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Flex Appeal: Eating Humanely Doesn't Have to Be All-or-Nothing

Take steps toward a healthier, more humane diet

Guide to Meat-Free Meals

  • David Sack/Getty

For some, the idea of overhauling a lifetime of dietary habits can be intimidating. As Josh Balk, outreach director for The HSUS’s Factory Farming Campaign, says: “Not many people are willing to go from being an ardent meat eater to a vegetarian overnight.”

But it doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing proposition. Whether your primary incentive is helping the environment, improving animal welfare, or addressing health concerns, you can take a significant first step by becoming a flexitarian. The term blends “flexible” and “vegetarian” to describe those who take a part-time approach to avoiding meat.

“A flexitarian is waking up every day and trying to be more vegetarian,” says Dawn Jackson Blatner, spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association and author of The Flexitarian Diet. “It’s not going to be perfect; it’s about progress.”

In promoting conscientious eating, The HSUS embraces the Three Rs—reducing the consumption of animal products; refining the diet by avoiding foods created in the worst production systems (for example, switching to cage-free eggs); and replacing animal products with plant-based foods. Popular programs such as Meatless Mondays—adopted by colleges and school districts around the country—have helped people see, one day a week, how easy and delicious vegetarian cuisine can be. And Vegan Before 6, developed by New York Times columnist and author Mark Bittman, takes it one step further—by promoting the daily consumption of plant-based products until dinnertime.

Learn more about author Mark Bittman »

Simple steps for flexing your food choices »

Whatever the approach, finding tasty substitutes can help with the transition, especially when re-creating your favorite comfort foods. The Daiya product in this creamy macaroni and cheese recipe has the melt and stretch qualities of dairy cheeses—minus the hormones and antibiotics. And in the wilted spinach salad, Field Roast uses Yukon gold potatoes, Granny Smith apples, rubbed sage, and ginger to create a smoked apple sage sausage so flavorful and textured you’ll never miss the meat on your plate.

Simple Menu Suggestions

Not every meal needs to be a gourmet tour de force. Vegetarian dishes can be as ambitious or as simple as you desire. For quick and easy eats, try these delicious suggestions.


Fruit smoothie
Oatmeal with dairy-free milk and fruit
Cereal with dairy-free milk
Bagel with peanut butter or dairy-free cream cheese
Soy yogurt with fruit
Pancakes with maple syrup and fresh berries


Veggie burger and fries
Sloppy joes made with meatless crumbles
Hummus wrap with diced vegetables
Vegetable soup with sourdough bread
Pasta with marinara sauce and vegetarian meatballs
Mock turkey sandwich and chips


Grilled veggie and tofu fajitas
Burritos with grilled vegetables and black beans or meatless crumbles
Vegetable and tofu stir-fry over rice
Veggie chili with corn bread
Pizza with soy cheese and meatless pepperoni
Lentil soup with salad and garlic bread

Read more from the Guide to Meat-Free Meals »

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