Food / 23.03.2015

Meat Free Week: Your top 5 veggie questions answered

By Rebecca Seal
Flirting with the idea of going #plantbased? Go on, it's easier than you think


Cutting back on meat is good for your health, wallet and the planet. We’ve debunked the confusion around vegetarianism and flexitarianism to help you convert to a lifestyle that is still on the rise.

How can it be a proper meal if it only contains veg?

It’s time to let go of the age-old ‘meat and two veg’ concept and embrace the veggies instead. You’ll get more nutrients – many meat-eaters consume too much protein and not enough fruit and veg, which, along with carbohydrates, should make up roughly 2/3 of our diet. The other third should be healthy fats and protein.

Try switching the lamb in shepherd’s pie for lentils; using mushrooms, chestnuts and roasted onions in a pie; or making a curry with squash, cashews and coconut.

Read more: hearty veggie risotto recipe

I love meat. Isn’t it OK as long as it’s organic?

True. If you stick to wild game, sustainable fish or organic meat, you’ll know what you’re eating is always higher welfare, won’t have been fed GM feed and is unlikely to be packed with antibiotics or growth hormones.

There’s a big difference between grass-fed quality livestock and factory-farmed meat, but even organic meat has an environmental cost. Worldwide consumption of meat per person has doubled since 1950, but it takes 100x more water to produce animal protein than vegetable protein. Worse still, livestock causes 18% of greenhouse gas emissions – which is more than planes, trains, cars and boats combined.

But I don’t like that boring Tofu stuff?

Tofu is often a tasty alternative to meat, but it’s all in the method of how you’re cooking it: try marinating chunks in ginger, soy sauce and sugar, then stir-frying with veg, or look out for pre-flavoured or smoked versions. It’s a great source of plant-based protein without the saturated fat – but watch the quality.

‘Soy does contain endocrine disruptors, the plant’s natural self-defence mechanism, which are not necessarily good for us,’ says nutritionist Drew Price (@Drewtrition on Twitter). Choose fermented versions to stay on the safe side, which neutralises any toxins – think tempeh, miso and quality soy sauce.

Read more: What’s all the fuss about fermented foods?

Will I miss out on nutrients?

Iron is the usual culprit here – a lack of it can lead to anaemia and lethargy. You may need to take a supplement – we love Floradix liquid iron,  or boost your intake of superfoods like cacao, dried fruit, spirulina, blackstrap molasses, and dark green leafy veg.

Although vegetables contain iron, it is in a less accessible form than meat. Eat citrus fruit alongside green vegetables to help your body to absorb it.

Read more: Why iron is good for you

Get your quota of protein – you may need to combine foods to make a meal a complete source of protein (which have all of the essential amino acids). For vegetarians, dairy and eggs are sources of complete proteins.

Getting enough vitamin B12 is also vital. ‘Taking nutritional brewer’s yeast or a vegetarian supplement is a good idea,’ says Price. ‘Not enough B12 is linked to pernicious anaemia, which affects red blood cell synthesis.

Get your omega-3 through aquatic algae supplements, flaxseed and walnuts.

How can I go cold-turkey?

The message isn’t necessarily to give up meat altogether. Instead, it’s about being more mindful and embracing ideas such as Meat Free Mondays. I’d rather people eat meat and fish once or twice a week plus some high-quality dairy, eggs, lots of fibrous vegetables, nuts and seeds, and not too much grain-based food,’ says Price.

You can still eat the occasional Sunday morning bacon sandwich as part of a healthy diet as long as you keep an eye on your total processed meat intake, as it’s been linked to bowel cancer. So with that said, isn’t it time we all started eating up our greens?

Meat Free Week: Your top 5 veggie questions answered
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Meat Free Week: Your top 5 veggie questions answered
Cutting back on meat is good for your health, wallet and the planet. We’ve debunked the confusion around vegetarianism to help you convert to a veggie life.
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Healthy Magazine
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