Last updated: 02-Mar-16
Written by Sports Dietician Rin Cobb
Do you eat meat? Does the thought of going meat free bring you out in the proverbial ‘meat’ sweats? Contrary to what you may be thinking, you don’t need to be vegetarian to choose meat free options so this week’s food for thought is how opting for the occasional meat free meal can not only be delicious and nutritious but benefit your health, bank balance and even the planet too.
In the UK, it’s estimated we waste half a million tonnes of meat and fish each year, just about enough to fill Wembley stadium, and that’s not including all the other food we waste. With more families relying on food banks, how can we justify these wasteful eating habits? If other people’s hunger doesn’t sway your moral compass then perhaps think of the cost to your own bank balance as this waste alone is costing you £2.1 billion.
It’s also costing the planet. From feeding to production to transportation, the meat industry contributes up to 20% of global greenhouse emissions.
From a health perspective, there are a number of reasons why eating less meat can be a good thing including decreasing your risk of heart disease, cancer, stroke, obesity and type 2 diabetes. You may remember how red and processed meat hit the headlines several years ago after the World Cancer Research Fund issued guidance on the link between red/processed meat and bowel cancer. This led the department of health to issue guidance on how much we should be eating.
Reducing your daily consumption from 90 to 70g of red and processed meat is a good start. However, if like me, you enjoy a good quality steak every now and then, another option is to have your steak and eat it but then go meat free for a few days.
It’s not always clear what’s meant by processed meats, so just to clarify, these include sausages, bacon, ham and pate. Basically any meat that has been preserved by smoking, salting or adding preservatives. Red meat is of course a very good source of iron and, as previously discussed, runners can have higher requirements, so I’m not advocating you go completely meat free. I do recommend that you be more mindful of the quantity and quality of the meat you choose to eat.
With that in mind, you may be wondering what on earth you can eat? Endurance runners also have slightly higher protein needs (1.2-1.4g/kg body weight per day) than those not exercising so you may have some concerns about meeting these needs if eating less meat. However, there really is an abundance of tasty choices you can cook up. Some good protein fillers include lentils, beans and chickpeas, all of which come in handy tins so you don’t have to soak for hours on end as well as the classic tofu, Quorn, nuts, seeds and soya alternatives available. Don’t forget some of your 5 a day are good protein sources too such as peas, broccoli, cauliflower and spinach.
The Meatfree Monday movement is a great way to try out some meat free options even if it’s just one day a week and I’ve certainly found myself experiencing some taste sensations of late. If you’re struggling for ideas, each week an array of recipes is available through all manner of social media by googling or using the #meatfreemonday. To get you started, I’ve included one of my own recipes below. So, whether you choose to eat less meat for health, finances, sustainability or just because you happen to find a recipe which whets your appetite, bon appetit.
|Ingredients||Nutritional info per serving|
|8 flour tortillas (low fat variety)||Energy||669kcals|
|1 onion chopped||Carbohydrate||103g|
|2 cloves of garlic crushed||Protein||33g|
|2 teaspoons paprika||Fibre||10.4g|
|1 teaspoon chilli powder||Salt||2.4g|
|2 x 400g cans mixed beans||Calcium||527mg (75% RDA)|
|200g can sweet corn||Iron||6.6mg|
|150g grated mozzarella cheese||75% RDA men|
|45% RDA women|
1. Heat oil in pan and cook onion and garlic til soft
2. Add passata, spices and simmer for 10 minutes
3. Mix beans, sweet corn with additional spices to taste in a separate bowl
4. Pour half the tomato sauce into a large, rectangular baking dish
5. For each tortilla, fill with bean mix, roll up and place in baking dish. Continue until all tortillas are made up and fill the baking dish
6. Pour the remainder of the tomato sauce over the tortillas and sprinkle with the grated cheese
7. Cook in a preheated oven (180ºC) for 20 minutes or until lightly coloured on top