I’ve never been much of a meat eater. When I was a kid I had a huge aversion to pork, eggs, cheese and milk, and it was only when I became a chef that I began trying different cuts of meat and experimenting with flavours.
My light bulb moment came whilst doing a catering residency job with a seriously meaty menu. I was surrounded by hundreds of chicken breasts, racks of lamb and bags of bones for stock – and I got to thinking; how many animals have to be killed for us to eat like this? After all, if there was that much meat in just one catering operation, imagine how much there would be in the world! So, I’ve been a vegetarian since.
My thoughts about the food we consume became even more important when I had my daughter. I decided that, like me, she’d eat a vegetarian diet – which lasted until she discovered cocktail sausages!
I don’t squash her desire to enjoy a bit of meat, but there are restrictions. I don’t allow fast food, for instance, and I won’t buy anything other than organic, British raised, grass fed meat. I also limit her meat intake to twice a week.
Making conscious decisions about the things we consume, and what we feed to our families, greatly increases our sense of wellbeing. Just look at the success of dry January! We give ourselves a well-deserved break after a hectic festive period, and reminds that our will power is more important than the hold of the spirit in the bottle.
Making pledges to ourselves that we change our habitual activities is a really positive thing to do. By creating changes in our lifestyle, we allow ourselves to make new choices. So if giving up alcohol for January is possible, why not give up meat for May?
Meat Free May was launched by Friends of the Earth three years ago, as a way to help save the world and to highlight the effects mass meat production has on the health of us and of our planet. Mass meat production has a very negative effect on the environment, as well as a long term impact on our health. In theory, we don’t necessarily need to eat meat to get protein, because one of the best kept secrets is that plants have their very own protein power.
But don’t despair, meat eaters! Going veggie for a month (or even forever) doesn’t mean that you will be condemned to a month of sprouted mung beans, boiled brown rice and lentil stew. The vegetarian diet is becoming increasingly popular and increasingly varied, with more imaginative and intriguing cookbooks on the market than ever. The number of pure vegetarian restaurants are increasing, and the vegetarian options in sandwich bars, cafes and restaurants is continually becoming more interesting. There are also many more meat alternatives in supermarkets these days, so a veggie diet doesn’t have to be dull!
The benefits extend beyond tasty food. Let’s briefly highlight the benefits of not eating meat for a month…
- Give your digestive system a break! Meat takes time and energy to work its way through your system
- Detoxify from the bi products found in meat
- Lower your cholesterol levels
- Save money as vegetables, pulses and grains are much cheaper than meat
- Give yourself an opportunity to get creative in the kitchen
- Expand your culinary choices in restaurants (hello mushroom risotto!)
- Your body becomes more alkaline - its natural healthy state
- Reduce any inflammation and pain in the joints
- Feel lighter and more energised
After a month of a new diet, take note of how you feel and look at the positive changes in your life. You might find that you want to keep going! But, if you just can’t wait to get your hands on a bacon butty, then that’s fine too - but you won’t know unless you try. Get the family involved in a Meat Free Monday, be inspired by vegetarian week or even commit to a vegetarian diet for 2 or 3 days a week.
So let’s love and respect our choices, our planet, and ourselves!
Happy Meat Free May!
Author: Our superfood chef "Kirstie"