Some nights I do eat meatless, but I generally do not worry a lot about replacing my protein… I don’t have a family to keep up with, though!)

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  7. Dienaid says:

    There are lots of wonderful vegetarian blogs out there to follow for excellent recipe advice.

    My suggestion is to make meals where you will not readily notice a lack of meat – black bean burritos, as an example. Pizzas, stews, pasta dishes. Recipes where you can basically get away with making it exactly like normal, but skipping the meat. Breakfast

    Dienaid Reply:

    ..oops

    Breakfast is the easiest, dinner the most challenging.

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  8. Great idea! I understand where you come from – I was also raised in ranching/farming community, so I realized early on that cuddly animals = food for our family.

    Another way to cut back on meat consumption is to just use less meat. This works best with ground meat dishes or stews, soups and casseroles, as opposed to steaks or serving a whole portion of beef or chicken. If you usually use a pound of ground beef, try using half a pound.

    You can also run the cooked ground meat through your food processor to make it finer but a larger volume.

    This is a weight-loss trick, but also great for cutting back on your meat consumption in meals and helps your palate adjust to less meat!

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  9. This is a fantastic decision and I really applaud you for it. We started cutting back on our meat intake about two years ago, and I was initially reluctant. After all, I love a good burger. But I went along with it, and I was really surprised at how easy it was to just not eat meat, and how much more I enjoy meat now when I do have it. And like you said, you can afford to buy the local organic etc etc high quality stuff that tastes amazing when you eat it sparingly.

    I second the “How to Cook Everything Vegetarian” book mentioned above, and would also recommend “The Modern Vegetarian Kitchen” by Peter Berley. This book introduced me to BBQ-style Tempeh…love it. Just love it. Tempeh is one of the “substitute” meat products. I prefer including tempeh and seitan in a dish over tofu, just for texture reasons. They don’t emulate the taste of meat, but they’re delicious in their own right.

    One thing that helped me make the transition was to cook more bean dishes, simply drop the meat out of a recipe and try it that way, and to try replacing the meat with beans in a recipe. For example, chicken enchiladas are delicious. But so are vegetable enchiladas (zucchini and corn enchiladas are to die for!) and black bean enchiladas. Etc etc. Try also more ethnic dishes (indian food especially) as they’re more likely to be meat-free. The other thing that helped me was to cut the amount of meat in a recipe down by half or 2/3. Treat meat as a “seasoning”.

    And the other, other thing that really helped me (gosh, this is a long comment!) was to change grocery stores. Instead of shopping at the closer giant store packed to the brim with convenience foods, we now shop at a smaller co-op that’s further away but which contains less temptations. Also, more stuff I can buy in bulk = cheaper!

    Eating less meat does seem to require a bit more investment in the kitchen in terms of time and planning, but I find it entirely worthwhile.

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  10. This post made me ridiculously excited. I’ve been mostly vegetarian for 6ish years and I love when people decide to be more conscious about what they eat. I say mostly vegetarian because maybe two or three times a year I will eat a little meat. My problem with meat isn’t really about animals dying (mistreatment? yes) and for sure not the way it tastes. And my decision not to eat meat isn’t something I have have ever wanted to feel weirdly beholden to, like a chore or a punishment. I think that is something that has been helpful to me. I know that if I ever want to eat meat, I can. It doesn’t have to be a big deal, especially if it’s sourced responsibly. I just don’t want to, for the most part. I feel healthier and more socially and environmentally responsible when I don’t and my meals don’t lack for flavor or variety. Plus, I guess I don’t have to worry about whether I am living that aspect of the Word of Wisdom.

    I think you’ll find it’s easier than you think. And I really really love talking about food, so if you want to talk more just email me. Actually, I’ll probably email you later with more practical (hopefully welcome) advice.

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  11. I didn’t do this on purpose, but when I moved to college I would have to describe my diet as Pollo-vegetarians because I was pretty much a vegetarian except for the occasional omelet or chicken sandwich. I by no means claim to be a vegetarian though, because my guilty pleasure is bacon. Thankfully I’ve never successfully cooked bacon with out setting of a fire alarm – so I don’t eat it often. Any way, the way I keep my meat from costing too much is I eat chicken, and buy in bulk. I’m not big on beef.

    How to eat less? I weigh the food with a scale to actually get the suggested serving size – my husband and I usually share just one chicken breast. For a while we had a schedule, and alternated vegetarian/meat days. Now we just cook what is available. I also freeze the meat, which means I have to think ahead, and if I don’t plan the day before, then we’re not having meat! lol. Good luck!

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  12. We decided to cut back on meat at the beginning of the year. I do at least one meal a week without meat. This week it is two. I also make one meal a week with fish (something we never did). And we cut out red meat for only special occasions (We used to have it once a week.) I am trying to live a healthier life. I’m kind of a nut about, “What’s in my food?” Because I don’t like the government being involved with my food. I hate chemicals so I’m big into organic. Okay, I’m starting to ramble….

