What to replace meat with?

replace meat

It’s possible to limit your meat consumption while maintaining a balanced diet! There are many alternatives to meat, such as lentils, quinoa, beans, tofu, tempeh, and more. There’s an abundance of options to choose from. However, it’s important to know how to balance your meals to ensure you’re not missing out on any nutrients and staying in good shape. Let’s explore this planet- and wallet-friendly foods that can replace meat.

Why go meatless?

There are several reasons why more and more people are interested in replacing meat with plant-based alternatives. The decision to reduce meat consumption is a personal choice. Some individuals want to contribute to a more eco-responsible way of eating, while others aim to lighten their diet and improve their physical well-being.

For our well-being

To maintain good health, ANSES (Agence nationale de sécurité sanitaire de l’alimentation, de l’environnement et du travail) recommends limiting meat consumption to 500g per adult per week. Reducing meat intake can help you stay in good shape and maintain a balanced diet. While meat can be part of a varied diet, it shouldn’t dominate our plates. For those who consume a lot of meat, incorporating other sources of protein in their daily meals can be an excellent way to achieve dietary balance.

For our planet

Health is not the only consideration when it comes to meat consumption. Excessive meat consumption has detrimental effects on the environment. Animal farming is responsible for approximately 15% of greenhouse gas emissions, which contribute to global warming. Overproduction of animal products leads to negative consequences such as climate change, groundwater pollution, deforestation for animal feed production, and more. Consuming meat from eco-responsible sources while incorporating a variety of plant proteins can be a more sustainable alternative.

For your wallet

Meat can be an expensive food item, especially when opting for good quality. Consuming fewer animal products and selecting them from local and reliable sources, rather than over-consuming low-quality meat, can be beneficial for both our bodies and our budgets. Replacing a steak with a combination of legumes and grains can provide a protein-rich and cost-effective alternative. Purchasing legumes in bulk can also help save money, and they have a long shelf life. Furthermore, legumes are versatile in the kitchen, allowing for reduced meat consumption while saving a significant amount of money.

For the animals

The living conditions of animals in intensive livestock farms often do not align with ethical preferences. By consuming consciously, we can choose to reduce our meat consumption and opt for more humane and ethically raised meat. Supporting small local farms that prioritize animal welfare is an important step towards responsible eating. Although ethically raised meat tends to be more expensive, by consuming less of it, we make a conscious choice for our health, the planet, and animal welfare.

How to replace meat?

We’ve established that there are many reasons to reduce meat consumption, but how do you go about it? Let’s explore different ways to replace meat while meeting our protein and nutrient needs.

Meat alternatives

Fish and seafood

When considering alternatives to meat, fish, and seafood are excellent options. Unlike meat, fish and seafood provide protein and omega-3 fatty acids, making them a valuable dietary choice. It’s recommended to include fish in your diet twice a week, with one serving to be oily fish. Replacing a meat dish with a fish dish is a step towards reducing meat consumption. Fish has a similar amino acid profile to meat, offering complete proteins that are easily absorbed by the body. Choosing small oily fish, which are rich in beneficial lipids and less polluted than large predatory fish, adds variety to your diet.


If you’re looking for a simple alternative to meat, eggs are a great option. They are rich in protein and offer an excellent amino acid profile. Eggs are versatile in the kitchen and provide various micronutrients to support your body’s needs. However, it’s important to note that eggs are an animal by-product and not suitable for a vegan diet.

Pulses and cereals

Pulses, such as lentils, chickpeas, kidney beans, and others, are popular vegetable alternatives to meat. When combined with cereals, legumes can provide the body with the necessary amino acids. If you want to replace meat without resorting to animal-derived foods, pulses are a suitable choice. Opt for high-quality cereals like rice, quinoa, spelled, buckwheat, rye, and others. Wholegrain products are preferable.

By combining ⅓ legumes with ⅔ bowls of cereal in a meal, you create a balanced combination of amino acids that provides sufficient protein. So, to replace meat, consider dishes that combine legumes and cereals for a protein boost without relying on meat. This combination is particularly beneficial for individuals following a vegan diet, as it offers high-quality plant-based proteins.

