Ready to give Meatless Mondays a shot but not sure where to start? It's not as intimidating as some might think
If it seems that everyone you know is discussing going vegetarian or at least reducing their meat intake, you’re not alone. The Economist found that a quarter of 25- to 34-year-old Americans say they are vegans or vegetarians, and there are a number of reasons behind that: Whether people are trying to cut back on meat for health reasons, for environmental reasons or just because vegetarian recipes are achieving high visibility on platforms like Pinterest and Instagram, it’s become popular to cut out meat from one’s diet for a day or two a week. Restaurants are following suit, with everyone from Burger King to Taco Bell offering meatless alternatives. All of this means it’s easier than ever to experiment with plant-based eating – so what’s stopping you?
Davis Lindsey, the Chief Farm and Food Officer at New York’s Lundy Farm, wants to break down any reservations people might have about cooking exclusively with plants. As the former vegetable manager at Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture, Lindsey gained extensive experience in how to make magic out of local, in-season produce, and now he cooks plant-based, literal farm-to-table (as in, it was grown on the property’s organic farm) meals for the hotel’s guests, which recently included a group hosted by Patrick Janelle and sponsored by Wonderful Pistachios. Though not everyone may be up for the experience of trying to cook turnips 15 ways in the winter, Lindsey has some pro tips for even the most inexperienced home cook to start reducing meat consumption and incorporating more plants into their diet.
What do you think the biggest barrier is for someone who is considering a plant-based diet?
“I think the biggest challenge with convincing folks that like to eat meat that they should have a plant-based diet is people don’t feel like they can feel full when they eat vegetarian. And I think there are a lot more ways of incorporating fats into your diet with vegetarian food, and that can make more of a substantial meal,” Lindsey says. “It’s that flavor and that feeling of being full, and if you can cook that way, then I think the flavor and the taste kind of shows itself.”
Some ways to add healthy fats to vegetarian foods to help increase satiety include cooking vegetables with plenty of “good fat” oils (including olive and avocado), adding nuts including cashews, walnuts and pistachios to dishes from salads to pastas to add texture and protein, and (if not fully vegan) adding cheese or dairy-based sauces to make the meal more filling.
Is going vegetarian more labor-intensive?
For those who are used to a handful of 30-minute chicken dishes, it may seem like a lot more work to learn new vegetarian dishes or to cook several different veggie recipes for a complete-feeling meal. But Lindsey says that doesn’t have to be the case. “If you look at a vegetable, you want to look at the anatomy of the vegetable, and you don’t really need to do much to it,” he says. “You don’t need to dice it up into a million pieces, you can just cook it as it is. When doing less to it, vegetable cooking is extremely easy; it can be done as easily and for significantly cheaper than doing that whole chicken.”
Won’t I get bored of eating broccoli every day?
Don’t limit yourself to one cooking method! “If you have access to a grill, grill [the vegetable]! Give it a little bit of caramelization to give a little more of what meat eaters maybe are used to, like that little bit of char,” Lindsey suggests. He also recommends branching out from vegetables that you’re used to, to increase the variety in your diet. “Just try things out, and if you don’t know anything, if you don’t know the varieties of vegetables at the farmer’s market [or what to do with them], talk to the farmers, they’ll tell you. They’re great cooks.”
Lindsey is also a big proponent of shopping as locally as possible, particularly at farmer’s markets. And yes, that means making the most of the root veggies and hearty greens that grow throughout the winter, which on the farm means preparation all year round. “You can [fruits and vegetables] in the summer so you have more variety in that winter, and that’s traditionally how it’s done,” he says. “If that’s not an option for you, then I think getting things that are fresh from California is perfectly fine.”
Need inspiration to make the most of the vegetables you’re getting? “I really like The Flavor Bible because it doesn’t give you recipes to follow, it links what ingredients match up with other ingredients, so you can source an Ottolenghi or Alice Waters cookbook and look at general recipes, but then source The Flavor Bible to mix things up a little bit and have some fun.”
Any tips for getting my kid on board with more veggies in their diet?
“My answer would be to bring the kid with you to shop for that ingredient first, and that’s your ticket in to getting them to eat it,” he says. “Get them involved in the cooking process.” And if all else fails: dipping sauces. (Hey, even if they’re dipping broccoli in ketchup, at least they’re eating it.)
Is buying a lot of organic produce going to be prohibitively expensive?
Lindsey says that while organic can be a few dollars more, he believes it’s worth it to save elsewhere in your budget to invest in food that’s free of many chemicals. Or if money is really tight, “Spend your money at a farmer’s market over organic,” he says. “The organic industry is in the middle of a lot of change right now, so knowing who’s producing your food is perhaps more important than that label.”
What if I can’t convince the people in my life to give up meat?
“Just have conversations with people, you know?” he recommends. “Cooking is also a really great way to do it – having a nice meal with friends and family with 10 people around the table, there’s no reason why someone who always wants to have meat can’t give that a shot.” And of course, you can take smaller steps by reversing the portion sizes that Americans typically think of for normal meals, and making a small amount of meat the side to a large plate of vegetables.