Posted in: Lifestyle
National Vegetarian Week: How To Go Meat Free, EasilyThis Monday marked the start of National Vegetarian Week here in the UK – seven whole days in which the food-loving public are encouraged to embrace a meat-free diet and celebrate the wonderful world of vegetarian cuisine. Organised by The Vegetarian Society, this year’s event is all about sharing, be it recipes, tips, actual food, or simply your time or passion for veggie eating. The long-established charity is championing all manner of initiatives including challenging participants to organise a three-course vegetarian meal, encouraging local businesses to create veggie-themed offers, and pushing people to share their favourite vegetarian recipes across social media using the #nvw15 hashtag. If you’d like to get involved, even if only in a small way, then read on for our top tips for going meat-free.
Before you startIf you’ve eaten meat all your life then it’s simply not healthy to suddenly swap meat and fish for dairy products. Even if you’re going veggie for a short period in support of National Vegetarian Week you should start small and ensure that you can replace nutrients associated with a conventional diet of fish, meat and poultry, with good sources of protein, iron, calcium, zinc and essential fats. These nutrients are all present in vegetarian diets (and you'll retain more of them if you cook veg in a Tower Pressure Cooker!) but it’s a good idea to supplement them, especially if you’ve been a meat-eater previously. Pulses (beans, lentils) are excellent sources of protein and contain minerals such as iron, zinc and calcium. Soya products offer a form of ‘myco-protien’ and come in the form of burgers, sausages, mince, and eggs and dairy products such as yoghurt, milk and cheese are all rich in zinc, calcium and iron and contribute to your protein intake too.
Don’t go overboard with the cheeseDairy products are a great source of many nutrients (phosphorus, protein, calcium, vitamin A and some B vitamins) and play an important role in any meat-free diet. As tempting as it may be however, don’t go to town on the cheese. Why? Because it’s laden with saturates, fat and salt, and so shovelling it down as a meat replacement will soon see you putting on weight and potentially contributing to high cholesterol and blood pressure. Try and regulate your cheese intake to 30g a day and even then you should opt for reduced-fat varieties. Many supermarkets do their own low-fat cheeses and you’ll rarely struggle to find a lighter version of most types. They still contain the same vitamins and minerals as full-fat cheeses but are required to have at least 30% less fat than the standard cheese it’s compared against. Alternatively, you can opt for soft cheeses such as feta, ricotta and mozzarella as they all generally have a lower calorific content than hard cheeses.
Mix it upAs mentioned, soya products such as tofu and Quorn offer a good source of protein contain all the essential amino acids humans require. Other vegetarian protein sources such as beans, chickpeas, lentils, nuts, seeds and grains tend to be lacking in these acids, so it’s good to supplement typical protein sources with soya products. Eating a mix of protein-rich foods means you'll get all the essential amino acids you need to stay healthy. Swap regular pasta for wholewheat and team up chick-pea salad and bean chilli with brown rice. Quinoa, pearl barley and couscous also make good fillings for stuffed vegetables and great accompaniments for veggie frittatas, with the added bonus of providing the fibre that helps us feel full after eating. Dehydrated fruits are also great for desserts and compliment yoghurts like you wouldn't believe. These are just a few tips to get you started on the road to vegetarianism, even if your excursion into meat-free eating is only temporary. It’s worth noting that it’s still possible to make a difference to your health and environment and contribute to animal welfare without going fully vegetarian. Supporting Meat Free Mondays, an initiative that asks participants to avoid meat for only one day a week, can have a positive impact on all the mentioned factors. Similarly, you could view meat as a treat and only eat it when dining out or at weekends. To recieve regular recipes, helpful hints and tips, and other lifestyle content (not to mention an abundance of unbeatable offers!), sign up to the Tower Newsletter and follow us on Twitter and Facebook.