    Anyway, it is really rather easy to eat one meatless meal a week. There are so many sites to help you. I love tastespotting that you can look at pretty pictures and find meatless meals. I cook a lot with eggs (even though some say that is liquid meat?) at night now. I make rice and beans (totally yummy) http://www.crumblycookie.net/2009/10/22/brown-rice-with-black-beans/ (This is SO good, I kept saying, “is this healthy?” because it didn’t taste like it would be healthy.

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  13. I agree with Ashley on using meat as a seasoning. We eat a good number of meat-free meals around here, and when we eat meat, we try to keep the portions low. 1/4 pound of pancetta with flavor 6-8 servings of pasta and asparagus. A ham bone I claimed from the in-laws before they could put it in the trash adds a lovely flavor to 6 qts of lima bean soup.

    I’m sure you’re already on top of this one, but we also work to keep our meat intake, when we do eat it, at the recommended 3 oz (or less). One chicken breast is plenty for the both of us. We’re happy eating one of the really thin breakfast pork chops, instead of the standard size. That’s a small part of dinner, and we’ll fill up on wild rice and broccoli.

    This kind of moderate approach is difficult to try to explain or set benchmarks. I’m confident that we’re eating a lot less meat than most Americans, and that this is good for our bodies and for the planet, but just looking at our weekly menu doesn’t really convey this to someone who doesn’t scrutinize the details.

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  14. Best overall cookbook: “How to Cook Everything Vegetarian” by Mark Bittman. It’s great because not only is it a incredibly comprehensive cookbook, it also gives a lot of discussion on how to structure vegetarian meals, something which can be daunting at the beginning.

    Also, if you want to feel some more passion/motivation for what you are doing, I would strongly suggest reading this article: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/01/27/weekinreview/27bittman.html (which isn’t advocating vegetarianism, just a reduction in meat consumption), and also reading Jonathon Safron Foer’s “Eating Animals.”

    Finally, I agree with KatieBug above that incorporating cuisines into your diet that aren’t as meat dependent (indian, southeast asian, mediterranean) helps a lot. And SmittenKitchen.com and 101cookbooks.com have a lot of great recipes!

    Good luck!!

    Ashley Reply:

    I second this – “Eating Animals” is a fantastic book. Less preachy in tone than any of Michael Pollan’s books, which seems to make it that much more impactful. Definitely, definitely worth the read.

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  15. Sorry, one more thought. As people have mentioned above, one of the best ways to eat meals without meat is to eat ethnic. I wanted to elaborate on this a bit more specifically. American food (and Western food, in general) is really meat-centric. Indian and thai food, in particular, are much more vegetarian friendly, and full of flavor. Also, many mediterranean and middle eastern foods are very vegetarian friendly (lots of good Greek and Turkish meze type dishes are meat free). Cooking this way may mean breaking the mold a bit on the ingredients you stock in your kitchen (the first time I made a thai green curry at home, I couldn’t pronounce most of the food I bought at the store. Galagal?) but it’s so worth it, and you will reap the rewards in the flavors you enjoy when you sit down to eat. Cutting back on meat is a wonderful opportunity to take a culinary trip around the globe and explore new dishes! So exciting!

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  16. Jamie J. says:

    Well, what a post to draw me out of just reading your blog, to participating!

    My fiance and I made a similar decision regarding meat about a month or so ago after watching Food, Inc (it’s been a long time coming, and the movie was just a catalyst for the change). The decision to eat less meat is one, at its base, of practicality. Like you said, in order to support our local farmers whose practices are in line with our beliefs, we have to pay more. In order to not bust the food budget, we eat less meat. I think the key for us has been not placing some black and white restriction on our diets. Instead we allow ourselves to make whatever choices seem best, and we, on our own, have gravitated to a much more plant based diet. For us, it has been a fiesta in our kitchen quite frequently as Mexican inspired dishes have just been easy for us to convert to meat-free (refried bean tostadas, black bean tacos, etc). It has been a joy so far, and looking for new recipes and experimenting in the kitchen has been fun for us to do as a team.

    Good luck in your endeavor, and I look forward to combing through all of the wonderful comments to get tips for myself!

    Zoë Reply:

    This is exactly how we cut down on meat. We kept our food budget the same, but decided we would only buy top quality meat whose provenance we could verify. Effectively this has limited us to buying directly from farmers and through a farm-box scheme where we get a small box of meat and other meat products delivered once a month directly from a farm. Because this is at least three times as expensive as the meat we were buying before (and should be, to make sure the farmers get a proper return on their hard work), we eat a lot less meat. I’d rather have mostly vegetable and grain based meals for a week, and then a proper roast chicken that we can verify had a good life (and a good death, just as important!), and has strong bones to make stock, than weedy pale factory-farmed meat every day.

