Vegetarian Week – the importance of a plant-based diet
I think most of us are aware by now that a diet high in vegetables, fruits, legumes and wholegrains is upheld as a healthy diet and too much red meat is not. This week “Vegetarian Week” has caused me to ponder the virtues of a vegetarian versus an omnivore diet, particularly in the context of our Recipe bags.
We are often asked whether we deliver a vegetarian bag and the answer is that we are seriously considering it. However the reasons we are sticking to our meat, poultry, fish and vegetarian recipes for the time-being are because – the majority of you demand this; we believe a small intake of good quality red meat and poultry is a healthy, balanced option; and let’s be perfectly honest, the variety makes it easier to come up with those all important inspiring recipes!
That is not to say vegetarian dishes cannot be inspiring and we hope that our weekly vegetarian meals have spurred you on to add more meat free dishes to your culinary repertoire. Introducing our customers to tofu was an interesting test but by adding lots of spice, it seems we hooked many of you onto the virtues of bean curd. If you missed this tasty recipe see the recipe for Five Spice Tofu Stir Fry here.
There is a huge body of evidence to indicate that a plant-based diet can help to protect us against diseases such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes and osteoporosis.
Vegetables, fruits and wholegrains supply us with an abundance of vitamins and minerals which keep the body healthy and strengthen the immune system. They also contain very important phytochemicals which protect the cells in our body from damage. For instance phytochemicals such as antioxidants dampen down the production of free-radicals in the body which damage DNA and can lead to cancerous cells forming. Antioxidants can also help to keep our body looking younger for longer!
Plant foods can be an important part of maintaining a healthy weight too, as they are generally lower in energy-density. They help to keep out gastrointestinal tract in good working order too by supplying us with plenty of fibre.
The environmental aspect
A 2006 study, examining the impact of a typical week’s eating, showed that plant-based diets are better for the environment than those based on meat. Some reasons to consider reducing meat intake are:
- Research has shown that livestock farming causes more emissions than the world’s entire transport system.
- Meat production is a particularly water-intensive process using 8% of global human water consumption.
- The overuse of antibiotics in livestock farming is threatening our survival.
- De-forestation for grazing land is responsible for releasing huge amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
- Over-fishing is depleting our fish stocks and affects the ecological balance of our oceans.
At Jessica’s Recipe Bag we take very seriously the importance of sourcing good quality meat from British suppliers and using fish that is not on the endangered list. We will continually strive to find suppliers who care about the environment as much as we do.
Tips for eating a more plant-based diet
A typical Westerner’s omnivore diet tends to emphasise the meat element and, when planning and serving a meal, the meat takes centre stage. Consider the portions of food on your dinner plate and start thinking of the meat as an accompaniment to your vegetables.
When serving a meat-based meal, ensure that at least half the plate comprises of a variety of vegetables, a quarter of wholegrain starchy carbohydrates and a quarter meat. You only need a small amount of meat (a piece about the size of a deck of cards) to supply your protein needs. Frozen vegetables such as peas and sweetcorn or a bag of salad leaves can be a very convenient way of topping up the plate with extra veg.
As a guide for the carnivorous amongst us, try to keep red meat consumption to just once a week, poultry to once or twice, fish two to three times a week and have a vegetarian dish or two to fill in the other days.
To try to cut down on meat intake, adopt Paul McCartney’s idea of a ‘Meatless Monday’ each week, or cut out meat at lunchtime by having a healthy vegetable and bean soup. For breakfast ditch the bacon and eggs and go for grilled mushrooms, tomatoes and baked beans on wholemeal toast.
There is obviously plenty of evidence on many aspects to persuade us that too much animal produce in our diet may have negative effects all round but whether we choose to go all vegetarian, pescatarian (no meat, only fish) or meat eating, it is a very individual decision. Our genetic makeup may mean that some of us are more suited to a vegetarian diet than others. Listening to your own body and what suits you is important and then, along with the facts above, make your own informed choice.
By choosing to order our weekly Recipe Bags we can help you to eat a varied diet with a balance of meat, poultry, fish and plenty of plant-based foods. For tasty vegetarian ideas click on some of our Recipe Bag favourites below.
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