Try going meat-free once a week and feel the benefits
The world’s total meat consumption stands at more than 300 million metric tonnes per year, having risen from seven million in the 1960s. Although, meat provides a good source of protein, vitamins and minerals in your diet, it can have a negative effect on your health and the environment.
Eating too much red or processed meat can increase your risk of bowel cancer, while eating too much high in saturated fat meat raises blood cholesterol increasing your risk of heart disease. Having at least one meat-free day a week will likely reduce your calorie and saturated fat intake, help your heart and help the planet one meat-free meal at a time.
Not sure if you’re eating too much meat?
The Department of Health recommends to eat a maximum of 70g of red or processed meat in any one day. To give you an idea of what a 70g portion of meat would look like, a cooked breakfast containing two sausages and two rashers of bacon is equivalent to 130g. If that is a standard breakfast for you, followed by a ham sandwich for lunch and steak for dinner, it’s likely you’re eating too much meat and would highly benefit from reducing the amount of meat you eat in a day.
Many people have signed up to Meat-free Mondays to dedicate Mondays as the one day of the week they’ll have a completely plant based diet. The campaign was created in 2009 to raise awareness of the detrimental environmental impact of animal agriculture and industrial fishing.
Tips for going meat-free
- Always eat your five portions of fruit and vegetables every day.
- Build meals around wholegrain starchy carbohydrates such as rice, pasta, bread, cereals and potatoes.
- Include dairy foods such as milk, cheese and yoghurt, or dairy alternatives such as soya milk and yoghurt.
- Add beans, pulses and other grains to your meals for an intake of protein.
- Use unsaturated oils and spreads.
- Drink plenty of water (the government recommends six to eight cups or glasses a day).
Small changes, make big differences
Cutting down on meat can have a positive impact on the environment and wildlife.
Animal agriculture contributes to 14 to 18% of global greenhouse-gas emissions, this amounts to more than all forms of transportation combined. Sheep and cows largely contribute to releasing huge volumes of methane into the atmosphere that adds to climate change.
Eating meat also has an effect on your water footprint and water pollution. To produce just one steak, takes an equivalent of 50 bathtubs full of water. As well as this, the pesticides, herbicides and other chemicals used on crops damage soil, human health, sea-life, wildlife and create ecological ‘dead zones’ in the ocean.
Switching to mycoprotein
Mycoprotein is a meat substitute that derives from a natural fungus. Mycoprotein is naturally high in protein and is low in fat, saturated fat, carbohydrates, and contains no sugar. Mycoprotein also has a significantly smaller carbon footprint and requires less land and water resources than livestock. A well-known manufacturer of mycoprotein products is Quorn who produce burgers, sausages, Quorn mince and more.
Vegetarian or vegan diet
When going vegetarian or vegan you need to make sure you’re still getting the right amount of vitamins and minerals. This includes vitamin D, B12, iron and omega-3.
Vitamin D helps to keep your bones, teeth and muscles healthy. Good sources of vitamin D include:
- Exposure to sunlight
- Fortified fat spreads, breakfast cereals and unsweetened soya drinks
- Vitamin D supplements
Iron helps to create the production of red blood cells in the body which carries oxygen from the lungs to the body and carbon dioxide as a waste product. Good sources of iron include:
- Wholemeal bread and flour
- Brown rice
- High in iron breakfast cereals
- Dark green, leafy vegetables like watercress, spinach, broccoli and spring greens
- Dried fruit, such as apricots, prunes and figs
Vitamin B12 is needed for growth, repair and general health. Getting enough B12 is especially important if you are pregnant to make sure your baby is getting the correct amount of vitamins. If you regularly eat eggs or dairy products, you should be getting enough. If you’re on a vegan diet, good sources of B12 include:
- High in B12 breakfast cereals
- Unsweetened soya drinks with fortified B12
- Yeast extract, such as Marmite
Omega-3 are essential nutrients that are primarily found in oily fish, these can help with maintaining a healthy heart and reduce the risk of heart disease. Good sources of Omega-3 include:
- Flaxseed oil
- Rapeseed oil
- Soya oil and soya-based foods
By eating less meat once or twice a week, you’ll be helping to make a much wider impact on not only your health, but the world as we know it.