    Initially I made the mistake of pasta, pasta, pasta when we wanted a quick dinner, since I had a slight failure of imagination…however, after reading the books below, our standby speedy weeknight meal is omelettes (2 large eggs for me, 3 for the husband is enough to fill us up) with exciting things inside, with a green salad. And not just lettuce leaves either – avocado, some crumbled feta cheese, pine nuts or walnuts, some slivered spring onions and a shallot vinaigrette.

    Books I HIGHLY recommend – and if you can’t get them in the US, I’ll send them to you from England:

    - Nigel Slater, “Tender vol. 1″ (a book about growing and cooking vegetables, organized around the vegetable – so if you want to read about butternut squash for example, you turn to the chapter on squash and it will tell you how to grow it in your garden or in a pot, what sorts of ways you can cook it and flavours it likes to marry with, and then a bunch of recipes and – bonus – truly spectacular photography)

    - Rose Prince, “The New English Kitchen” (this is so straightforward and sensible, amazing for budgeting, buying advice and using up leftovers)

    - Elizabeth David, “French Provincial Cooking” (it’s great to go back to traditional peasant food, where meat was scarce and was used incredibly sparingly to add flavour)

    If you can’t get hold of them, let me know and I’ll send them to you!

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  17. Melanie says:

    My husband and I stopped eating meat in Feb 2009. We both wanted to have a healthier diet and we are both animal lovers! We decided to cut out all “meat” but still eat fish. This worked for us because if we had a craving for something “meaty” then we could have fish without feeling guilty. At first we were eating a lot of fish, but over time we have cut back with out even noticing a difference.
    After about a month of eating like this, we both started to lose weight, which was a nice bonus! We even got his parents to stop eating meat now too. I can get together some recipes for you of our favorite meals if you would like.
    I have to say, he is doing much better than me, when I got pregnant (6 months along now) I started craving meat! My compromise was to eat meat not everyday and when I do eat meat, I only have it at one meal a day.

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  18. I’m delighted to hear that you’ve been thinking about meat consumption — I hope you’ll find any changes you make rewarding on several levels. I’ve been vegetarian since I was a child (my mom was thrilled about that one), so I can’t give you much perspective on the transition process, but a few thoughts:

    –I have never been a big fan of meat substitutes or things that are meant to look like/taste like meat. I’ll occasionally treat myself to fake bacon, and my partner (who does eat meat) loves the tomato/mozzarella boca burgers, but in general my attitude towards it is sort of like my attitude towards diet food: won’t eating a low-fat, low-cal brownie just make me want a regular brownie? So I suggest looking for recipes that just happen to have less or no meat in them, rather than “delicious tempeh tenderloin.”

    –A recent cookbook called “Love Soup” is a great collection of vegetarian soups. I think soup is a food that you are less likely to think of as something that usually has meat (so you won’t miss it), and everything I’ve made from it is delicious. (You also get the bonus that most recipes make 6-8 servings and freeze easily.) It also includes recipes for breads and other accompaniments.

    –I’d also recommend Mario Batali’s latest cookbook, “Molto Gusto.” The idea is that it’s the food Italians actually eat; easy to prepare, seasonal, and generally using meat as a flavoring as opposed to the main dish.

    –Finally, I find that comparing my meals to friends who eat meat, I tend to have more volume of food. So instead of a hunk of meat + 2 veg as a meal, you may have what seems like a lot of one dish (like a huge salad), or a plate full of a few different grain salads and vegetables, or a big bowl of soup plus some bread and cheese on the side. You may need to reset your mental image of what a dinner plate looks like, in a sense.

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  19. My husband and I have been trying this out for the last month or so. It is definitely cheaper to eat less meat! We’re still trying to figure out different recipes and good substitutes as well. I’m anxious to hear an update on this later!

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  20. Charmaine says:

    :) Most of what I would have said has already been mentioned, so kudos to you and TH for deciding on this change.

    My husband and I went vegan several years ago and it wasn’t the best experience. We lost a lot of weight (our energy was still very high – this might have been good if we were overweight to begin with, but we weren’t) and our families were upset because they had no idea how to “deal” with us.

    We’ve since gone back to lacto-ovo vegetarianism; this is primarily for eating out (even though living in LA affords us a lot of veggie-friendly dining options, it’s still difficult to find something if you’re vegan). Originally, we relied on meat substitutes to get by but quickly tired of the taste. That and I started to become increasingly weary of the overwhelming presence of soy in my diet. Bittman’s How To Make Everything Vegetarian is REALLY amazing though I think it relies almost too heavily on dairy and eggs.

    Greens, squashes and root veggies are your friends. They are SO versatile and there is always an abundance of them at the FMs. That and they are really easy to cook (greens often involves sauteeing or roasting in an oven for an hour or so – easy). They are packed with goodness and I can’t get enough. Also, they pair well with meat and can often be the center of the meal rather than merely a side.

    Also, I do not subscribe to the belief that we need to have certain (high) amounts of protein in our diet. This is partly due to Pollan’s argument against valorizing macronutrients, but also because I just don’t think its necessary to focus on such things. There’s a scientific argument against protein that I’m not qualified to re-state here.. but my husband and I identify as endurance athletes and we’ve never had any issues.

