The prospect of cutting out meat from your diet can be daunting, especially as hearty meat and three veg dinners were the norm for most Baby Boomers growing up. But reducing your meat intake can actually have a lot of fantastic health benefits, with one of the biggest being the link between eating less red meat and a reduced risk of developing bowel cancer.
Eating a lot of red meat, particularly processed meat, may cause or increase your chances of developing bowel cancer, which claims the lives of more than 5000 Australians every year. Studies show bowel cancer risk increases by 17 per cent per 100 grams of red meat consumed per day and by 18 per cent per 50g of processed meat consumed per day.
There’s no need to quit eating meat altogether, though. By simply limiting the amount you eat, you can lower your risk significantly. So if you’re toying with the idea of going meat-free for a week or day, to make the transition as smooth as possible, we chatted with internationally known chef Jason Roberts, in conjunction with Meat Free Week, a Bowel Cancer Australia initiative which challenges Aussies to try a plant-based menu for seven days, about his top tips for switching to a meatless diet.
Before you jump on the meat-free bandwagon, it’s important to note going cold turkey from day one is never a good idea. If you want to eat less meat, easing into it is the way to go, Roberts explains. He advises to start with Meatless Mondays (which means to go meat free the whole day) before transitioning into a full week.
“Meatless Monday has been around for a long time and it’s very cool and you can tune into that,” he says. “You have got to make that step, it’s not about going cold turkey.”
Another great tip is keeping your meals fun and exciting. Whether you’re a fan of Mediterranean, Asian or Middle Eastern food, he advises picking a cuisine you really like and creating a plant-based menu around those flavours.
If you are still hesitant, find friends who want to go meat-free too – it’s much easier to make the transition if it’s a team effort. Roberts recommends inviting a few friends over for a meal and having everyone bring a plant-based recipe.
And when it comes to making the transition, Roberts says changing your mindset is key. Instead of focussing on what you’ll be missing out on, he says to try and think of what you’ll be gaining.
For example, eating more fruits, vegetables and whole grains can reduce your risk of bowel cancer. The latest findings show that eating three servings of wholegrains a day, such as brown rice and quinoa, can reduce your risk of bowel cancer by 17 per cent.
“If you think I’m eating to fuel my body for cognitive function, for a source of fibre, for vitamin C, all [of] that, I think you really can’t go wrong. Just eat a wide variety of colours,” he advises.
Instead of opting for an easy swap like a veggie patty or sausage, Roberts recommends adding more fibre-filled foods, such as beans, lentils, chickpeas (a firm favourite of Roberts’) and mushrooms into your diet as a substitute.
For a recipe idea he recommends roasting some sweet potatoes, and jacking up the flavour by adding tahini yoghurt, shaved fennel, shaved raw zucchinis and fresh herbs. Who says cutting out meat from your diet has to be boring?
IMPORTANT LEGAL INFO This article is of a general nature and FYI only, because it doesn’t take into account your personal health requirements or existing medical conditions. That means it’s not personalised health advice and shouldn’t be relied upon as if it is. Before making a health-related decision, you should work out if the info is appropriate for your situation and get professional medical advice.
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