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Transitioning to a plant-based diet: How to slowly eliminate ground meat in a recipe

ByDr. Chu


So you’ve made a decision to reduce your meat consumption by transitioning to a plant-based diet, but you aren’t quite sure how to start.  You have so many questions. Will my family eat what I make? Will I end up making a second meal when they refuse?  Will it even taste good? Will we miss eating meat?  Will I ever get to eat the foods I previously enjoyed? Is this even possible?

It can be overwhelming to the point where you give up before you have even started.  I know.  I’ve been there.  

Over the years, we have tried, then stopped, then tried again, then stopped again. 

Here’s the thing.  It doesn’t have to be an all or nothing decision.  You can shift course at any time if it isn’t working for your family.  There is more than one way to make this transition and remember this is a marathon, not a sprint. 

Here is an example of how you can make a slow step-wise transition to “de-meatify” a dish by slowly eliminating ground meat in a recipe by dilution.

THE ORIGINAL RECIPE

One of our family staples before we started our plant-based journey was spaghetti with bolognese sauce, AKA meat sauce.  The original recipe included 2 lb of meat - lean ground beef and sweet Italian pork sausage. The only vegetable in the dish aside from tomatoes was onion and garlic.  

Original recipe with meat

PHASE ONE: SUBSTITUTE RED MEAT

The first change I made was to substitute the ground beef with ground chicken/turkey and the pork sausage with chicken sausage.  I made it this way for years.

Phase 1 reducing meat

PHASE TWO: SUBSTITUTE HALF THE MEAT WITH TOFU

The next thing we did was make a 50/50 ground chicken/turkey and tofu mixture to substitute the 100% meat mixture. I use either extra firm tofu or high protein tofu since it is drier and crumbles easily. There was still 2 lb of this mixture in the sauce. 

Phase 2 further reducing meat in recipe

PHASE THREE: ADD MORE VEGETABLES

You can reduce the meat/tofu mixture to 1 lb and substitute the other 1 lb with vegetables such as carrots, celery, bell pepper, and zucchini.

Phase 3 moving from meat recipe to plant based recipe

FINAL PHASE: ALL PLANTS RECIPE

Hooray! You did it! You have successfully weaned your tastebuds slowly to accept a pasta sauce now packed with vegetables. It worked because it wasn't a complete 180 degree change. This concept of slow change works with all kinds of recipes when you are trying to make substitutions of animal-based ingredients with plant-based ingredients. This method has worked best for my family and I hope it works for yours. Give it a try!

All plants recipe

 

Cherie Chu, MD DipABLM, is a board-certified pediatrician and a certified diplomate of lifestyle medicine. She is passionate about helping children learn healthy lifestyle habits because of the immeasurable benefits of doing so in childhood and beyond.

Dr. Chu is the founder of Wellness Pediatrician, an educational website dedicated to wellness in children through lifestyle medicine. She currently practices outpatient general pediatrics in San Diego where she incorporates her knowledge of lifestyle medicine into her daily interactions with her pediatric patients and their families. She is also the mother of twins and credits her children as being her greatest teachers.

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*This website has been developed by Ahimsa LLC. This site offers health and nutritional information and is designed for educational purposes only. While many of our experts are practicing clinicians, viewing this site, receipt of information contained on this site or the transmission of information from or to this site does not constitute a physician-patient relationship. The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment, and does not constitute medical or other professional advice. Any information provided is not meant to address a specific situation, person or event, even if you provide information about a specific person or situation to Ahimsa. Always seek the advice of your child’s own physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking it because of something you have read on this site. Please click here for more information on our disclaimer. Effective Date: October 7, 2019, Updated 6/17/2021. © 2021 Ahimsa LLC, All Rights Reserved