I received the following question from a reader: "How can I eat greener and less meatier?" Since my answer ended up being the length of an epic novel, I figured I should just make it a post.
I think the first thing to embrace when trying to shift your diet is that you must have an open mind! You will need to eat things that you might not be used to, and at first they might taste strange or your body might have unexpected reactions, but if you give it time everything will begin to seem normal. I can tell you from experience that when I started eating greener initially the flavors seemed really earthy (too earthy almost), but by diligently forcing myself to eat veggies with every meal I eventually learned to love that earthy flavor. Now my body craves the veggies in an almost audible way.
I would say there are two main components to eating less meat and more vegetables - learning how to supplement the protein with other meat-free options and then consuming enough fats so that your body can break down the food it consumes.
Eating beans and rice is probably the best way to supplement regularly consuming meat. The two items together act as a complete protein. Some of my favorite types of beans are pinto, black, and garbanzo beans. They are ready to eat out of the can (always rinse first) or can be cooked with other ingredients. Adding beans (like garbanzos) to your salads is another great way to get some protein.
You can also use tofu and other soy based products as a supplement, but I would suggest using these less frequently as there are some studies linking soy to health problems.
Adding Enough Fats:
I was listening to NPR yesterday and there was a story about how cooking our food is really important. I think people assume that if they add "fats" to their salads in the form of dressing or sauté their food in butter or oil, they are taking away from the nutritional value of the meal. In fact, quite the opposite is true! Fats are necessary for our body to break down the foods we eat and absorb the nutrients. My friend and fellow blogger, Rachel, has a great article on her blog Find Your Core. Check it out for more information!
Another good option for cutting back on meat is to make it a "side dish", meaning that the veggies take center stage in larger portions than the meat. This way you are still getting good, old fashion meat protein, but not consuming as much of it. Plus the veggies will help to move the negative things meat leaves behind through your body so it doesn't clog your arteries. (Personally, this is my favorite option. I love to eat meat!)
Finally, I'd say the best way to become a greener eater is to eat a home. While the food may be delicious, you have no idea what sort of ingredients go into your favorite restaurant meals. Even salads you get at restaurants can be low in nutrition (many use iceberg lettuce which is basically a "cop-out" lettuce). Going to the grocery store can be intimidating at first. It can be hard to judge how much food you actually need and what you will really eat. It takes some practice. I find going once every two weeks gives me enough time to consume most of what I buy before it goes bad, but doesn't leave me running low and scraping the cabinets for anything to eat, giving up, and going out for a burger.