    Sophia Reply:

    I loved this comment- I guess it’s all in perspective-because when I went to LA from Texas I was like “son of a b!@ch, look at all the vegan options, I’m in heaven!” lol. I also like the point you made about protein, and our obsession with it.

    Stephanie Reply:

    I just wanted to provide a few suggestions for eating vegan in LA as there have been a lot of vegan restaurants opening.
    Pure Luck, Flore, California Vegan, Mooi.. also check out quarry girl’s blog for more vegan restaurants. I enjoy eating vegan, but I identify as a pescatarian, though I try to limit my fish intake because of mercury and overfishing.

    Sophia Reply:

    I adore quarrygirl! I was lucky enough to find her right before I moved out to LA for a few months. And Pure Luck’s carnitas are the stuff of my dreams, I was kind of obsessed with them :)

    Stephanie Reply:

    I live for their Tofu Pesto with Potato Pals and that dipping sauce. The fact that Scoops is right across the street only makes it more dream worthy!

    Charmaine Reply:

    :) I’m fortunate enough to live in Sunset Junction, Flore is my go-to! I’m addicted to their club sandwiches. And Cru across the street is fabulous, if not really expensive. I used to be a regular at the bike kitchen on hel-mel; when scoops and later Pure Luck opened, it was a trifecta of goodness.

    I didn’t mean to infer that there are few if NO vegan restaurants in LA… just that there aren’t many “mainstream” restaurants that incorporate vegan options (that aren’t simply appetizers). Or don’t use portobello mushroom, eggplant, or bell peppers as their main ingredient in their veg dish. I feel that unless you go to a “vegan” restaurant, you’re left wondering whether you’ll be able to eat anything “safe” elsewhere (quarrygirl as proof). Okay. No more.

    This thread is fun :). I think vegetarianism is fun for the variety it can bring into your life. I grew up in a MEAT MEAT MEAT household; in fact, i don’t recall shopping on the periphery (i.e. fruits and veggies section) of the grocery before the age of 25. And I was fortunate that my husband was willing to make the change with me (with a similar experience growing up).

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  21. Happy to hear about this change!

    1. Make the meat free meal exciting. Try making baked falafel (I have a good recipe), a simple Indian dish (fitnessista.com has some good ones) or a veggie burger (look at 101cookbooks.com). If it is exciting and different and full of flavor you won’t notice what is missing.

    2. Rather than making a meat meal without the meat (example: meat, veg, potato) make a meal that is better without meat. I am sure you must have some in your repertoire.

    3. On the days where you are eating meat, eat smaller portions of meat and larger portions of the vegetables and grains. Over time you will see that you crave meat less and less.

    I eat about 2 servings of meat a week (in the form of chicken or turkey usually, every few months red meat) and about 2-3 servings of fish a week. The rest of my protein sources come naturally through beans and nuts and such.

    You will see.. it is actually easier than you think it is… Try those 3 steps and you will see!

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  22. I stopped eating meat when I was 13(20 years ago!!!) and didn’t have a bit of it until I was in my mid 20′s.

    Back when I stopped eating meat there wasn’t much to replace it with. Not like today when you can get fake meat almost everywhere and soy milk is right next to the regular milk in the dairy aisle!

    It’s been a long time so I can’t recall exactly what I switched to although pasta and soups come to mind. Summers I lived on fruits and veggies. I checked out every vegetarian cookbook out of the library and tried whatever I could. The only readily available meat alternative was tofu, which if you don’t know what to do with it is pretty bland but the second you cook it right your mind is blown!

    I started eating meat sparingly in my mid 20′s. I moved back to the city and found a butcher that only sells local/organic/free range/ethical meats and about once a month or so I pop into there and get chicken, or turkey. I still haven’t had red meat. Yes it costs more but since you are eating it less it is worth it.

    Check out the following cookbooks:

    Fresh at Home or ReFresh

    Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone

    The Real Food Daily Cookbook

    How to Cook Everything Vegetarian

    The Moosewood Collective books..

    The Vegetarian Meat and Potatoes

    Vegetarian 5 ingrediant gourmet

    Vegetarian Times online has a great source of recipes.

    The biggest tip I have though is to start slow with any meat alternatives like fake ground beef and texturized vegetable protein(tvp) because too much in the beginning will cause your tummy to revolt..if you know what I mean.

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  23. Oh I am so glad you are making this decision. If I am being honest, I originally stopped eating meat (and cheese) to drop the lbs, but now it has really become a way of life and I have learned so much.

    Honestly, it is so easy for me to eat veggie because I live in LA. It’s not exactly a meat town. But it’s really easy to eat vegetarian and I think the cost even out because organic meat is so expensive (there are a lot of great farmers that aren’t organic but they want to give their cows medicine, but I am sure that you know that since your dad is a farmer). I will forward you the Meatless Monday emails. I only have a vegan cookbooks, but Jewish cookbooks are great because there is no mixing of meat and dairy so their cookbooks are full of great veggie recipes.

