eating less meat without going full on vegan

I mentioned in my meal plan this week that I’m trying to include more vegetarian and fish dishes into our diet.  Eating less meat is becoming quite fashionable right now.  It seems like everyone is going vegetarian or vegan these days.  And while there is a backlash about this fad (how do you know if someone is a vegan?  Oh don’t worry, they’ll bloody tell you!), the hipsters might actually be on to something. I don’t tend to do things just because everyone else is, but I’ve been trying to cut down on our meat consumption for a year or so now. It turns out there’s more to eating less meat than just being on trend.

 

eating less meat

 

vegan or nothing?

Anything that tells you to cut out a whole food group just isn’t for me.  I like variety in my diet and try to avoid putting restrictions on things, as that leads to binging.  It’s important to get your nutrients from a wide range of sources too.

I always assumed you were either vegetarian/vegan, or you weren’t.  My family definitely fall into the aren’t category.  I’ve written recently about my tips on getting kids to eat vegetables, but couldn’t imagine the hell of getting my kids (or Hubs!) to eat a plant-only diet.  That sort of lifestyle just isn’t practical for us.  I don’t think I would enjoy it either.

It wasn’t until I read Michael Pollan’s book In Defence of Food last year that I realised you could be somewhere in the middle.  The book really made me stop and rethink how I see food.  I’ve always remembered it’s main message – eat (real) food, not too much, mainly plants.

Since then I’ve made changes to the way we eat. The main one is that I’ve tried to make sure we eat more fish.  I also try to have at least one meat-free day a week.  It’s not a massive change, in fact it’s been quite easy, but the benefits are huge.

 

the benefits of eating less meat

  • it’s good for the animals  I’ve been shocked by documentaries showing what some animals go through.  Living with a big family on a modest budget, we do tend to buy cheaper meat.  But cheap meat is often blamed for the worst animal treatment.  So by eating less meat, we are in a very small way reducing the demand for it.  It also means we have more money when we do buy meat, meaning we can make more ethical choices.

  • it’s good for the people  Earlier this year I read Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser.  It exposes the harm the worldwide demand for cheap food is causing. What struck me most was the harm it does to the people employed in the meat packing industry.  While the book is quite old now (though still as relevant) something tells me people are still paid a pittance for very dangerous, hard and unpleasant work.
  • it’s good for you  There are studies linking meat to things like cancer and heart disease. While the jury is still out on how concrete that link is, it can’t hurt to be cautious. If you reduce your meat intake, you need to replace it with other things – more vegetables, pulses or seafood.  That adds variety into your diet, meaning a wider range of nutrients and vitamins.  Eating less meat forces you to try new recipes and be a bit more adventurous in the kitchen, which is always fun!
  • it’s good for your bank balance  I can do a weekly shop for a family of five for under £70.  I couldn’t do that if we were eating meat seven days a week.  Compare a bag of lentils to a packet of chicken breasts and the saving is massive!
  • it’s good for the planet  Farming for the meat industry contributes over 50% of greenhouse gases.  Farming for plant-based food contributes a lot less.  Climate change is something we can all help to reduce. Eating less meat can be one way to do that.

 

simple ways to start eating less meat

Most of us grew up eating meat and two veg for dinner, and still do the same now we have our own families. It can seem like a big leap to change that.  I remember seeing #meatfreemonday a few years ago, and seeing it as such a challenge.  But you don’t have to make drastic changes – small tweaks can be all it takes.

  • have at least one meat-free day a week  It doesn’t need to be a Monday!  Just make it a routine part of your week.  Before you know it, you might have so many veggie dishes you love that you end up eating more than one a week.
  • mix lentils with your mince  If you’re making a lasagna, chilli or bolognaise, try using half the amount of mince you usually would.  Then pad out the meal using lentils.  I thought this was a strange tactic at first, but when I tried it I was totally converted!  You can also use mushrooms, beans or rice too.
  • make veggie versions of family favourites  You don’t need to start eating tofu (I personally am not a fan!) just because you’re eating less meat.  Try a bean chilli or vegetable curry.  Look at what your family loves to eat, and see if you can switch the meat for something else.
  • but don’t be scared to try alternatives  Get curious, and try things like Quorn, tofu or vegetarian sausages.  A lot of these products can be similar to meat, and that might soften the blow!
  • change your mindset  Don’t see it as missing out on meat, but as a chance to try some awesome new foods.  Make it a special part of your week.  Buy new vegetables, grains or beans that you’ve never tried before.  If you’re at a restaurant, try a vegetarian dish you wouldn’t make at home. Take a chance on that weird sounding recipe you always flick past in your trusty recipe book.  Have fun with it.

 

Just writing this has made me realise that I could be doing a lot more to reduce our meat intake.  Who knows, maybe I’ll aim for two meat-free days a week from now on?

 

Did you know, I’m now on Facebook?!  I’d love to connect with you, so head on over and give my page a like!

 

 


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five healthy things to do every day

Is there such thing as a food hangover?  I’m pretty sure there is. I’m also pretty sure that I woke up with one yesterday morning.  If Irn Bru is the manna which cures an alcohol hangover, then I have the food hangover cure.  And these don’t just help with the hangover, these are five healthy things you can do every day.  Even if you’re feeling like you’ve fallen off the wagon, doing these five things can make you feel a little more positive.