Dairy products

Dairy products, like meat, contain protein. Although they are not considered primary protein sources due to relatively lower protein content, dairy products can complement a meal’s protein intake. Choosing various dairy options such as cheese, yogurt, and fromage frais can increase the protein content of your meal. You can incorporate dairy products into your meal or enjoy them as a dessert with fresh fruit. When choosing dairy, it’s recommended to opt for organic products to support environmental sustainability and animal welfare.


Tofu is a popular choice among vegans as a meat replacement. It can be cooked in creative ways to mimic meat in various dishes. Nowadays, there are vegan products made from soy available in the market, such as “chicken” nuggets, “bacon” slices, and “steaks” made from processed tofu. However, these alternatives are often highly processed and should not be consumed regularly. If you enjoy tofu, it’s best to learn how to cook it yourself to naturally incorporate plant proteins into your diet.

Veggie steak

Veggie steak is another alternative to meat that can be prepared using legumes, cereals, or tofu. Many vegetarian options are now available in organic stores and supermarkets, offering a tasty way to replace a portion of meat with a plant-based alternative. If you prefer to stick to familiar eating habits while reducing meat consumption, veggie steak can be an excellent choice.

What to replace meat in the evening?

If you typically consume meat for dinner, you can easily opt for plant-based alternatives to your favorite meat-based dishes. Many dishes traditionally prepared with meat can be equally delicious when made with plant-based ingredients alone. To replace meat in the evening, select your favorite dishes and transform them into vegetarian versions. Whether it’s lasagna, tacos, ravioli, salads, pizzas, or any other dish, you can prepare them in a 100% vegetarian way without sacrificing taste or enjoyment.

What to replace red meat with?

Red meat is often considered a primary concern when it comes to excessive meat consumption. Its production is believed to contribute significantly to greenhouse gas emissions and other environmental issues. Consuming excessive amounts of red meat also has negative health impacts. However, it doesn’t mean you have to give up red meat forever unless you choose to become vegetarian or vegan.

Balance is crucial when it comes to well-being. Instead of eliminating red meat, you can gradually reduce consumption by replacing it with plant-based alternatives on certain occasions. Many people find success by starting with one vegetarian day per week or alternating between vegetarian and carnivorous weeks. If you wish to go further and adopt a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle, consulting a dietitian can be beneficial to ensure you meet all your nutritional needs and avoid any deficiencies.

What to replace meat with for protein?

When reducing meat consumption, it’s important to replace it with alternatives that provide adequate protein and essential amino acids. Gradually transitioning and evaluating the impact on your well-being is recommended.

To replace meat without compromising protein intake, it’s essential to familiarize yourself with the protein content and amino acid profiles of different foods. This knowledge allows you to identify suitable replacements for meat while ensuring you don’t miss out on essential nutrients.

Here are some foods with their approximate protein content per 100g:

  • Oily fish: 26g
  • Whitefish: 25g
  • Eggs: 14g
  • Tofu: 14g
  • Cheese: 12g
  • Greek yogurt: 8g
  • Quinoa: 3g

Considering that an adult should consume a minimum of 0.8g of protein per kilogram of body weight per day, you can calculate your protein needs accordingly throughout the day.

How to balance a meat-free meal?

When reducing meat consumption, it’s important to ensure your meals remain balanced and provide all the essential nutrients. By visualizing your plate divided into portions, you can create balanced meals without missing out on vital elements.

A general guideline is to fill half of your plate with a variety of raw and cooked vegetables. Aim for a quarter of the plate to be raw vegetables and the other quarter to be lightly cooked vegetables to preserve their nutritional qualities. This leaves the remaining half of the plate to be divided between cereals and protein sources.

For meat replacements, you can fill that quarter of the plate with legumes, a portion of fish, two eggs, or a veggie steak with tofu, depending on your dietary preferences.

Finding alternatives to meat and transitioning to a more plant-based diet doesn’t have to be complicated or time-consuming. Simple, quick, and delicious meals can be prepared without relying on meat. Pulses, animal by-products, and fish are healthy alternatives rich in protein and essential nutrients. For individuals considering a strictly vegetarian or vegan diet, consulting a nutritionist can help create a personalized dietary plan to ensure adequate amino acid intake and overall nutritional balance. Enjoy exploring new flavors and embracing a diet that benefits your well-being and the planet!

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