    I gave up everything: fast food (I eat In and Out fries like once a month), meat (I eat fish around my parents so I don’t have to here it), cheese, processed foods. It took me an entire year to phase it all out because I wanted to do it slowly so I wouldn’t quit. I know that you aren’t going vegan but I would do the same thing just slowly take out meat, it has more staying power.

    Giving up meat helped me drop a lot of weight, but the greatest part is that I feel light. I haven’t been sick. I had tons of stomach problems and now I have none. It’s so great for the environment too.

    I feel like I am rambling a stream of consciousnesses, but great decision!!!! I will email you the stuff now.

    Sophia Reply:

    I second the awesome reduction in stomach problems. I also had terrible acne, and giving up dairy helped a lot.

    Emmie Reply:

    Agreed!!

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  24. Hey, that is cool you are doing that. My husband and I have been trying to eat healthier, and it’s funny how that translated into less meat. I don’t really cut meat out of every meal, but we have LESS meat. For example; the only meat we have is some sliced chicken on a salad, or some hamburger in taco salad (with beans…there’s some lentils), pepporoni on pizza, and then we have some meals with no meat at all (some quinoa dishes I’ll have to scrounge up and share). I’ve found that if I use healthier cookbooks (LOVE Cooking Light’s stuff, The Food You Crave is another good one), they generally are already using less/no meat in their dishes because it’s healthier. I guess for me, cutting back on red meat was the key. ‘Cause that’s just fattening anyways. :)

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  25. Jennifer says:

    I have been a vegetarian for 8 years now. I occasionally miss meat or have a sentimental moment that I will never again eat the italian meatballs from a cherished family recipe. But for the most part I don’t miss it. I gave up red meat first, then eventually white meat and I never ate fish so that wasn’t hard. I gave up meat, for sustainability reasons. So many people consuming so much meat, is not good for our planet. Plus raising animals by the thousands to slaughter, and then throwing away half of that meat when it spoils in the market before it sells is so wasteful. And the meat you get from animals raised that way is not as healthy for you. Anyway cutting back is great. Some easy places to get protein, brown rice and beans makes a complete protein, and quinoa(pronounced keen-wa) is a grain that is a complete protein all by itself. You can substitute quinoa in any recipe you normally use rice or couscous. Some meals I especially like are butternut squash quinoa gratin, vegetarian chili over rice or quinoa, homemade black bean burgers, baked falafel with hummus on a pita, I also made rachel rays babaganoush-hummus pasta sauce, and thought it was very good as a sauce or a dip.
    Good luck with cutting back on your meat.

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  26. This is totally something I’ve thought about a lot recently. I would love to try to reduce the amount of meat I eat, but I am allergic to both dairy and nuts, so it makes it difficult to figure out where I will get enough nutrients. I love tofu but can’t eat it daily. I’m intriguted to see what you come up with!

    Little Jenna is super adorable! I love that photo!

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  27. One vegetable I really like that doesn’t get used much is spaghetti squash and the instructions for cooking it are right on the sticker. I make quinoa in place of rice sometimes, but not as a main dish, so I guess I’m not any help there.

    Also, I think P looks so much like you in that picture! You look really adorable.

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  28. my husband and i gave up all meat except fish for lent this past year (40 days leading up to easter). Unfortunately, it was 46 days leading up to our wedding, so we were crazy busy and ate out a lot, so we have talked about trying it again once we move and are home more. When we did cook, we cooked fish, and tried to eat vegetarian at restaurants. But what we learned is that it isn’t hard to do in restaurants these days (for your deluxe date nights!), it takes more planning for grocery trips – walking into the store without a plan was nearly impossible, and that ethnic foods are easily vegetarian – mexican, indian, chinese, japanese, even italian – so we will be looking into recipes outside our current cookbooks. I’m hoping once our vegetable garden is up and running and our grocery bills go down, we can look into local meats too. There always seem to be lots at the farmers market, but one chicken is my whole budget! won’t be a problem when i’ve got my own garden!

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  29. rent Food, Inc.! we’ve only made it through 1/2 way, but it’s definately an eye opening doumentary to the food industry as a whole.
    good luck with your endeavors! i usually cook meat 1-2x a week, it’s really a lot easier to eat less meat than some might think. i like to buy veggie burgers & tofu if i feel i need to add a ‘meat like’ ingredient to a meal.
    let us know how it goes :)

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  30. Many other comments have already given great suggestions for meat free meals, and I second the ideas of cooking more Indian, Mexican, and Italian foods that are complex without meat, and focusing on making meals that don’t need meat or can be subbed with beans.

    One other thing, that ties in with the original spark for this change, is to continue to read books dealing with changing your diet this way that will motivate you. I’d recommend “Eating Animals”, as some others did, as well as “Slaughterhouse”, and yes, “Food, Inc.” was an awesome movie! I also like the Michael Pollan books, he’s an engaging writer. Lastly, I really enjoyed “The China Study”. Mostly, because the guy was raised on a farm and used to work and lobby for Big Ag, and now he’s flipped it all around, so I know the research he did must have had a huge impact on him.