 

five healthy things to do every day

a heavy weekend

I’ve written before about how weekends are a bit of a weight loss pitfall for me.  As soon as Saturday (ok, sometimes Friday night) rolls around, the reins come off.  It’s like a switch goes off in my head and I don’t even remember that I’m meant to be making healthy choices.

Since I really started knuckling down in my efforts to improve my diet, I’ve managed to kerb my weekends a little.  Particularly in the last few weeks, I’ve indulged a little but still kept within healthy limits.  And the results on the scale have been good.  This weekend though, especially Sunday, things got a little out of control.  Not binge-level cray-cray, but just…ugly.

I don’t want to turn this into a confession booth or anything. But a cheeseburger, prosecco, birthday cake, cheesecake, wine and chocolate biscuits all happened.  I was at a kids’ birthday party, a night out and a family fun day, none of which had healthy options and none of which I prepared for.  Or gave any more thought to other than nomnomnomnom.  I’m fine with it though.  Life happens, and I like to enjoy it when it does.

 

getting back on track

The party has to stop some time though.  A little of what you fancy is good for you, but too much can actually make you feel gross.  I felt sluggish, cranky and basically yuck when the school run dragged me out of bed on Monday morning.  Some of that was down to a broken night of sleep.  After sleeping through for four whole nights, the baby decided that I’d had enough sleep and is back to 4am snack attacks.  But I do think that a lack of nutrients and too much sugar wasn’t helping either.

Instead of writing off the rest of the week, I decided to hit reset.  And it got me thinking about the five healthy things that always make me feel good.  They make me feel as if I’m treating my body right, and get me back in the healthy zone.  And they’re so easy to do.

I also think they made the difference between a bit of overindulgence, and an all out binge.  I’ve battled with binge eating my whole life, and a weekend like this would easily start me off in that direction.  But because doing these five healthy things is now almost second nature, I was able to stop myself falling down that particular rabbit hole.

 

my five healthy things

Starting the day off right

Maybe you eat breakfast, maybe you don’t.  But if the first meal you eat in a day is healthy and balanced, you’re much more likely to keep making good choices.  My morning bowl of porridge sets me up well, and makes me feel a bit smug and virtuous.  And even if the rest of the day doesn’t exactly go to plan, at least one meal will have been healthy – damage limitation, people!

Drinking water

I know, I know, everyone bangs on about this one.  But think about it – dehydration can make you feel lethargic and sluggish.  I don’t know about you, but when I feel that way I just can be bothered making any healthy effort.  I’d rather sit on my arse and reach for quick-hit junk food.

Hydrating gets me out of that slump.  Not only does it boost energy and help clear you out (yeah, I’m talking poo), but it keeps your mind sharp too.  Science says so.  If that isn’t a good reason to get glugging, I don’t know what is.

Getting active

Exercise.  I never really want to do it, but I never regret it when I do.  In fact, I feel a million times worse looking at a low step count at the end of the day than I ever would after working out.  But you don’t need to be killing it in the gym every day.  Walking is so good for you, and most of us can fit it into our day somehow.  I’ve ditched the car for most of the school runs this year. Whilst we may need to leave the house a little earlier, it’s worth it not just for the exercise but the time I get to spend with my middle son.  It actually doesn’t even take that much longer, if you consider what a faff parking can be.

A few workouts and daily walking in your week can make a huge difference.  Not just to your weight loss and body composition, but to your mood.  And if you feel better, you’re more likely to make healthy choices.  It’s a win-win cycle.

Eat your greens

And your reds, and your yellows, whites, oranges, purples…  I try to make sure that every meal has a fruit or vegetable component.  And if there are veggies in a recipe, I’ll still either add more or have veggies on the side too.  They’re yummy, they fill you up and they’re packed full of all the good stuff.  A meal packed with veggies makes you feel as if you’re really treating your body right.  But more than that, adding a chaser of goodness to even the cheatiest of cheat meals can work wonders for your mindset.  It’s hard to feel as guilty about eating a big dirty cheeseburger if you also munch on a salad.  Which leads me to the last of my five healthy things you can do every day…

Be kind to yourself

This is probably the most important of the five healthy things I’ve listed.  If you have had a cheat meal, or even if you’ve had a cheat day…week…month, cut yourself some slack.  Maybe you nail all four of the other healthy things and more besides, or maybe you really don’t.  But either way it is not a reflection of you as a person, just a reflection of where you’re at.

I find the easiest way to be kinder to myself is not to look at what I ate or the workout I skipped, and to instead look at the why.  I ate that cheeseburger this weekend because there were no healthier options, because we didn’t have time to prepare something healthier at home that day, because I didn’t think ahead.  So, I’ll learn from it.  Draw a line under it.  And appreciate the fact that although it wasn’t ideal, I still enjoyed it.

It’s taken me years to separate those things, my food choices from my self.  Even now I still catch myself thinking “I’m a bad person” sometimes, where what I really mean is “that wasn’t the greatest food choice.”  There’s so much guilt around food, and for some of us it gets absorbed as guilt for who we are.  Fuck that.  Shake it off, and show yourself some compassion.

The kinder you are to yourself, the easier it becomes to make healthier choices because putting your health first becomes an act of kindness.

 

healthy foundations

If your day has as many of those five healthy things in it as you can manage, you’re on the right path.  I know that by hydrating, moving, eating my veggies and still making some good choices, I managed to give my body what it needed.  Sure, I may not see a loss on the scales this weekend after my indulgent weekend. But I’m not carrying any baggage about it, because I’m kind enough to myself to be ok with that.

 

 

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