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How to Eat Less Meat Without Eating More Carbs

Provided by Centrum®

Thinking about reducing how much meat you eat, but don’t want to commit to being a vegetarian? Luckily, you don’t even have to go full veggie to reap the benefits: Reducing your red meat intake can help with your cardiovascular health, save you money, and help the environment. But when you’re trying to eat less meat, whether it’s just for #MeatlessMondays or because you are trying out vegetarian life, it can be easy to replace those meals with foods like pasta, cheese sandwiches, and pizza. But you shouldn’t fill your plate with carbs and just top it with a handful of veggies; the USDA recommends that at least half your plate be filled with vegetables. Follow these tips for creating healthy meals — which feature those veggies, as well as protein.

1. Make Sure You’re Still Getting 50 Grams of Protein Per Day

That’s the recommended daily value for Americans based on a 2,000-calorie diet. The easiest way to do that is obviously eating meat, which is a complete protein (and contains all the essential amino acids you need in adequate amounts). But meat isn’t the only source of complete proteins: Dairy products, eggs, seafood, and soy (like tofu) are also complete protein sources, so depending on what you’ll eat, make sure you pack your plate with some of those foods at every meal.

2. Eat Nutrient-Dense Foods

You should always eat nutrient-dense foods, but they’re especially important when you’re cutting back on meat. That’s because nutrient-dense foods are full of vitamins, minerals, dietary fiber, and other good-for-you stuff, plus they naturally have little saturated fat or added saturated fat, and little-to-no sodium, added sugars, or refined starches. Choose meatless options like beans and peas, eggs, fat-free and low-fat dairy products, and unsalted nuts and seeds.

3. Eat More Seafood

If you’re not going full vegetarian, seafood is a great alternative source for animal protein—and most people don’t get enough of it. In addition to being a complete protein source, seafood is a nutrient-dense food source as well. Choose fresh seafood options when you’re shopping, and try baking, broiling, or grilling it—none of those cooking methods add extra fat.

4. Serve Your Protein with Veggies

Because veggies typically have a lot of fiber, they can help you feel full for longer. And many non-starchy vegetables—like tomatoes, onions, cauliflower, eggplant, bell peppers, dark green vegetables like collard greens and kale, and Brussels sprouts—are low-carb, and full of nutrients. It’s super easy to add calcium-enriched tofu or iron-rich cheese to your kale salad, to cook up broccoli and tomatoes in a healthy fatty acid like avocado or soy oil, or to mix ground flaxseed, which contains essential fatty acids, into your spinach smoothie. And when you’re making side dishes, keep them veggie-heavy.

5. Consider a Multivitamin to Cover Any Missing Nutrients and Minerals

If you’re cutting down on meat, it could also mean you’re restricting the amount of certain vitamins and minerals your body needs to work properly. The less meat you eat, the less vitamin B12 you’ll get, since that vitamin is naturally found almost exclusively in animal products. And you could also miss out on iron and zinc. Eating foods high in those nutrients and minerals is key, but you can also take a multivitamin like Centrum to make sure you’re getting enough.

Get more great health and wellness stories at BHG.com/Strive.