    It helps me, when making a change, to immerse myself in the research of it, the “why” of it, so that I am motivated to tackle the “how” of it. Really digging down and researching endometriosis is what led me to go almost totally vegan and have a stronger commitment to exercise, as almost every website and book on it referenced the benefits of both. It made it a lot easier to have a purpose, and a reason, that was reinforced to me.

    Good luck!

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  31. Here’s a great TED talk on the subject- this man is a Weekday Vegetarian. Also, if you don’t know about TED, it’s awesome!

    http://blog.ted.com/2010/05/why_im_a_weekda.php

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  32. Never posted before, but I’ve been reading for a while. I second the book “How to cook everything vegetarian”. It is a great book. In the year prior to my getting pregnant, we cut way back on the amount of meat we ate. We started, like you by removing meat from a couple meals a week. Before we knew it, we were only eating fish or shrimp 2 times a week. I had never felt better in my life. Once I got pregnant, my need for meat was overwhelming. I am due next month, and once he’s here, we will go back to cutting some meat out too. Good Luck.

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  33. Oh my gosh Jenna I’m so (kind of unreasonably) excited for you! If you haven’t cooked much with beans and lentils, you are in for some dietary delights!

    My husband and I eat meat maybe three times a week. It’s been pretty easy to do, although we tend to recycle our favorites (like lentil soup, stir fry, and black bean burritos) quite a bit.

    My only note to you is that it can be very easy to add carbs to veggie meals. It’s like you try to make up for that missing meat with rice or pasta. And that’s not good – you’re replacing healthy fats from the meat with high-glycemic carbs.

    I try to find non-vegetarian recipes (like chicken tikka masala, for instance) and replace the meat with lots of fresh veggies. I am a big fan of Indian, Chinese, and Thai recipes because they usually have lots of veggies (or meat that can easily be replaced by veggies) and they always have tons of flavor.

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  34. I have also been considering cutting back on meat for health reasons. A few years ago, I watched a television show with Kathy Freston, where she talked about how “we need to treat our ‘food’ animals with kindness, because that kindness then spreads into the healthfulness of the meat we consume.” Her statement didn’t make any sense to me at the time – I thought it was just uber-hippie woo-woo stuff. Now that I am a bit more educated, however, I realize that grass-fed, local, free range, independent farmer meat is so much better for you because of the lack of hormones and that the diet is appropriate for the animal (cows were never supposed to be fed corn/other cows). I am in the midst of learning how to do this affordably and effectively as well. I will be interested in any tips you have to offer (especially since you are moving to Chicago soon and the tips will then apply to me!) :)

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  35. I wanted to pass on a blog that I think you will enjoy. http://keepinglifecreative.com/365-days-of-beans-and-rice/

    She has LOTS of recipes that she has made for her family. I have tried a few of the rice dishes and have enjoyed them.

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  36. Don’t forget about eggs! At least I don’t think they’re part of the “meat” category…

    I love doing breakfast for dinner. Pancakes, french toast, eggs, omlettes, egg casseroles, fruit…

    I have also been trying to cut back on “mystery meat.” So when I dine out and I don’t know where the meat comes from, I find myself going vegetarian. Honestly I haven’t noticed the change too much. (But don’t click over to my blog or you’ll see the very uncommon steak dinner, lol. But I know where that one comes from!)

    Would you consider “cutting back” to also just mean a smaller portion? So maybe you have a pasta dish that has a little sprinkling of prosciutto? Or perhaps just considering meat a side dish instead of a main dish at most of your dinners?

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  37. Good for you! I’m a vegetarian (strictly for my personal moral reasons, we are not religious) and have been for 9 years now. I’m not sure how our experiences will differ since you’re just eating less meat rather than no meat, but I’m really glad you are! Any change will help save animals’ lives, and that’s always a good thing.

    One of the things that really helped me was to broaden my food horizons. Foods that I had never even heard of (hey, I was 11!) became a part of my daily routine – quinoa, tempeh, tofu, all sorts of mushrooms, eggplant, etc. For awhile I used fake meat as a “crutch” but after feeling the sodium levels affect me, I cut way down. Now I only eat those things sparingly, and focus on “whole” foods.

    I enjoy Smitten Kitchen immensely for recipes. She was a vegetarian for a long time, so though she includes meat recipes, many are easily modified. They’re creative, too – the other night I made these to-die-for tomato dishes that are made by hollowing out the tomato, whipping up a pesto out of shredded romaine, olive oil, and garlic, and then putting an egg in there and sprinkling some parmesean on top before sticking them in the oven. They were absolutely delicious, and a great balance of nutrients.

