Reducetarianism – yes that’s a word. I hadn’t heard of it either before a journalist interviewed me for an article on the subject. Reducetarianism describes the growing trend of people eating less meat, fish and other animal products like dairy and eggs.
As a nation, I believe we’re overly reliant on animal products, particularly meat, as sources of protein in our diet. Many of us are not even aware that you can get protein from plant sources. Much like our over-reliance on gluten as a food staple at every meal, we’ve fallen into the routine of eating animal products at every meal. Milk with cereal for breakfast, ham sandwiches for lunch and spaghetti Bolognese with beef mince for dinner.
While I don’t believe there is a “one-size-fits-all” approach to nutrition, I do believe that most people would benefit from swapping some of the animal products they consume for plant-based products.
I’m not suggesting we all go vegan as this isn’t necessarily the healthiest diet for everyone. But I do think we should be more conscious of our use of animal products and opt for a little bit of higher quality meat/fish/eggs/dairy, rather than regular consumption of the mass-farmed animal produce we generally consume.
The Meat Free Monday campaign aims to encourage people to eat no animal products for one day a week. Although I appreciate this is a great campaign to raise awareness, it’s a bit like suggesting people stop eating sugar or drinking alcohol for just one day a week. If you binge on that food for the rest of the week it’s going to have little impact on your overall health. I think it’s more beneficial to have one animal free meal a day and to look at slowly reducing your overall animal product intake, so it becomes the exception rather than the norm in your weekly diet. There are several reasons why I make this suggestion to most of my clients. They include:
- Researchers have shown that a plant-based diet may help prevent, treat, or reverse some of the leading causes of death, including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and high blood pressure
- A healthy plant-based Mediterranean style diet can help improve your gut microbiome by increasing the good bacteria. This can boost overall wellbeing as your gut is the epicentre of your immune system and has been linked to brain health as well as mood
- If you eat fewer animal products, you can afford to buy better quality organic produce. On organic farms, animals have more space to move around and are reared in better quality environments. Antibiotics are used less to keep the animals healthy and although research results have been mixed one analysis in 2016 showed that organic meat and dairy is higher in healthy omega-3 fats (which can help support heart health)
- Processed meats like ham, sausages and bacon – have been linked to increased risk of colon cancer and heart disease and Type 2 diabetes
So, how can you easily reduce your daily intake of and reliance on animal products and keep yourself healthy? Here are ten simple tips:
- Swap cow’s milk on your breakfast cereal to plant-based “milks” like almond, coconut or cashew drinks
- Replace scrambled eggs on toast with scrambled tofu – made using a silken tofu – add a little turmeric while cooking in coconut oil and you’d never know it wasn’t eggs but it’s still packed with protein
- Instead of butter made from cow’s milk on your toast, try a nut butter packed with healthy fats and proteins – it should also keep you feeling fuller for longer
- Swap your usual lunchtime ham and cheese sandwich with mayo for a vegan alternative falafel wrap with hummus and salad
- Baked beans make a perfect plant-based, protein-backed jacket potato topping – just opt for the low sugar/low salt varieties or try making your own using a tin of chopped tomatoes and a tin of cannellini beans
- Add pre-cooked lentils and quinoa instead of grilled chicken to your salad for a super simple and extra healthy plant-based lunch or dinner option
- Replace the meat in your favourite mince-based dishes (like bolognese and chilli) with pre-cooked green lentils, black beans and a dash of cacao powder – honestly, it’s delicious!
- Add plant-proteins to a stir-fry with cashew nuts and firm tofu
- Swap your usual chicken tikka for a lentil dahl when you’re going for an Indian
- Most coffee shops offer soya and almond milk as dairy-free alternatives when you’re out and about, but at home, I suggest trying cashew milk in tea/coffee as it’s the best substitute I’ve found!
So, there you have it, my top-ten ways to swap out animal products and add in health-promoting plant-based foods to your everyday life.
If you’d like more support to help you transition to a more plant-based diet or would like to know if your health might benefit from less meat, contact me to arrange a free 15-minute chat.