Not only can eating more vegetables save your pocket, there are a number of other benefits from using a flexitarian approach to eat less meat. March is Nutrition awareness month and I’ve joined the Riverford How Much Meat campaign with the challenge to drop a day, eat less meat and try out a range of vegetarian dishes. Here are just a few reasons why you might want to consider eating less meat too.
You can eat a larger quantity of food
Using more vegetables in your meals means you can increase the amount of food you eat without excessively increasing your overall energy intake. Often you can decrease the energy intake of a meal by adding more vege. Obviously this does depend on WHAT sort of food you are eating and other ingredients you use – it’s not quite the same effect if you literally douse your vegetables in butter, oil, cheese or any other calorie rich ingredient!
With a high water content and plenty of fibre, there will be MORE food on your plate so you can feel fuller. Take this recipe for spiced lamb courgettes for example. Rather than just being meat and couscous, the recipe uses less meat of a better quality (extra lean lamb mince) and combined with the courgettes easily provides 2-3 serves of vegetables. Delicious, filling and nutritious.
There’s no doubt about it, buying, fruit, vegetables and plant-based protein is WAY cheaper than buying meat. When I was a student studying to be a dietitian, I ate meat once, maybe twice a week spending Au$10-15 on my weekly food shop which was very heavily plant-based. If your wallet is a bit stretched, dropping a day and using a more plant-based approach is a no brainer. Especially when at the supermarket a 400g can of chickpeas costs 30p while 450g of chicken sets you back £4.
Better quality meat cuts
The money you save by buying less meat means you can justify buying better quality cuts of meat for the times when you do enjoy it. Like that choice juicy steak you really wanted, but only buy at a restaurant on an evening out, the extra lean mince that doesn’t end up with a frying pan swimming in fat, or skinless chicken breasts. Why pay for meat that contains unwanted fat? Personally I prefer quality over quantity any day.
5 a day? 7 a day? No problem when you make vege the star
Depending on whereabouts in the world you’re based, you’ll be recommended to aim for 5 to 7 serves of fruits and vegetables a day. This is based on the WHO recommendation to eat approximately 400g a day (excluding potatoes) to prevent of chronic diseases such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes and obesity.
A serve of vegetables is roughly 80g in weight. Making vegetables the star of a meal rather than being pushed to the side means you can reach that target no problem. Take this cauliflower macaroni and cheese recipe for example. The recipe (for two) uses a whole cauliflower and a whole bunch of chard. It has very generous portions AND there’s leftovers. Replacing some of the macaroni from the traditional version means this easily could contain 2-4 serves of vege per serve.
Expand your kitchen repertoire
Chicken for dinner again?!! I once read somewhere that most people have about 5 or 6 standard recipes that they use week in week out, time and time again. Taking meat out of the equation can force you to experiment with dishes and try new tastes that you might love. If only you try them. Vegetable boxes can be a great way to push you out of your vegetable comfort zone.
The first time I received a kohlrabi in my Riverford vegetable box a few years ago I was like, ‘what on earth is this alien-like vegetable?!’ I didn’t want to waste it or throw it out, so did some recipe searching and discovered plenty of new ways to eat a vegetable that looks like it came from out-of-space. Like this kohlrabi salad .
I’m not going to begin getting into all the details about the environment and the pros and cons about eating meat or avoiding meat. However, I don’t think anyone can argue that increasing fruit and vegetable intakes isn’t eco-friendly, especially when sourcing local produce that is grown and available. Supporting local farmers by buying local or weekly vegetable boxes like these ones from Riverford reduces transport costs, air miles and helps avoid wastage. Local produce might not look as perfect as that in the shops, but your wonky or imperfect fruit and vege will be just as tasty (if not more).
Better nutritional quality
Whether organic produce is more nutritious than regularly produced fruit, vege and meat is a highly debatable topic. Certainly one for another post. A recent study found that organically produced meat and dairy products were nutritionally superior with around 50% more beneficial omega-3 fatty acids, while another study last year showed organic vegetables contained more antioxidants.
One thing is for certain, by eating less meat and more fruit and vegetables you will certainly be increasing the nutritional quality of your diet. Increasing your fruit and vegetable intake means you’ll naturally be getting more vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, phytochemicals, fibre and a whole lot more goodness into your life in a way that pills and supplements can’t even begin to mimic. Food first is always the best approach when looking to give your dietary quality a boost.
Drop a Day and eat less meat
I’m not an extremist, and personally advocate a moderation approach when it comes to eating habits. We all could benefit from adding more fruit and vege into our lives. You can find a range of inspiring (not to mention delicious) vegetarian and meat-minimising recipes on the Riverford site, including the ones pictured above.
I’ve been testing out some of their delicious vegetarian recipes this month from the Riverford vegetarian recipe boxes . I certainly couldn’t fault the flavour of any of the dishes, which were all top notch. Some of the vegetarian recipes were a little light on protein so I added lentils or beans to naturally meet my protein needs. Other than that, big thumbs up! They would be ideal for anyone lacking confidence in the kitchen, or ideal when going away on holidays and wanting healthy meals but not wanting to have to think about or transport all the different herbs and spices required to make a tasty meal.
Riverford provided me with samples of their organic recipe boxes featured within this post. I have personally purchased the Riverford organic vegetable boxes mentioned. As always this post is 100% my own opinion.