    I really recommend eating what’s in season… not only are you getting better produce (hopefully from local growers, if you can) but you’re also less inclined to get bored. Whole Foods is amazing. You really have to bargain shop there, but in recent comparison it’s actually less expensive than our other leading grocery store as long as we stay away from the pre-packaged/frozen foods.

    Another way I love to mix things up is through making my own flours. If you have a food processor you can just process most grains (oats, quinoa, rye, etc) and you have flour with more substance.

    I hope you enjoy this transition! I lost weight, gained energy, and developed an adoration of many different foods that I had previously been too picky to touch. It is one of the best life decisions I ever made. The only trouble I ever have is in restaurants when we’re not in the city (Chicago) where we live. But even then, it’s doable by asking for a salad without chicken, or ordering a pasta dish or whatever. Places in the city are all over creativity and sustainability, so it’s absolutely no problem to eat vegetarian around here.

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  38. I went vegetarian for a couple of weeks a few months back (I just wanted to see what it was like). It was great – we aren’t big meat eaters anyway so it wasn’t a huge change for me. I loved that it forced me to rely on veggies and legumes more (especially the legumes for protien). Technically what I did was ‘pescatarian’ – I didn’t eat meat, but ate fish. If I were to go vegetarian full on, I would still eat fish. Those Omega 3′s are so great, plus it would satisfy those ‘meat’ desires.

    I love the Morningstar veggie burgers, there’s an organic Lentil soup (Amy’s Organic) that I LOVE, doing stir-frys with egg chopped up instead of meat – - there’s just a ton of products out there and meal ideas to make going meatless fun and easy. I love the idea someone mentioned of Black Bean Quesdillas – I need to try that.

    The idea of eating meat ‘sparingly’ from the W of W is a little difficult to nail down. I think all can agree that eating meat at every meal is definately not sparingly, but as for what minimum is okay is – I suppose – one way that God wants us to think and reason for ourselves. This is one area He doesn’t want to issue a specific amount and instead leave it up to our own good judgement (we certainly need practice at this!). We’re trying our best and I think we’ve done a pretty good job at defining ‘sparingly’ in our diet (some weeks better than others though). I love reading the Word of Wisdom passages . We’ve got to trust God – the creator of our bodies – that’s He knows what He is taking about.

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  39. I think a really great way to ease into it is to use meat-substitute products. I have been meat-free for over 10 years, but my husband still prefers to eat meat with dinner. I’ll still add it in to what I am already making frequently, but he has been a GREAT sport about using soy-based products to mimic dishes he enjoys. I’ll still make “meat”loaf, tacos, lasagna, etc., so he still gets those favorite comfort food tastes, but without actually using meat products. I think it’s an excellent way for people to start incorporating less meat into their lives, while familiarizing themselves with all the great grains and beans that vegetarians eat on a daily basis.

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  40. We’ve recently made a similar change in our family, too! I’m so excited that you’ll be trying this. Maybe I’ll be more motivated now.

    I’ll admit that about half of our motivation was financial. I knew in theory that meat was very expensive, but I had just always bought enough to eat every day (husband grew up on a farm and had meat at nearly every meal). I figured we’d save a few dollars here and there. When we put this in practice, I could not believe how much less expensive my meatless meals were. I mean, duh, of course they’re less expensive. A pound of dry beans costs $1.00 and feeds us for two meals. But I had just never done the math.

    I want to second (or third) @Ashley’s comment above about using meat as a seasoning. I make a lot of bean dishes (Brazilian beans or Red beans are two favorites) and they’ll often call for a few slices of bacon or a little bit of spicy sausage for flavor. It’s a great way to make a tiny bit of meat go a very, very long way.

    It’s definitely not a vegetarian cookbook, but I have loved every single meatless or low-meat meal that I have made from Cook’s Illustrated/America’s Test Kitchen. Their bean recipes are superb and their vegetarian section has some really yummy options. Send me an email and I’d be glad to type them up for you.

    Happy life changing!

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  41. ok after reading the comments I didn’t see anyone ask this, so I have to. Why are you supposed to only eat meat “sparingly”? What is the reasoning for it? Not that it is wrong, so not saying that, just wondering why.

    Good luck with the eating better with less meat, there is no way to get my other half to do that, he doesn’t believe soup is a meal and meat must be in every meal! heck meat could be the only part of the meal. It is just a culture thing, and something very hard to change in him, but I am slowly trying.

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  42. I was a vegetarian for a few weeks – except I still ate fish. The thing that was really hard, was still trying to lose weight while being meatless. Cheese and milk, which are also good protein sources, are higher fat that turkey or chicken, so it was hard. Plus, beans aren’t exactly something you can cook up in a hurry and pack with you for lunch. I started by simply eliminating meat from one meal a day until I was down to only eating it at one meal a day. Gradually I tapered off. I have to take all of my meals for the day with me when I leave home because I often work 12-15 hour days, so that was hard to do and feel like I was getting enough protein. Because you are home more, you will most likely be more successful at it. Good Luck!!

