Whether vegetarian, vegan, or pescatarian, variations on plant-based diets may seem like the new normal. You probably know quite a few people who limit or omit animal products in their diet, and plant-based products have become so ubiquitous you can find vegan options almost anywhere including fast food restaurants.
There are a lot of good reasons to embrace a plant based diet from health benefits to environmental benefits to ethical considerations, but it might not be right for everyone. It can be totally possible to eat healthy and get all your nutrients through a plant-based diet, but everyone’s bodies are different and for some people it might just not work.
If you’ve tried a vegetarian diet but want switch back, you might not be sure how to reintroduce meat. With so much conflicting information out there, it can be overwhelming and stressful to make the flip. I turned to Amanda A. Kostro Miller, RD, LDN, who serves on the advisory board for Smart Healthy Living for answers on how to reintroduce meat to your diet. Here’s what she had to say about how to eat meat after being vegetarian.
If you’ve been following a plant-based diet for some time, it’s probably not the best idea to dive back in head first and start eating meat for every meal. Instead, Kostro Miller recommends to “start with one meal per week with meat and see if you can tolerate it.” This way, you’ll give your body a chance to ease back into eating meat and see how you feel.
If you were a big meat lover before switching to a plant-based diet, you might be tempted to head straight for all-you-can-eat Korean BBQ or grab a burger as your first carnivorous endeavor, but you might want to reconsider.
Kostro Miller suggests that you “choose lean proteins like skinless poultry or shrimp so that you can minimize the amount of saturated fat you consume from meat.” Sticking to those healthier options can help make the transition as easy on your body as possible.
Another important consideration when reintroducing meat to your diet is how much meat you’re eating overall.
“Even though meats can have lots of nutrition, you should still keep them to a quarter of the plate. Another quarter of the plate should be starches and half of the plate should be veggies,” Kostro Miller advises. This advice is a great reminder that while meat can absolutely be part of a healthy diet, it’s still important to include as many veggies as possible and generally make plants the star of your plate.
Rather than boxing yourself into a dichotomous carnivore or herbivore category, strive to have as much variety in your diet as possible. A flexitarian diet emphasizes fruits, vegetables, and other plants while still including animal products and might be a perfect switch for you if a strict plant based diet is no longer working for you. I love the term flexitarian because it suggests fluidity and flexibility in eating habits and gives you space to find the balance that works best for you. Consider adopting this approach to eating as you approach eating meat after being vegetarian.