Updated: Mar 7
At this time of year, many of us choose to eat less meat or to cut out meat entirely, whether that is for ethical, environmental, health or cost reasons. However, people often worry about whether this will mean they will still have enough protein in their diet, particularly for children. Protein is needed for many of the important processes that make our body function properly and it is particularly important for helping children's bones to grow and to keep our bones and muscles working healthily throughout our lifetimes.
Protein is found in a wide range of foods, and these can be divided into two groups: animal protein sources, such as meat, dairy, fish, eggs, and plant protein sources for example, beans, lentils, nuts, and seeds. It's a common misconception that people who don't eat meat don't get enough protein in their diet, but studies show that vegans and vegetarians typically do get enough protein without needing additional supplements. For all of us, regardless of our diet is a good idea to eat protein from a variety of foods and the government recommends that we should all be eating more pulses, e.g., beans, lentils, and chickpeas because these are naturally low in fat and high in fibre.
If you are planning to reduce your meat intake, start off slowly. Don't try and cut it all out in one go because that can be hard to sustain. Instead, try to plan two or three meat free meals a week, and go from there. You can also learn about which foods provide the nutrients that you'll need in your diet. For example, spinach, kale, broccoli, and sprouts are all high in protein. Make sure that every meal you have contains a source of protein, for example eggs or cheese, lentils, beans, chickpeas.
There are some great meat alternatives available, and if you have a family of meat lovers and you think they're going to struggle to reduce their meat intake, then these meat replacements such as vegetarian sausages are a great place to start to help make the change easier and the transition a bit smoother. But don't rely on them for every meal because they may end up leaving you short of some of the nutrients that you could be getting if you're eating whole food sources of protein.
If you are looking to reduce your meat intake this year, my January recipe subscription box is a meat free one. It contains four recipes, which are all meat free, and all the herbs and spices that you need to make them. You can order that as a single box for £9.99, or if you would like to subscribe to my recipe service where I send you a box every month with four recipes and all the dry ingredients you need to make them then you can subscribe from £8.99 a month. Please check out my shop for more information.