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  43. I’ve been a vegetarian for 14 years and my husband has been for 3 years. I highly recommend the Moosewood Collective books (although they’re not strictly vegetarian as they include fish recipes too). I believe someone has already mentioned it, but “Eating Animals” by Jonathan Safran Foer is a great read, especially for new parents like yourselves.

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  44. Loving these comments – so interesting and inspiring. I don’t want to give up meat entirely, but I do want to cut down, mainly for budget and environmental reasons.

    Here are a few vegetarian dishes I’ve really liked:
    – Sloppy Joes (http://skinnybovineskitchen.blogspot.com/2010/03/face-off-sloppy-joes-vs-sloppy-sams.html). My husband was really skeptical at first, but he loved them and I ate the leftovers PLAIN the next day, it was that good, and I don’t usually even like sloppy joes.
    – Basil, Basalmic, and Tomato Risotto (http://find.myrecipes.com/recipes/recipefinder.dyn?action=displayRecipe&recipe_id=1654713)
    – Butternut Squash Lasagna (http://www.marthastewart.com/recipe/butternut-squash-and-sage-lasagna)
    – Favorite pasta ever: (http://www.marthastewart.com/recipe/penne-with-grape-tomatoes-and-mozzarella)

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  45. My husband and I are doing the same thing. We eat meat probably 1-3 times per week, and it’s usually on sandwiches. If we want a hamburger or steak (that we’re making, not one we eat at someone else’s house) then we buy organic/grassfed/local (not all three necessarily, but one of the three at least). We buy a lot of dry beans and cook those in the crock pot on high for 6 hours. We do love Morningstar products… they’re definitely processed, but if you want something fast, I recommend them. The black bean veggie burgers are great and so are the ‘sausage’ breakfast patties. Lots less fattening too.

    We decided to eat less meat because we know how unethical a lot of farms are nowadays. I know a million people have mentioned it (and you’ve probably watched it yourself) but “Food, INC” was definitely something my husband and I mention a lot. We knew most of what the movie showed, but to see it all in once place and to realize what that means for us… well it stuck with us.

    I’ve also read a study (of course I can’t find it now) that women who eat red meat w/hormones while pregnant are 25% more likely to have male children who have fertility problems. A lot of my friends have experienced the disappointment of infertility, so that was a huge reason to only eat hormone-free beef, especially when I look towards TTC.

    I think more and more Christians (and I’m including Mormons in that, btw) should consider reducing their meat intake. If everyone who professed believing in Christ as Lord went down to eating meat at only 25% of their meals, think of how much better that would be for the environment, and for ourselves! A little meat is good for you (some would argue this, but I think it really can be good for you) but a lot of meat is NOT good for you.

    I applaud your efforts to reduce the amount of meat you eat!!

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  46. Husband really does love meat. I don’t know if we could ever get him to cut it out. But I have started eating more leafy greens and I totally notice a difference!

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  47. Jessica says:

    You know I have never been a huge meat fan and it’s always been easy to completely avoid it as a matter of fact when Carl is gone I probably only eat it once a week… but when he is home I do try and watch the amount of meat we eat, there is definitely other ways to get our protein! We try to eat 3 days a week of no meat… usually we do 1 day of red meat, 2 of chicken, and 1 of a seafood…. it helps us and we have noticed a big difference not only in our grocery bills but in our fat consumptions weekly. Good luck Jenna! You guys will do awesome.

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  48. I don’t eat meat & Ted only eats it every now and then, so I first want to say good for you! We use quinoa all the time (& always in place of rice now, even for stir-frys). Also, we try to put tofu in everything we make, whether it’s cubed or pureed.

    For crock pot recipes, check out Crock Pot 365 blog – it’s great!

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  49. My husband and I just started doing Meatless Mondays as a way toward the same goal. Some of my favorite recipes so far:
    http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/giada-de-laurentiis/rigatoni-with-vegetable-bolognese-recipe/index.html (Insanely delicious, and you’ll never miss the meat. I use whole wheat pasta in all my recipes.)
    http://allrecipes.com/Recipe/Butter-Chickpea-Curry/Detail.aspx (I make this with less potatoes and more chickpeas, and about double the spices. It’s sooo good, and it’s quick, and it’s easy to keep all the ingredients on hand.)
    I hope you’ll blog more about your experiences with this!!

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  50. That’s great, Jenna! I’ve been a vegetarian for about 15 years but I’m not preachy about it at all. I don’t begrudge anyone some meat consumption. I’d encourage everyone, though, to eat less meat and be more conscious of the source of the meat that they do eat. I’d recommend Mark Bittman’s Food Matters as a good guide for transitioning into lessmeatatarianism. His How to Cook Everything Vegetarian is also great. Good luck!

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      I'm a farm-raised almost-crunchy stroller-pushing picture-taking lifestyle-blog-writing gastronomy-obsessed divine-seeking thrift-store-combing cheese-inhaling pavement-pounding laughter-sprinkling lover of individuality and taking chances.
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