Whether you’re fully committed and capable of going vegan, are halfway there at vegetarian or are simply willing to have a few meat-free days, all options are great because not only do they benefit the environment, they also benefit your health.
For starters, a plant-based diet is high in fibre and various vitamins. It’s also much lower in calories because despite meat being high in protein, it’s also pretty high in fat. Eating red meat also puts you at risk of heart disease and diabetes so a reduction in red meat intake will in turn, lower your risk of these diseases.
A meat-free diet is also much lower in toxins. A lot of processed meat (like ham and sausages), poultry and seafood contain high levels of chemicals and impurities, thanks to the way in which they make it to the supermarket shelves. Vegan meals or diets, typically contain a lot less processed foods and are largely organic due to the amount of fruit and vegetables.
The immediate worry when talking about meat-free days is that you won’t get enough protein. But interestingly, soybeans contain 36g of protein for every 100g, compared to 31g of protein in the same amount of chicken. And there are plenty of high protein, plant-based options to choose from such as chickpeas, lentils and black beans. If you are attempting a meat-free day (or diet) rather than a vegan one, then eggs and other dairy are also great options.
Not only do you tend to consume less calories without meat, but you could also feel fuller for longer by adding pulses and legumes into your diet. Even if you aren’t overly committed to going meat-free, there are still a whole loads of benefits to trying to change up your diet and add a variety of sources of protein, fat and carbs, rather than just meat and vegetables every day. Exploring options like tofu and quinoa will keep your diet exciting and make you less likely to binge on foods you shouldn’t.
Even on days when you do eat meat, you should be careful not to eat too much. When your meal is plated up, half of it should be filled with vegetables, a quarter should be made up by carbs and a quarter by protein (that would be the meat in this case) with a small portion of fat on there too (like nuts or avocado). Although it’s getting easier and easier to eat less meat, with great meaty-textured alternatives such as pulled jackfruit (instead of pork) or pulsed beetroot with beans (a great alternative to steak or burgers).
Going meat-free is not only good for your body, but for your mind too. Thanks to the element of freshness in a meat-free diet, it keeps the mind clear and gives you plenty of nutrients. There are also a lot of brain-boosting fruits and vegetables such as broccoli and blueberries.
So even if you can’t (or don’t want to) commit to going vegetarian or vegan, there is a rise in the number of people calling themselves ‘flexitarians’. This means that they largely eat a plant-based diet but occasionally include meat and diary when they feel like it. And I’m sure that’s something that we can all work with.