Gemma McCaw’s top 5 ways to reduce your meat intake without missing out

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1 January 1970

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Reducing meat is good for you and the planet. Try swapping your serving of meat for these simple plantbased substitutes.

For some of us, meat has been such a staple of our daily diets that it’s hard to imagine life without it. But with clear evidence that reducing meat consumption can have a beneficial effect on both the environment and our health, perhaps it’s time we all look for ways to eat less of it.

Thanks to Kiwi food superstars such as Chelsea Winter and Nadia Lim, it’s never been easier to find ways to cook delicious vegetarian meals.

Through their plant-based cookbooks, they’re helping to make this healthy way of eating accessible and achievable. There are many benefits associated with increasing your plant intake, including better immunity, deeper sleep, improved mental clarity and reduced blood pressure. Plants are low in calories and high in nutrients, so you also get much better bang for your nutritional buck.

Eating a rainbow of fruit and veges is one of the keys to a healthy life, aiding both your internal and external systems. Not only will your body function better, the detoxifying effects of plants means your hair, skin and nails will glow. Whether you’re a flexitarian, worried about the environment or just keen to try eating less meat, now is the time to make it happen.

Introducing plantbased meals into your repertoire needn’t be daunting. Here are a few simple substitutes to try.

1. If you love chicken, try falafel

There are many plant-based protein options that make good substitutes for chicken, but falafel takes the cake for me as it’s packed full of flavour, is filling and works well in many traditional chicken dishes. Made from ground chickpeas, herbs and spices, falafel is a delicious addition to burgers, wraps and salads.

2. Enjoy mushrooms for meaty texture

Long known as meat for vegetarians, mushrooms are the perfect substitute for steak lovers. A large Portobello mushroom has the meaty texture and juicy flavour you want, and cooks beautifully on a barbecue. Mushrooms make great burgers and are tasty when sliced up for fajitas or speared onto a skewer along with other veges.

3. Switch beef mince for lentils

Mince is a favourite for many Kiwi families, but lentils make an easy plantbased alternative. The tasty legumes are easy to cook and work well in spaghetti bolognese, casseroles and even as burger patties. Not only will lentils bulk up your meal, but they’ll make it a hearty one, with their thick texture and filling quality. Plus, they’re a great source of plant protein. For an extra plant-based boost, switch pasta for spiralised courgette or beetroot.

4. Try variations of cauliflower

This is one of the most versatile vegetables around and does a great job of standing in for meat. Try using it in a curry in place of chicken or lamb, as it soaks up the flavours so well. Roast it whole with oil and flavourful spices and slice into “steaks” for a hearty meatless dinner option. Or grate it to create a nutritious rice alternative. Forget cauliflower cheese – there are so many other ways to enjoy this delicious vegetable.

5. Use chickpeas for hearty texture

The thick, hearty texture of chickpeas makes them the perfect substitute for red meats such as lamb or beef. Switch the meat in a casserole for chickpeas, or use them as the protein in a salad. They’re even great in a burger – just blitz them up and add spices for a plant-based patty. They’re also super easy to prepare, as they come tinned and ready to eat.

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