Want to cut down on meat? Here’s how to do it healthily

Diet

Cutting down on a food group can seem daunting, especially one that is often consumed in large portions such as meat. So here are our 5 tips to cut down on meat healthily.

30/09/2019


Alex Hesketh

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World Vegetarian Day is an annual celebration to promote the benefits of vegetarianism. 


For those who already follow a plant-based diet it’s the perfect occasion to celebrate their food choices. And for those considering going meat-free, it serves as an enticement to give vegetarianism a try and learn about its many benefits.

Cutting meat out of your diet has been found to have numerous health benefits and can have a significant impact on the environment. Studies have shown that, compared to meat-eaters, vegetarians have better overall health and are less prone to heart disease, diabetes, obesity, cancer and other health problems (1)


The idea of reducing our consumption of a food group that is a big part of our daily diets may sound overwhelming - so here are our 5 tips on how to cut down on meat healthily.


1.    Start by ordering vegetarian options when eating out 


Any drastic diet changes can be daunting, with a common challenge being not knowing what to cook. Try starting off small by ordering vegetarian options when eating out in restaurants. Having someone else cook the meal for you eliminates the excuse of not knowing what meals to cook and you can try and test which vegetarian options you like and don’t before cooking at home. It will also encourage you to try new foods and flavours outside of your comfort zone and will give you some recipe inspiration for your own kitchen.


2.    Meatless Mondays 


Quitting any habit is tough and takes a lot of commitment. However, going meat-free for one day of the week can initiate that commitment. Meatless Monday is more than just a catch phrase, it’s a global movement that encourages people to cut down their meat consumption by replacing meat with plant-based choices each Monday. Research suggests that cutting meat out for one day of the week can offer numerous health benefits and can contribute to the fight against climate change (2).


It has also been found that healthy thinking and behaviour is synchronized to the start of the week, with Monday being the day people are most open to trying healthy behaviours (3). As Monday offers the chance to reset goals, studies have shown that people who get back on track on the first day of the week are better able to maintain progress over time (4). With this approach, your meat-free Monday could be an easy way to transition into making meat-free choices the majority of the time.


3.    Cut your meat servings in half


Meat is often the centre star of most dishes whilst foods such as vegetables, potatoes, pasta, rice and salad take a back seat and are consumed in smaller portions. To cut down, try reducing the size of your meat portions over time and increasing the amount of vegetables on your plate. If you’re used to eating a double cheeseburger, try having a single. If you eat 4 sausages with your weekly sausage and mash, try eating only two. This can help to wean yourself off meat until you feel ready to replace meat with plant-based alternatives.


However, it is important to be careful not to replace the meat in your diet with fatty and sugary foods such as cheese and cakes. This could put you at risk of several health issues (1), with our data showing that vegetarians have almost the same levels of pre-diabetes as meat-eaters. Make sure your plate has a high proportion of whole plant foods such as whole grains, legumes and vegetables.


4.    Replace meat in your favourite recipes with meat-free alternatives


Reducing your meat intake doesn’t have to mean you miss out on your weekly favourites. You can simply replace the meat in your dishes with meat-free alternatives and still use all the same ingredients you normally would. 


As vegetarianism and veganism become progressively common, supermarkets have needed to respond to this customer shift by making meat-free alternatives more accessible. Many big supermarkets have free-from aisles which are full of meat substitutes. Or if you’d prefer less processed options: lentils, mushrooms, tofu, tempeh and seitan can all provide a satisfying flavour and texture to replace your meat.

Just remember that meat alternatives may not have the same levels of important nutrients such as B12 and iron so you may need to take a supplement, or ensure you are eating enough foods rich in these (whether naturally or through fortification).


5.    Follow vegetarian social media accounts to find inspiration 


Social media platforms such as Instagram and Pinterest are filled with many accounts that are dedicated to posting vegetarian recipes. Having some of these accounts come up in your news feed can provide you with that much needed inspiration if you are unaware of where to start when cooking at home.


You could even create a Pinterest board with all your newfound recipes that you are wanting to try. Just doing your research will show you that you aren’t missing out on anything and with some small changes you can commit to a meat-free diet. 

If you have already started your journey to a meat-free diet or have been a vegetarian for a while, a health check is a great way to ensure you are meeting all your nutritional requirements. Our Nutrition Check Blood Test is the perfect way to check your vitamin and mineral levels and to understand whether you need to take any supplements to maintain healthy levels. 

In aid of World Vegetarian Day, our Nutrition Check Blood Test is down to £55, from £69 for the month of October.


References 


1.    Appleby, P. and Key, T. (2015). The long-term health of vegetarians and vegans. Proceedings of the Nutrition Society, 75(3), pp.287-293.
2.    The Guardian (2019). Why eating less meat is the best thing you can do for the planet in 2019. [online] the Guardian. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/dec/21/lifestyle-change-eat-less-meat-climate-change [Accessed 17 Sep. 2019].
3.    Johns Hopkins School of Public Health Center for a Livable Future. (2010). Healthy Monday: Two literature reviews. Baltimore, MD: Fry, J. & Neff, R.
4.    Orsama, A., Mattila, E., Ermes, M., van Gils, M., Wansink, B., & Korhonen, I. (2014). Weight rhythms: Weight increases during weekends and decreases during weekdays. Obesity Facts, 7, 36-47
 


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