When I was growing up, there was always meat thawing in the sink. As a kid I was told it would help me grow. As a teenager my mum explained I needed red meat to boost my iron intake (a deficiency that runs in the family). And now, as an adult, my daily go-to form of protein is good ol’ chicken. I am, and always have been, a regular meat-eater. And why not? It contains essential vitamins, protein, iron, zinc and most importantly, it tastes damn good.
This hefty list of benefits has always been good enough for me. But vegetarianism also comes with it’s own advantages. Studies show that going veggo can help reduce the risk of diabetes, cardiovascular disease, stroke and obesity. A US study by the National Centre for Biotechnology Information even linked meat-free diets to an improved mood.
So, with science showing that a veg-based diet boasts both health and happiness, it isn’t surprising that vegetarianism is on the rise – 11.2 per cent of Australian’s now opt to leave meat off their plate. I decided to join the growing pack and go meat-free for a week. Here’s my verdict…
It Was Harder Work
In a house where the cooking pot feeds more than one mouth, going veggo meant spending extra time preparing a separate dinner, and I’ll admit to accidentally having a bite of pork on my first meat-free day. I struggled to think of tasty ways to hit my daily protein intake and ended up repeating a lot of meals (I need a break from quinoa and roasted veggies for a while). The hardest part? Definitely the food envy. My resolve wavered a few times when I ate out with friends or there was a roast dinner at home.
I Stopped Over-Eating
The biggest problem I have with my diet is over-eating. I’m generally healthy during the day but overdo it at dinner, which leaves me bloated and lethargic. Before I started my meat-free week, I assumed that a vegetarian dinner wouldn’t leave me completely satisfied and I’d have to supplement my meals with snacks. Surprisingly, it was the opposite. I ate until I was full and had fewer post-dinner cravings to satisfy my notorious sweet tooth. I didn’t feel too full after my meals, so I hit the gym more often during the week. Result!
I Had A Flatter Tummy
This was the only physical difference I noticed after a week. I woke up with a flatter tummy after my first day and, although I wouldn’t say I had more energy, I did feel lighter without the post lunch and dinner bloat.
My View Of Meat Changed
I became a more conscientious eater. Avoiding meat made me more mindful of all the ingredients on my plate. Did I have enough iron? Was I eating too much sugar? It inadvertently led to me eating healthier overall. I have a newfound love of legumes, nuts and seeds and also experimented with some vegan dishes (this green curry has turned into a favourite weeknight meal). I realised that my body functions well on vegetable-based proteins and that they can be just as filling as a good schnitzel. This experiment definitely helped me understand my body better. Although I will keep meat in my diet, I no longer consider it a daily staple. Meat-free Mondays, consider me sold!
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