Five reasons to embrace 'Meat Free Mondays'

What is Meat Free Mondays? Meat Free Mondays is a movement that encourages people to cut out meat for just one day a week. It doesn't have to be about cutting out meat altogether, but embracing one day a week where meat is off the menu and lots of fresh vegetables and wholefoods are on the menu. As someone who has been a vegetarian since childhood, I love the idea of Meat Free Mondays and think it's a fantastic way for traditional meat eaters to experiment with plant based cooking and enjoy preparing and eating vegetarian dishes. Of course if Monday doesn't suit, meat free Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday or Sunday work just as good.

Five reasons to embrace Meat Free Mondays.

1. To broaden your culinary repertoire:

Eating less meat encourages us to explore new and exciting foods and different methods of preparing and cooking food. It forces us to think outside the box when it comes to meal preparation. Use this one day a week to really experiment with cooking and different ingredients, trying something new each week and broadening your culinary repertoire. Learn to cook a thai curry from scratch or to embrace Middle Eastern flavours by making a vegetable tagine. Whatever the choice of cuisine once we step outside our culinary comfort zone, the possibilities for delicious and adventerous eating are many. Get yourself some veggie cookbooks and the vegetable world is your oyster.

2. To improve your health:

My personal opinion is that my diet is better without meat. Of course others prefer some meat in their diets, especially good quality organic cuts and I am not going to argue with what works best for others. However, even for those meat fans out there, variety is still great for our diets and I think everyone agrees that eating more vegetables and wholefoods is good for us. When we cut out meat, we generally up our intake of these foods. So even by choosing to go meat free for one day a week, it will have a positive impact on our diets.

One trap to avoid falling into is that of the 'junk food vegetarian'. Don't swap meat for refined carbohydrates such as white pasta, store bought sauces and lots of dairy. When chosing dishes for meat free Monday choose ones that are made with fresh vegetables, herbs, spices and healthy beans and grains. Once you get used to cooking with these types of produce, it is much more likely that you will start incorporating them into your everyday meals, even using them to accompany meat dishes.

3. To improve your finances

There is no doubt that meat is expensive, especially if buying quality cuts and organic meats. If you are cooking meat seven days a week for yourself and your family, the bill at the butcher counter is going to be high. Plant based proteins such as beans and lentils are much cheaper than meat and can be bought in larger quantities making them very inexpensive per portion. So for those on tight budgets, opting for plant based proteins can mean cheaper grocery bills each week.

4. To do something good for our planet

Global warming and water conservation are both very serious issues that are not going away. A study by the University of Oxford found that meat-rich diets cause double the climate-warming emissions of vegetarian diets. Water conservation in Ireland is a hugely controversial issue at the moment with households being charged for water consumption for the first time this year. But the water we consume from our facets at home is tiny in comparison to the water that is used by the food and farming industries to produce the food we eat at our kitchen tables. Meat requires significantly more water to produce than plant and whole foods. states that " according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the livestock sector is “one of the top two or three most significant contributors to the most serious environmental problems, at every scale from local to global” and that the "FAO estimates that livestock production is responsible for 14.5 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions, while other organisations have estimated it could be as much as 51 per cent".

5. To help improve animal welfare

Eating less meat is a step forward in the campaign for better animal welfare and to end animal cruelty. Much of the meat that ends up on kitchen tables is produced from intensive farming methods where animals are raised in cages with virtually no room to move for their entire lives. This makes for uncomfortable reading, but unfortunately this is the reality of intensive meat farming and production. By chosing to eat less meat, you are chosing to improve animal welfare.

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