Vegetarians are on the rise in the UK, with recent polls suggesting that there are over 3 million now in the country. There are a range of reasons why people make the decision to ditch meat, with being kinder to the planet and improving health as two of the most popular.
As convincing as the benefits for both ourselves and the environment can be, many of us still find it difficult to make the commitment to becoming a full-time vegetarian. Luckily, simply cutting down on meat intake can still make a massive difference, which is why flexitarianism has become a more prevalent approach to eating. It involves going meat-free for one or more days of the week, and carrying on as normal for the rest. That way you can still enjoy your favourite foods.
If your meals tend to have meat as the star of the show, it can be tricky to know how to go about #MeatFreeMonday. Simply cutting meat out from your meals won’t do – you’ll be lacking in protein and certain nutrients. Not to mention your caloric intake will be significantly lower, so you can expect to get hungry again very soon after you eat, as well as experience low levels of energy.
There are, however, a few ways to take the leg work out of flexitarianism, so #MeatFreeMonday doesn’t have to be a burden.
1 Vegetarian cookbooks are your friend
First thing’s first – you need some meal ideas. Cookbooks are the way forward. There are even ones these days that cater specifically for flexitarians – Part-Time Vegetarian by Nicola Graimes is packed with recipes that can include meat, but are interesting, nutritious and satisfying enough without. They focus on other ingredients like pulses and vegetables instead.
2 Get your meals ready-made
If you’re struggling for inspiration for #MeatFreeMonday or simply don’t feel confident cooking a vegetarian meal, thankfully there are now services that make them for you – and they don’t have to be unhealthy. It’s like a takeaway – but healthier! Allplants and Cook! are just two options that make vegan and vegetarian versions of your favourite meals. All you have to do is heat them up and devour them.
3 Don’t eat out on #MeatFreeMonday
Although veggie offerings at restaurants are much better than they used to be, eating out as a vegetarian still does mean that your options are significantly restricted compared to that of a meat-eater. It’s best to cook your own meals on #MeatFreeMonday, so you can make sure you’re getting enough of what you need – such as protein from vegetarian sources and a wide spectrum of nutrients from different kinds of veg. Save the restaurant visit for another night.
4 Be open-minded
Rather than looking for food to replace the meat you’re cutting out, look at #MeatFreeMonday as an opportunity to discover new foods, tastes and experiences. You might try things you never would’ve before – like tempeh, bean burgers or tofu – and find that these have just as much of a place in your regular diet as meat. Biting into a veggie burger expecting it to taste like the real thing is only going to make you feel like you’re missing out – the two are too different to compare.
5 Take natural, vegan protein
If you work out and feel like you’re struggling to hit your protein targets on #MeatFreeMonday, don’t be afraid to use protein powders in shakes, cooking and even your porridge. Brands like Vega, Form Nutrition and Freesoul are vegan and natural, so you don’t have to worry about any nasties in the ingredients. Try blending some up with fruit into a smoothie for an easy breakfast idea.