You love meat? We hear you. Nobody says you have to give it up. But, we’ve come a long way since the days of cave men, and it’s now recognised that eating more vegetables can make dramatic changes to your health.
Veganuary, a month-long event designed to encourage more people to go vegan, could be the perfect time to lower your meat eating and see how you feel as a result. Eating less meat and having more vegetables instead can dramatically alter your health and wellbeing, lessening the chance of serious disease.
Why your health benefits from less meat
Reducing your meat and dairy intake has numerous health benefits, including less risk of heart problems, cancer and strokes. Eating less meat also helps you lose excess weight, lowers your cholesterol, and improves your digestion.
The World Health Organisation has even categorised red meat as carcinogenic (can cause cancer), with processed meats (deli sausage and ham) being the worst culprits.
But I enjoy meat!
Thankfully, meat substitutes have come a long way and you’d be hard pushed to tell the difference. Vegan burgers, sausages and bacon (usually made from soya or pea protein) have the same texture and feel in the mouth as meat and are a perfect stand-in for burgers or barbecues.
Vegan cheese also comes in increasing varieties from smoked to soft or cheddar.
Even McDonalds has got in the act with the incredibly popular McPlant, which tastes exactly like their regular beef burgers.
As well as losing the meat you could try upping your vegetable intake. For example, try vegetable fajitas rather than chicken, or adding more vegetables to pasta sauces.
Other ways to cut down on meat consumption
It can be surprising how little you miss meat when you start cooking without it. Stir fries and curries are just as satisfying without the addition of beef or chicken, and potato chunks can add bulk if you prefer. Spaghetti bolognese and chilli con carne tastes identical with soya mince instead of beef.
You can also try shepherd’s pie with lentils in place of the meat, or a lasagne with vegetables. Pies can also be equally satisfying- a cheese and potato pie is a comforting, easy dinner and a vegetarian cottage pie is a great winter lunch. Pasta bakes are simple to throw together and pop in the oven and usually please the whole family.
Ways to continue eating less meat
If going meat-free full time isn’t for you then you could try cutting down for a few days a week, or doing Meatless Mondays. The key is to build more nutrition into your meals and cut down on foods that can cause harm. The NHS recommends eating no more than 70g of red meat a day- which is equivalent to one sausage. You could also try swapping meat meals for more fish- perhaps switching ham sandwiches for tuna, or steak for cod in breadcrumbs.
Further reading and information
Red meat and the risk of cancer- NHS
How to eat a balanced diet- NHS