Meatless Mondays are increasingly popular among meat-eaters today, and a clear sign that more people are looking to the vegetarian lifestyle to improve their health.
While many people may not want to give up meat altogether, adopting vegetarian habits can help meat eaters to enjoy plenty of meat-free meals and boost their intake of plant-based foods.
Evidence shows that eating less meat can make a big difference to your weight. It can also lower the risk of high blood pressure and diabetes.
So to help you improve your health without giving up meat completely, we recommend the following:
Make vegetables your main portion
When someone asks what you had for dinner last night, it is highly likely that you reply with the meat element first (‘I had beef casserole/chicken with…’). Next time you plan a meal, try to think about your veggies first and build the rest of the meal (protein, good fat and healthy starch) around them.
Around 75% of adults fail to get three daily servings of vegetables (the minimum recommendation) so putting the focus on veggies could make a big difference to your health.
Choose plant-based fats over animal fats
Many people eat meat alongside animal fats such as high-fat dairy products. Swapping meat for vegetables sautéed in olive oil or dressed with balsamic vinegar, guacamole or tahini (vegetarian staples) will drastically cut your fat intake. This switch will help you to lose weight and boost your energy levels. Plant-based fats have also been shown to reduce inflammation, which is known to trigger premature ageing and diseases.
Make ‘pulses’ your protein
Pulses include peas (chick peas, cannellini beans, black-eyed peas) and lentils, which can be easily added to a number of dishes as a meat replacement. Numerous studies have linked eating good amounts of pulses to less belly fat, appetite suppression and better overall nutrient intake. They can also help to lower the risk of heart disease and diabetes. The following recipes are easy ways to boost your intake of pulses:
- Aubergine and chickpea curry.
- Tomato and bean casserole.
- Carrot and spicy lentil soup.
Snack on plants
Making whole, plant-based foods your focus at snack time is another easy way to be more vegetarian. Raw vegetables with hummous, fresh fruit with nuts, or a handful of seeds are healthy ways to boost your antioxidant intake and get your five a day. You could also consider whizzing up a smoothie made with plant-based milk such as rice milk.
Include plants in your baking
Baking is a great way to incorporate more plant-based foods in your diet, and you can have fun experimenting with different flavours and textures. Typical examples of vegetable and fruit bakes include pumpkin muffins, banana bread, courgette muffins and chocolate aubergine cake.