Cutting down on meat? Be careful what you replace it with.

To add protein to a meatless diet, sprinkle chickpeas onto a salad. (Gil Guelfucci/GETTY IMAGES/FLICKR)

If you are trying to eat less meat, you have plenty of company. Our cultural tide is flowing steadily in that direction. Just look around — there are multiple best-selling books touting the benefits of plant-based eating; theMeatless Monday campaign has gone mainstream, with awareness and participation climbing rapidly over the past decade; and the word “flexitarian” is now in the Merriam-Webster dictionary (meaning “one whose normally meatless diet occasionally includes meat or fish”).

Americans still eat about triple the global average of meat, but consumption trends show we are starting to back off. And people no longer consider beef-, pork- and poultry-free meals a fringe idea: 47 percent of those polled by the Vegetarian Resource Group said they eat at least one vegetarian meal each week, and the group reports one in four people says he or she is a “meat reducer,” actively trying to eat less of it. It’s a trend supported by our country’s top nutrition advisory committee which, in its recent report for the Dietary Guidelines update, recommended we cut back on meat for the sake of our health and the environment.

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