It's becoming increasingly popular to try and include one meat free day each week, with hashtags such as #MeatFreeMondays trending weekly. So why the fuss? Well it's not a bid to turn us all veggie, but more to promote healthier choices and more variety in our diet.
So what do you think – is it worth going meat free for a day a week? Well here are some of the plus points!
Meat tends to be expensive compared to vegetables, pulses and eggs for example. So making the decision to have one meat free meal a week could save quite a bit of money each month. For example – if you cook for a family of four and one of your weekly meals needs four chicken breasts – this costs approximately £4.00 a week, that's £16.00 a month. Alternatively, you could make Spanish omelette for dinner where the main ingredient is eggs – this would cost you approximately £5 a month (based on 8 eggs a week) – saving £11 a month or £132 a year. Enough for a few Christmas pressies!
Meat, especially red meat such as beef and pork, tends to be high in saturated fat. As a nation we eat too much saturated fat – on average 12.6% of our energy is from saturates, when no more than 11% is recommended. So we could do with cutting back a little where we can. High levels of saturated fat intake can increase the risk of heart disease as it raises blood cholesterol levels. If you make the decision to switch one meal a week to include pulses or extra veggies instead of bacon for example, you'd be one step closer to reducing your overall saturated fat intake.
Many of us fall victim to habit and cook the same meals week in, week out. But there are so many options. Deciding to go meat free for one day can really encourage us to think outside the box and discover new ingredients – meat free doesn't have to mean flavour free! Make low fat cheese the highlight of your meal – opt for a spicy mixed bean casserole with some crusty bread for dipping or replace meat with Quorn for a low fat high protein alternative.
Why not give these tasty meat free meals a try?
For various reasons, the production of meat has a relatively high carbon footprint. The feeding of animals and the animals themselves produce greenhouse gases which contribute to the greenhouse effect.
The land needed for keeping animals means less space for trees and therefore less absorption of the extra carbon dioxide being produced. If we all ate a little less meat, demand would decrease and consequently production would decrease. So going meat free for one day a week could also help to protect our environment!
Nutritionist Emma Brown, MSc Human Nutrition is passionate about how food science applies to the human body, and how the nutrients in what we eat affect us and ultimately have an impact on our health.