In recent months, WHO (World Health Organisation) has released the shocking news that consuming processed meat and red meat increases the risk of cancers, including bowel cancer. In other words, we need to eat less meat and consume more vegetarian meals!
Some of us are probably (or not) panicking thinking that we have to give up our favourite dinners and BBQ, in favour of a plate of steamed vegetable and salad with some bird seeds sprinkled on top. If you are one of those people, I am happy to tell you: don’t worry! Vegetarian meals are not only amazingly good for your health but they can be super tasty too.
While going full-on vegetarian or vegan is a demanding way of life, you can still have many of the health benefits of a vegetarian diet without quitting meat completely. What you have to do is just follow one simple rule: have one meatless day per week.
Eating less meat and more grains, beans, fruits and veggies even for just one day means you’ll be consuming fewer calories, less saturated fat and cholesterol, and higher amounts of vitamins, minerals, and fibre. And how will this translate in your health? Well, having a meat-free day per week may reduce your risk of conditions like cancer, diabetes and heart disease. On average, people who eat less meat and more vegetables are leaner, have lower cholesterol and lower blood pressure.
Another benefit is that you’ll save money. Meat costs more than most foods. And for an extra healthy tip, you can use the cash you save to get a gym membership. Lastly, but no less important, going meatless once a week is good for the environment, because it can help reduce our carbon footprint and save precious resources like fossil fuels and fresh water.
Creating your meatless meal is fun and simple:
1. Start with a good source of wholegrain food, like quinoa, brown rice, wholegrain bread or wraps.
2. Add your vegetarian proteins. These include legumes (chickpeas, lentils, beans) great in a casserole and salad; tofu (a perfect addition to stir fry); unsalted nuts and seed, and also cheese and eggs.
3. Complete your meal with colourful vegetables, trying to have at least two different colours on the plate (like green leafy vegetables and orange carrots). Cooking by color is a great way to ensure you are eating a variety of naturally occurring vitamins and minerals that boost immunity and help prevent a range of illnesses.
For extra ideas, Google is always the best source of simple and delicious recipes for your meatless day. A national health campaign called Meatless Monday (www.meatlessmonday.com) collects thousands of meat-free dishes and articles to help and support you.
Bottom line: To be healthy you don’t have to follow a 100 per cent vegetarian diet. Research shows that vegetarians tend to be healthier overall, so including a vegetarian day per week may be a good compromise. If you are concerned about your nutritional health talk with an APD dietitian who can provide tailored advice and specific recommendations.
Valentina Giannelli is an Accredited Practising Dietitian at Leichhardt’s Forum Medical Centre.
You can check out her nutrition blog here: www.eatlikenonna.com
Inner West vegetarian meals
Choosing a vegetarian dish when you eat out is a great way to eat healthier and consume less calories and more fibre, minerals and vitamins. Here are some places where you won’t regret not having ordered meat!
Vegan Breakfast @ Silverbean Café (Enmore Rd)
Have you ever had broccoli for breakfast? I dare you to try! It will come with a delicious walnut oil rich in omega 3 and tasty blacked beans.
Woodfire pizza @ Gigi’s pizzeria (King St)
Traditional Napoletana pizza, you’ll have plenty of choices as there are no meat toppings on the menu! Be prepared to wait as the pizza is so good that the queue is always long.
Vegan burger @ Suzy Spoon Vegetarian Butcher (King St)
Perfect for a meatless lunch, they also have super tasty salads and all day vegan breakfast.
Vegan high tea @ Sadhana (Enmore Rd)
An institution that couldn’t be missed in this list, their vegan raw high tea or their seven-course raw degustation experience are a must try in Sydney.