A Meat Lover’s Guide To Going Meatless

 by Robyn O’Brien, founder of the AllergyKids Foundation, author, and Healthy Child Board member

I’m not good with recipes. In fact, I’m so inept at cooking that when I met Martha Stewart several years ago, I passed on having her sign the cookbooks she was handing out and had her sign the financial statements for her company instead. I simply couldn’t cook.

But as life would have it, when our youngest was diagnosed with food allergies, I suddenly realized that the processed food diet that I was feeding my family was loaded with all kinds of foreign proteins, artificial dyes and things that our grandmothers would never have recognized. And I had to take a crash course in cooking.

Gone were the days of nuking nuggets and pouring artificial colors onto noodles, and born were days filled with failed attempts in the kitchen, including burnt noodles and blackened pancakes. But I couldn’t turn back. I’d learned too much. And thankfully, things started to look up.

And in a constant effort to save money in order to buy more fruits and veggies (which are annoyingly priced so much higher than processed foods because of the way that we’ve structured agriculture in this country), I also had to learn how to reallocate the family budget.

So instead of buying meat for dinner one night a week, we decided to go meatless. It felt kind of radical in the beginning, after all, I’d been born and raised on meat at every meal. And like so many others, I’d been led to believe that if we didn’t have some piece of an animal on the dinner table that we were going to starve (or get fat, as The Zone Diet had made its impact on my food-thinking, too).

But one night a week, who could argue with that? It was perfectly in line with my 80/20 Rule: four out of five nights, we’d keep it business as usual, and on that fifth night, we were going to go meat-free. And in order to make it happen, we did it on Mondays so that we wouldn’t forget.

And as the years have rolled by, we’ve actually learned quite a lot about the role that our decision had on more than our family budget, as we learned how crops are mass-produced and genetically engineered primarily to feed livestock, and we found Meatless Mondays a great way to afford more fruits and vegetables.

So when a friend named Kim reached out after authoring a cookbook called The Meat Lover’s Meatless Cookbook, I was ready to pay attention. And as Kim shared her story about family members lost to heart disease, her own foody-isms and the pork chops she gnawed on as a kid, I took note because she was speaking my language.

And as I flipped through her cookbook that includes recipes for things like “Egg in the Hole” and “Reliable Stovetop Rice That Even My Husband Can Make,” I realized that I’d finally found a cookbook that I’d keep.

So, in honor of those of us who were raised on sausages and to Kim for her great work, I’m going to kick off Meatless Monday’s over on the AllergyKids Recipe blog, recognizing that diet, like religion, isn’t a “one size fits all” kind of thing.

But since we are all trying to get our kids to eat just a little bit better, I asked Kim if we could start with one of her kid-friendly recipes, Dino Mash. And thankfully, she said “yes.” Click through for Kim’s Dino Mash recipe and learn more about Kim’s book, The Meat Lover’s Meatless Cookbook, at KimDonnel.com.

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What are your favorite meatless meals?

Looking for more meatless recipes to try? Check out these goodie from the Eat Healthy recipe archives: