Meat-free meals - what are the benefits?!*

Friday, 1 September 2017, By Alicia Jovcevski

Meat-free meals - what are the benefits?!

On occasion we get asked for meat-free alternative meals and how to include more recipes into our diets that are "meat-free".

Did you know that Hollywood's very own beef cake, Arnold Schwarzenegger, who is widely regarded as one of the best bodybuilders of all time is an advocate for switching to a few meat-free days a week?! But why….?

Now, by no means am I demonizing eating meat, or am I saying that meat is bad for you or that you should avoid eating meat - a healthy and well-balanced diet incorporates both red and white meat, but interestingly many Australians are now joining the global move to have one day a week free of meat - "meat-free Mondays". 

Where people struggle is how to create appealing meals that are meat free and satisfying!

Apart from the ethical side, there are many other benefits to going meat free even for a day, such as: it benefits the environment, is cheaper on your wallet and is also good for your health.

The benefits of going meat free:
Having a few meat-free meals each week is a great opportunity to explore other nutritious alternatives and a more plant-based diet that consists of fruits, vegetables, and beans as alternatives to meat.
Samantha Cowan, Accredited Practising Dietitian and Sports Dietitian says "as a nation we are probably eating too much fatty, salty, processed meat and meat products. This comes with following a Western diet, which is high in saturated fat, salt and sugars from processed, convenience and fast foods," she says. "Choosing a meal based on legumes or lentils, which are low GI and high in dietary fibre and  antioxidants, may reduce your risk of bowel cancer and moderate blood-sugar levels. Vegetarians are, in general, less likely to be overweight or obese, and less likely to suffer from the diet-related diseases linked with a Western diet." 

Researchers now believe reducing your daily/weekly meat intake can help:

Fight diabetes: Recent findings show that you could reduce your risk of diabetes if you eat a diet high in vegetables, oil-rich fish (trout, mackerel, salmon and fresh tuna), wholegrains, nuts and olive oil, and low in red meat and sugary processed cakes and biscuits.

Lower cholesterol and control blood glucose: Beans and lentils are all low in fat and high in fibre - particularly soluble fibre, which helps to control blood glucose and cholesterol levels and also helps to keep you regular.

Help protect against cancer: reducing our intake of red and processed meats (The World Cancer Research Fund International recommends we eat no more than 500g of cooked red meat each week) and very little, if any, processed meat, which could prevent multiplication of sick cells

Reduce calories: A more plant-based diet contains fewer calories than animal-based foods.

Save money: Consuming other meat alternatives such as beans and lentils cost less than the equivalent amount of meat or fish.

Here are a few simple ways to help enhance meat-free meals so they are more appealing and satisfying:

  • Breakfast options:
    Mushroom Bruschetta on crunchy sourdough toast
    Swap sweet tomatoes for warm garlic mushrooms to make this comforting version of bruschetta. 

    Corn Fritters with an Avocado Salsa.
    Corn kernels are high in many essential vitamins and they offer a great burst of flavour to any dish. This is the perfect summer breakfast, healthy, colourful and balanced.

    Baked Eggs
    A simple one-pot dish of baked eggs, black beans, onions, tomatoes and spices usually Mexican inspired.

  • Lunch options:
    A yummy warm salad with roasted veg, greens, avocado, chickpeas/lentils and hemp seeds is quick and fresh.

    A Homemade poke bowl can be inviting using cooked brown rice/quinoa, greens avocado, tofu, veg, nuts/seeds, edamame beans/peas.
  • Dinner options: 
    A stir-fry with tempeh or tofu instead of animal protein for dinner is always filling. Adding some mushrooms is another way to create a more satisfying meal.

    Using chickpeas or lentils into a homemade pasta sauce with pasta and roasted veg is a super quick meal. You can make the sauce in batches, freeze in containers and take out to defrost when needed.
  • Morning or afternoon tea snack options:
    A pea protein or Vision whey protein powder smoothie with almond milk, banana and spinach and some LSA is both nutritious and filling. You could add whatever fruit and vegetables you like; the flavour combinations are endless!

Other ways to help get in some meat-free protein options are dairy products such as milk, Greek yoghurt, and cheese and incorporating eggs into your diet is another great way as well. Again, using everything in moderation is always key.

It is important to be consuming a source of protein with every meal and what types of protein you choose needs to be what works for you and your own health. 
You can however consume protein from non-meat sources but a diet with sufficient nutrients is crucial for achieving optimum health.

With any nutritional choices you make, you need to make sure they are right for you and your body but most of all, enjoyable to eat!


References: The World Cancer Research Fund International, The Healthy Food Guide.

*Disclaimer: Individual results vary based on agreed goals. Click here for details.

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