Have you noticed the words ‘vegetarian’, ‘vegan’ or ‘plant-based’ propping up more and more often everywhere you turn? There is no doubt that the trend away from meat is becoming increasingly popular, with Dr. Oz even calling the vegan diet the “Single Biggest Movement of 2017”.
One major reason is probably that in 2015 the World Health Organisation classified processed meat as carcinogenic to humans, and red meat as probably carcinogenic to humans. Since then there has been a surge in documentaries uncovering the ‘nasty side’ of the meat/animal product industry, and encouraging people to adopt a plant-based lifestyle.
If you’re interested in delving into the meat-free world or even just cutting back your intake but aren’t sure where to start, we’ve got some tips from our resident vegan on how you can cut back without feeling like you’re missing out on anything:
Sticking with the familiar
My husband was a big meat-eater and although he was keen to cut back, he lacked imagination and didn’t know how to contribute to dinners. So we started by buying vegetarian sausages (without parmesan if you’re cutting dairy!), patties, and creating ‘mince meals’ with lentils. He could create the same meals he was used to by simply substituting one ingredient.
Go easy on yourself
If the thought of going meat-free is daunting for you, then trying too much too soon will most likely end in failure. Try to go meat free just for weekdays, for a particular meal (dinners or lunches), or keep meat as an eating-out-only option. You could also cut things one at a time – we cut everything except fish/seafood out before we went entirely vegan.
This was my biggest downfall. I love my treats. Luckily I’ve found the easiest, scrumptious brownie recipe (which I add extra dark chocolate chunks to), and I use A Guide to Vegan to find all of my supermarket treats – they are a great shopping resource and you’ll be surprised by some of the products on there.
Understand food pairings
Red meat is often thought of as the leading source in iron because it is readily absorbed by our bodies, but you can easily boost or limit iron absorption (from both plant and meat sources) by pairing it with the right foods. Vitamin C will make plant iron a lot easier to absorb, so eating spinach with tomatoes is a great option, while eggs, calcium and caffeine are all known to inhibit absorption. You can also pair certain foods to form complete proteins (peanut butter on whole wheat bread anyone?).
Start the day right
How I start the day determines how I spend the rest of it. I like to pack my first meal full of goodness in the form of a smoothie bowl. It’s an easy way to get your daily fruit servings, you can mix it up depending what you need – berries for antioxidants, green veggies for iron, citrus for vitamin C etc – and your body is able to get more nutrients out of the fruit. Adding extras on top like nuts, seeds and grains will help you stay fuller, as well as giving you more of your daily nutritional requirements. In winter I substitute for oats cooked with berries, topped with chopped fruit.
If you want to cut out all animal products, then you’ll probably want to find alternatives, as milk, cheese and eggs are a huge part of the western diet…
There are so many different milks available now that you’re spoilt for choice. We use oat milk because my husband finds it has the least effect on tea/coffee. Soy or coconut milk has more fat for using as a baking & cooking alternative.
Yes, you can even get dairy-free cheese. Angel Food makes great alternatives for parmesan, mozzarella (pictured in the burger above) and cheddar. Or you can create your own nut-cheese if you’re feeling adventurous. You can use silken tofu in place of ricotta for amazing spinach and ricotta dishes, and adding a sprinkle of nutritional (savoury) yeast flakes to dishes such as béchamel sauce will give it a cheesy flavour.
I’m an avid baker so wasn’t sure how I would get around this, but there are many ways you can substitute eggs, and there are actually tonnes of egg-free recipes out there already. I’ve even learnt how to make ‘French toast’ by using ground flaxseeds mixed with water! Oil, flaxseed/chia seed eggs, mashed banana and applesauce are all common egg baking substitutions.
Do you have any tips to share or hurdles you’re struggling to overcome when it comes to cutting back on animal products?