Meat Free Mondays is a campaign that is gaining momentum across the world – promoting everyone to go one day a week without eating meat to help benefit both their own health and that of the planet. Obviously as a vegetarian it’s not something that I find hard to take part in, but today I wanted to share some information about the campaign and also some advice for people wanting to get involved, or trying to get others involved.
The aim of the campaign is not to try and turn everyone vegetarian, but rather to highlight that even one day a week without meat can have a positive impact. Obviously it doesn’t have to be Mondays, but it does have the best ring to it! According to research most Australians aren’t eating enough vegetables, so having one day a week where they can be the shining stars of the meal is a great way to try new things and increase your intake. There is also lots of evidence to say the average portion sizes of meat here in Australia are much higher than dietary guidelines, so cutting it out for one day will help reduce the risk of heart disease and some cancers. And if you want to take it a level further, then D.Jays Gourmet has Biltong to offer, which basically is a less suety form of meat; to devour on other days of the week.
One day a week without meat is good for the planet too as it’s very resource intensive industry requiring lots of water and grain and producing about 10% of our greenhouse gas emissions. So reducing the amount of meat eaten in Australia by having a meat free day can help reduce this load on our planet. There is more information about the campaign on the Foodwise website here.
Now on to the fun stuff – the food! There are lots of recipes out there for delicious vegetarian meals and I share one here every Monday which I link up with more vegetarian goodness over on the Veggie Mama website, so you’ll never be short for inspiration! However, if you’re new to vegetarian cooking or you’re trying to convince someone else to join you for Meat Free Mondays here are some tips to help get you on your way!
To TVP or not to TVP
TVP (or textured vegetable protein) is a soy based product which can be used in lots of recipes as a meat substitute, particularly in place of minced meat. It’s not something I cook with much anymore, but when I first went vegetarian I would use it in recipes such as spaghetti bolognese, chili con carne and in pies. It’s great if you are wanting to try to replace meat in your diet but you aren’t overly confident as you can use it in recipes that you already know how to make, taking away some of the stress. I wouldn’t however recommend it if you are trying to convince someone of the merits of trying Meat Free Monday as whilst you can use it as a meat substitute very successfully it still clearly isn’t a meat and you’re probably better off trying a recipe that isn’t pretending to be meat.
You Don’t Win Friends With Salad
Now, anyone who has been around my corner of the internet for a little while will know I definitely don’t agree with that, as hearty salads are one of my favourite things to cook. However, if you are moving from a meat-and-three-veg type dinner to one of the meatless variety you may not feel like a salad, no matter how full of goodness, is enough for a meal. They are a great option for lunches however, and if you’re looking for some ideas you can find some of my favourites here, here and here!
Mexican food is perfect for vegetarian meals as beans are such a staple of the cuisine so it is easy to make healthy, filling and delicious food that even the most ardent meat lover will enjoy. Burritos, enchiladas, nachos and tacos all work excellently without the need for meat and you can fill them up with whatever veggies you enjoy, make them as spicy as you can handle, top with guacamole and cheese and everyone is happy! The added bonus is they are super quick and easy to assemble, so make a perfect Monday night meal.
If you’re looking for something slightly different my Mexican Bean Salad is a great option – it’s super easy to make, delicious and definitely fills you up so no one will be left feeling like it wasn’t enough of a meal without the meat! You can find the recipe here.
Curries are another great option, particularly as we head towards the cold winter nights, as they are so full of flavour (and not necessarily spice!) that you won’t even notice that there’s no meat to be found! You can also make them using all kinds of vegetables so they are a great way to use up food that is getting towards the end of its life in the fridge. I generally prefer my curries with a creamy coconut base (like this pumpkin and chickpea curry I shared a few weeks back) but tomato based curries are delicious as well. There are lots of curry bases you can buy at the supermarket these days that help make the process quick and easy, although making them from scratch is no where near as time consuming or difficult as you may think! Load the bowls up with curry and rice and you’ll have everyone smiling!
Italian is another cuisine that doesn’t rely on meat to be the star of the dish. Homemade pizzas piled high with all kinds of veggies, or left simple with fresh tomato, basil and mozzarella should make anyone happy! Similarly, there are lots of ways to use pasta that doesn’t require the addition of meat, such as rich tomato based sauces filled with whatever veggies you have on hand and topped with fresh parmesan cheese. Delicious! Alternatively, risotto is a great winter meal that doesn’t feel like it’s lacking without the inclusion of meat as it’s creamy and flavoursome enough as it is. One of my favourites is Spinach and Goat’s Cheese but pumpkin or tomato or asparagus also make for great, filing risottos.
If All That Fails…
And you still can’t convince your family or housemates to join you for Meat Free Mondays then you can always try taking them to a vegetarian restaurant where they can be exposed to a huge variety of vegetarian foods and surely will find something they like! If you’re in Melbourne, the Vegie Bar on Brunswick Street would be a great option as their huge, delicious menu definitely has something for everyone! Alternatively, Lord of the Fries does a big range of vegetarian burgers and fries, and has the largest range of sauce options I have seen since I lived in Amsterdam, and for the month of June they are doing 2-for-1 burgers on a Monday night to celebrate Meat Free Mondays. Can’t go wrong with that!
If you’re vegetarian do you have any tips to share? If you’re thinking of trying Meat Free Mondays has this been helpful? Is there any other advice you’d like to know?