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Updated: Nov 12, 2021

Switching to a plant-based diet is the single biggest way we can reduce our impact on the planet. Meat and dairy products have much higher carbon emissions than fruit and vegetables, so reducing the amount of meat you waste will have a bigger impact than cutting down on throwing out carrots. It also happens to be more affordable and often healthier for us.

Grantham Institute

Yet there is no need to turn vegan – the goal is to reduce meat considerably compared to our current consumption. After WHO released a report linking some meat to some cancer, the NHS recommended a maximum of 70gr of red or processed meat a day per adult.


Will you still get enough protein if you eat less meat?


In the UK, adults are advised to eat 0.75g of protein for each kilogram they weigh, based on the Reference Nutrient Intake (RNI). So if you weigh 70kg (11 stone), you should eat about 52.5g of protein a day. Plant-based options can be as high in protein as their meat or dairy-based alternative.

Lentils, together with chickpeas, fava beans, and quinoa form the ‘fantastic four’ alternative protein sources. For instance:

  • 100gr of cooked oat for breakfast + hemp seeds and a handful of nuts - for breakfast

  • 100gr of cooked whole grain + 100gr of cooked pulse or beans + 100 gr of selected vegs + a handful of nuts and seeds, for lunch

==> about 35 grams of protein – and it is just half day. Add an egg (about 6 grams), some bread, cheese, or more pulse/beans, and you easily get to the amount recommended for a 70kg person.

  • 100 gr of oat = 10 grams of protein

  • Hemp seeds = 5 grams of protein per heaped tablespoon

  • 100gr of cooked wild rice, spelt, kamut, quinoa = 4 to 5 grams of protein

  • 100 gr of cooked lentils, chickpeas, fava beans, tofu = 7 to 9 grams of protein

  • 100 gr of green peas, brussels sprouts, artichokes, spinach, sweetcorn, or white mushrooms = 3 to 4.5gr of protein.

  • 30gr of peanuts, almonds, pistachios, sesame seeds = 6 to 8.5 gr of protein.


How to cut down on meat?


Start small, with one day without meet and reducing the amount of meat the other days; eating less red meat and more free range organic chicken.

And then invest in real veggie or even vegan food. Start learning how to cook vegetables and other types of proteins, such as beans, lentils, tofu, eggs.

Don’t just replace the meat. It’s a classic rookie vegetarian mistake to continue eating exactly as you did before and just substitute faux meat products for the real thing. Not only is this entirely unsatisfying, but it’s also missing the point. Vegetarian meals can be some of the most delicately spiced, richly seasoned, deeply nourishing meals you’ll ever eat. Delve into recipes and go beyond the fake meat to discover the incredible variety of meatless cuisine. You’ll be glad you did.

Additional tips from the BBC

  1. Build meals around vegetables and add a little meat in, rather than the other way around. For example, reduce the amount of meat in stews and curries, and bulk up with extra vegetables, pulses and grains. Some classic recipes with vegetarian alternative.

  2. Use vegetables with a ‘meaty’ quality, such as mushrooms and aubergines.

  3. After soaking dried mushrooms (such as porcini and shiitake) in hot water, save the soaking liquid to use in stocks to add a ‘meaty’ flavour.

  4. Devise a way of curbing your meat intake that works for you. For example, consider eating meat only on weekends, or restricting meat to one meal per day.

  5. Buy meat less frequently but make it the best quality you can afford.

  6. Opt for Indian, Middle Eastern or South-East Asian veg dishes that use loads of spices and herbs – you’re less likely to notice the absence of meat.

  7. Add cheese! Simple roasted vegetables taste amazing sprinkled with a strong cheese, such as mature cheddar, towards the end of the cooking time.

  8. In sandwiches, swap salami, ham or other processed meats with canned tuna, sardines or mackerel, or use roast chicken.

  9. If you love bacon, fry one rasher until crisp, chop into pieces and add to a salad, omelette or pasta dish.

  10. Have one sausage and one bacon rasher, instead of two of each, in your full English breakfast – add another egg and extra beans if you’re hungry.


Useful resources to cook more vegs

  • Riverford recipes. Enter the name of your veg and it will find recipes for you.

  • Riverford veg hacks – simple tricks on video to make the most out of vegs.

  • The Meatless Monday campaign, with many tips and recipes

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