Mediterranean Diet: Eat Less Meat in 5 Steps

chickpeas with spinach

More and more studies are showing that the consumption of meat and more specifically red meat and processed meat is associated with a number of chronic diseases. A new review of studies from Mayo Clinic with the title “Is Meat Killing Us?” included 1.5 million people and showed that consumption of red meat and processed meat was associated with higher all cause mortality, in other words higher risk of dying from all causes.

The researchers note that research on fish and chicken is not conclusive, but it appears that they do reduce mortality when they replace red meat in the diet.

So basically once again the Mediterranean diet pattern appears to be an ideal diet as is demonstrated through this review. Red meat is consumed once a week, with the diet being mostly vegetarian with chicken and fish once a week.

But how does one eat less red meat especially when the westernized diet considers red meat a necessary part of a complete dinner or the fact that most lunch sandwiches usually include some sort of deli (processed) meat?

Here are 5 steps to reduce meat in your diet, the Mediterranean way.

1. Cut down on meat gradually.
Instead of cutting out meat completely, start out by including meat as a side portion. So rather than eating a 5-6 ounce serving, cut down to 2 ounces of meat and fill the rest of the plate with vegetables and grains.

2. Replace deli meats in your sandwich.
Instead of a ham and cheese you can make a cheese sandwich with the addition of plenty of vegetables, as well as healthy fats such as avocado or olive oil. You can also use tahini or other nut butters in your sandwich to add a hint of protein and fat to your sandwich.

3. Turn your vegetables and beans into patties.
Greek cuisine has a large number of what we call pseudo-patties, they are basically fritters or patties made with vegetables and sometimes eggs and cheese, instead of meat, hence the name. Popular ones include tomato patties from Santorini, and chickpea patties and they are delicious and filling. You can serve them with a yogurt dip and a salad and you have a complete and filling meal.

4. Learn to make vegetable based main courses.
Here in Greece the traditional diet is mostly vegetarian and one of the most common (and loved) category of dishes are vegetables stewed in tomato sauce and plenty of olive oil. I have talked about this category known as lathera extensively. They are very filling because you are basically consuming large amounts of vegetables but also a good amount of olive oil providing satiety. Popular dishes include green bean stew (fasolakia), peas (arakas), briami (a Greek version of ratatouille), and many more. Accompany with feta cheese and a slice of bread.

5. Follow a schedule.
Once you are able to reduce the meat throughout the week (step 1), try out this weekly schedule: Red meat once a week, Chicken once a week, Fish once a week, Beans twice a week and Vegetable stews (step 4) twice a week.

Photo by Elena Paravantes © All Right Reserved

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  1. Virginia McGill says:

    How do I get permission to print the recipes?
    I get locked out. I have your beginners book but I would like to keep some of these recipes.

  2. joanne knight says:

    Thank you Elena for this article. I first came across your book after my endocrinologist recommended a MD to help control my weight and help me lose some too, since I had my thyroid removed I’ve struggled. Then I came across your website back in May 2023 and I use it plus your book, but hadn’t come across this article which has given me new insight and things to consider, thank you for the link in the week of Mediterranean eating emails. You have helped me more than you know

  3. I too would like to see the recipe for the chickpeas with spinach with sun dried tomatoes, it looks delicious. Having read many of your recipes and making several of them, I would love to give this one a go, particularly as I was looking at your site today specifically for chickpea recipes

  4. Very useful post for people looking to reduce their meat consumption, Elena 🙂 My question is about daily protein content, especially for the days with vegetable stews. If I suggest the Greek/Mediterranean diet, as outlined here, to some people, they will be concerned that they are not getting enough protein (I am thinking of older, average-weight persons who don’t eat the “typical” American diet, but who tend to think of meat and fish as the major protein sources). It would take a lot of feta cheese to add enough protein, and not everyone can eat a lot of dairy products. I’ll also be interested to read an answer about the second meal of the day, which other commenters have raised. I basically do this kind of diet for myself, but when you have house guests, it can get tricky 😉

  5. Linda Paparsenos says:

    Yes I have found this site so valuable especially living in Greece. similar to what MICHELLE asked about lunches I have s similar problem with supper, evening meals. e follow the old Greek custom of main meal at midday. My husband and I as well as my single son, who usually eats with us, are all overweight. I have tried keeping evening to yogurt but we are all into the fridge scavenging. I follow pretty much your plan for weekly dinner menu but it all falls apart in the evening. So keeping within your guidelines any suggestions for no fuss, little or no cooking for light evening meals? We have 2 eggs once week and tuna salad once. After that it’s sandwiches and leftovers.

  6. Wonderful nutritional advice. Thank you! What would you recommend for lunches , ie how many veggie, legume, meat and fish meals? I love your recipes too. We had the spinach and rice dish for dinner tonight with a salad.

  7. Julie Rigolfi says:

    I am in love with your site!!!!

  8. Raina Milosheff says:

    Where can I find the recipie in the picture you posted above and what is it called? Thank you!

  9. Linda Elliott says:

    Such a wonderful post. Thank you so much for sharing.