For the past year one of the most impactful changes we have made in our family is to try to eat less meat…. the idea was initially to reduce our monthly grocery budget, but we quickly realised how much better our bodies felt when we ate less meat and instead consumed more meat-free meals. Let me state upfront however that we are most certainly NOT vegetarian and no where near vegan. We are just an ordinary family who are trying something new – a different way of thinking about the food we eat daily and looking for healthier options – for our bodies AND our wallets!
Flexitarian – someone who eats mostly plant-based foods, but occasionally eats meat, poultry and fish.
I realise that this topic can be a trigger for many who have been assaulted by their well-meaning veggie friends who have turned into eco-evangelists. I’m not one of those! I won’t be sharing horrifying images or disturbing videos. I don’t think I’m really ready to face those either. What this is, however, is sharing our own journey towards consuming less meat in order to have positive impact on our health and the environment.
Whether you’re thinking of going vegan, vegetarian or just cutting down your meat intake, there are plenty of great reasons to reduce your consumption. Eliminating meat from your life and choosing to eat more vegetables, beans, nuts, seeds and lentils is one of the more significant things you can do for your health and the planet.
Here are 10 of the main benefits of eating less meat…
1. Reverse heart disease
Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the western world. According to the Heart and Stroke Foundation, cardiovascular disease – the world’s leading cause of death and disabilities – accounts for almost 1 in 6 deaths in South Africa. Daily, 225 South Africans die from heart disease and stroke, which is more than from all cancers combined. Red meat contains a high amount of saturated fat, which can lead to artery-clogging cholesterol. Chop it from your diet, and increase plant-based alternatives instead, and you’ll be doing a lot to safeguard your heart from the risk of heart disease and other cardiovascular diseases. Switching to a plant-based diet has been shown to not only treat heart disease, but reverse its progression.
2. Stay slim
Research has shown that eating meat has been linked to obesity. Animal sources of protein are often calorie-dense, especially high-fat meats. Legumes, like beans and lentils, will provide the lean protein your body needs without the excess fat, cholesterol and calorie load that can end up sitting on your frame as unwanted bulk. Eating less meat will help you to lose weight, and to keep it off. A study showed that those whose diets were more consistently vegetarian had less body mass indexes (BMI) and weighed less than those whose diets contained more meats.
3. Save money
Plant-based proteins tend to be less expensive than meat.
4. Reduce carbon footprint
Because cows have four stomachs, they produce excessive amounts of methane, which is a greenhouse gas more than twenty times more potent than carbon dioxide. The Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO) states that the meat industry accounts for eighteen percent of the total greenhouse gasses that are emitted – more greenhouse gases than the whole of the transportation industry combined. Lowering or eliminating your meat intake can have huge implications on climate change.
5. Reduce animal cruelty
Millions of cattle and poultry are killed each year for meat, with a huge number of these being raised in factory farms. Even though attempts are made to make the animals as comfortable as possible, the situations are usually still stressful and painful for the animals. According to an article in Women’s Health Magazine, if every American cut out meat from their diet just once a week, almost one and a half billion animals could be saved from this horrible fate each year. Switching to a less meat or no meat diet is voting to end the cruel treatment of animals.
6. Environmental benefits
Eating less meat also has many environmental benefits. The Amazon is being destroyed to grow feed crops for cattle and make space for grazing. The majority of Amazon deforestation can be contributed to animal agriculture so switching to a less-meat diet can help save the earth’s lungs.
7. Lower cancer risk
About a third of all cancer cases can be prevented by eating healthy, getting physical activity, and maintaining a healthy weight. Limiting your meat intake can help you do this. Abstaining from red, processed, fried, broiled, or grilled meats can reduce the risk of the following cancers:
8. Reduce water usage
The amount of water it takes to maintain herds of cattle and livestock is tremendous in comparison to the amount of water needed to maintain crops of vegetables or grains.
9. More energy
Dreading the process of weaning yourself off excessive meat consumption? Keep your eye on the prize: improved overall energy and wellness. Meat, especially in large servings, is more difficult to digest, leading to bloating and a sense of lethargy while your body uses precious energy to process your meal. Upping the consumption of vegetables, whole grains and plant-based meat alternatives in the place of meat will improve gut health, and turbo-charge your system with vitamins, minerals, fibre and antioxidants to reduce inflammation and support your immune system. Nitrate-rich foods like spinach, carrots and green beans also have proven vascular benefits, encouraging the flow of oxygenated blood for a further energising, and blood pressure-lowering, effect.
10. Better hormone balance
Not only does a plant-based diet lessen the filtering load on your liver and kidneys, and digestive system overall, it has hormone-stabilising advantages as well. Commercially-farmed animals are typically fed antibiotics and modified foods, and their impact can be passed on to you via the butcher’s counter, creating hormone level imbalance. By contrast, nutrient-packed plant products like flaxseeds and peanuts contain lignans, a type of phytoestrogen, or plant oestrogen equivalent, which can help to balance out your hormone levels depending on your body’s needs. Soy contains phytoestrogens, a natural compound found in plants that mimics real oestrogen, and therefore has a similar effect on the body. These serve as a type of natural hormone replacement therapy for those who need it – besides encouraging hormonal balance, they can effectively help reduce hot flushes, provide menstrual relief and prevent osteoporosis. Happy hormones make for a happy body, and a deficiency or an imbalance in any one has a far greater impact on how we function than we’d like.
But back to our vegetarian journey…
We decided to aim for one meal a week initially, but soon realised how much we enjoyed eating less meat (IF we had good, easy alternatives to hand) and so quickly upped the frequency to 2 – 3 times a week.
The weekends were definitely harder especially as our South African social culture revolves around braais crammed with red meat and our sorry little pack of veggie burger patties were, on more than one occasion, not quite what the braai master knew how to master! So for now we stick to week nights.
The key to this lifestyle change is to plan ahead and to have a few options on hand, such as vegetarian recipes with key ingredients or ready meal options. It gets tricky when you don’t have anything planned and fall back into the habit of taking a packet of mince out of the freezer for your usual spag bol.
What really helped us along the way was discovering the healthy and convenient vegetarian food options from Frys Family Food Co in the freezer section of our local supermarket.
We now stock up weekly on a selection of their pre-made vegetarian meals – our favourites being the vegetarian burgers, “chicken” burgers, spicy sausages and the falafel balls!
They even have “chicken” nuggets for the fussiest amongst your family! As you can see they make virtually every consumable meat product into a vegetarian or vegan alternative.
If you’re still on the journey of decreasing or eliminating meat from your diet, start taking small steps in this direction and know that you are making a great leap in the right direction to improve your health, that of your family, as well as the planet, one meatless meal at a time!
For vegan products and recipes, download Fry’s ecookbooks which contain recipe ideas from Indian, Asian to braai’s here: www.fryfamilyfood.com
I’m giving one lucky Becoming you reader the chance to win a Fry’s hamper worth R500
The hamper includes the following:
- 1 x Country Roast
- 1 x Vanilla Kasha
- 1x Falafel Balls
- 1x Schnitzels(4 in a pack)
- 1x Chicken Style strips
- 1x Mince with gravy
- 1x Prawns
- 1x Braai-Style Sausages
To enter complete the form below…
Winner will be selected on Wed 5 Dec 2018