By now you’ve probably heard all about the Meatless Monday movement- maybe you’re interested, maybe you’re not. We’ve all had that pushy vegetarian friend who tries to guilt you into swapping your Angus beef for tofu – I’m not going to do that, I promise. There are some great reasons, however, to give Meatless Monday a try. Let’s take a look at my top four reasons for reducing your meat consumption on a regular basis.
1. Reduce your carbon footprint
If you’re looking for ways to make your life more sustainable – as we all should be – take a look at your diet first. Around 10% of the average Australian’s greenhouse gas emissions comes for meat consumption – that’s about 2.8 tonnes per year. Not only do cattle and sheep produce heaps of methane, they also require vast areas to graze, which often means trees are cut down to make room for grazing. If you’re serious about reducing your personal contribution to climate change, eat smaller portions of meat less often, and give Meatless Mondays a go.
2. Explore new cuisines
It’s easy to get stuck in a rut when it comes to meals – we know what we like and what we can cook, and we tend to base our evening meals on a handful of go-to recipes. Sometimes, though, it’s fun to explore different cuisines, vegetables or styles of cooking, and discover great new meals to pop in that regular rotation of favourites. Many ethnic cuisines have less of a focus on meat, but plenty of flavour. Food that’s good for you and the planet can also be pretty damn tasty!
When my partner and I stopped eating meat, we found heaps of wonderful recipes that we wouldn’t have tried otherwise. We also learned to love cooking, and started learning about flavour combinations and the value of fresh herbs and spices. Every Tuesday we try a new vegetarian Indian dish – we have discovered the joys of homemade paneer, pakoras, naan, dhal and some new little treats like matar kachoris – moreish little spiced pea pastries served with mango chutney. Why not make Meatless Mondays a world cuisine night at your house, and travel the globe from the comfort of your kitchen?
3. Save money
Surviving on a student budget isn’t easy in modern Western society, and one of the biggest costs we face is our food. Meat is one of the most expensive elements of our diet, so reducing your meat consumption can significantly reduce your grocery bill. Look for filling vegetarian options such as pulses and legumes that contain protein and still fill you up. Vegetarian chilli con carne, for example, is a very filling, satisfying and budget-friendly meal that you can easily make in bulk and freeze portions for later. I pop finely grated carrot, zucchini and sweet potato in mine, and serve it with a big dollop of homemade guacamole.
If you eat seasonal vegetables and purchase from your local growers or markets, you can get a whole lot of healthy, filling food on a budget. I grabbed a cauliflower for 99c yesterday, and it’s destined to become a beautiful cauliflower fried rice, and some sneaky cauliflower nuggets that you’d swear contain chicken!
4. Drop your saturated fat consumption
The Meatless Monday project was conceived in order to help Americans reduce the saturated fat in their diets by 15%, as recommended by the ‘Healthy People 2010’ report. As the primary source of saturated fat is animal products, eating a meatless diet once a week naturally helps us keep our saturated fat consumption within the advised limits, without radically altering our diets overnight. As a diet high in saturated fat has been linked with an increased risk of heart disease and high blood pressure, there’s plenty of motivation for all of us to reduce our saturated fat consumption.