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Cutting Back on Meat? How to Eat and Feel Full

Many are trying to stretch their groceries as we ride out the economy. A glance at Web sites touting vegetarianism reminds me of foods that I’d rather not eat, such as tofu, tempeh, and other “fake meat” foods. Okay, tofu isn’t so bad if well prepared. Still, I don’t particularly enjoy cooking with it.

What stymied me was how to stay full while cutting back on meat. I experimented a lot. Like many people, I’ve started working beans into my diet. I prefer starting with dry beans, soaking them overnight before cooking them the next day. I make large batches of dishes such as refried beans and freeze the extra into small, manageable containers.

I find that cooking a stew and rice on a weekend makes for easy reheats during the rest of the week. Rice also freezes well and is easy to pull out as a side. I also rely on frozen vegetables and berries for convenience and variety.

Following is what works best for me. I have the energy I need. I last longer without feeling as if I’m lagging or starving. What amazed me is that before long, I was content to skip meat altogether.

You may still want to eat meat, and I think it’s best to listen to what your body is telling you. To each, his or her own. If you are interested on cutting back, however, the following may help.

Tips for Cutting Back on Meat

1. I need a ratio of about twice as many beans to rice in order to feel full.

2. A filling dish of beans and rice makes me crave a fresh salad or a light vegetable soup later in the day. Be prepared by having a head of romaine or a light soup handy.

3. I usually have steel-cut oatmeal for breakfast, a beans and rice dish for lunch, and a veggie dish later in the day. (Steel-cut oatmeal may also be made in large batches. Refrigerated, it will last about seven days. It is easy to reheat in the microwave with a little milk.)

4. If I have a serious workday ahead, and know that I have to have high energy through until lunch, then I’ll have refried beans and rice for breakfast. (The homemade kind, not canned.)

5. If I eat a filling dish of beans and rice, it’s almost too much protein for me if I have meat later in the day. I did it once and I had a food coma for nearly two days!

6. Light colored beans have more protein. That means they’ll be more filling. Try pinto beans, cannellini, or navy beans.

7. Sometimes I crave plain old pasta after I’ve been eating this way. Just pasta and tomato sauce, or pasta and Parmesan cheese. No meat needed (for me).

8. A dish that combines beans and meat, such as chili, may or may not be filling. I’m not as full after a dish made of kidney beans. I’m very full after a bowl of white chili, made of chicken and white beans. A thinner soup, such as minestrone, may or may not leave me full for long, depending on the ratio of beans to the other ingredients.