Ten months have past since we set our goal to reduce our meat intake by 80%. We have consumed many hearty meals since then.
So what has it been like, I hear you ask?
Well, surprisingly, it has been not quite as difficult as we first thought.
Back at the beginning, Kim, Ben, and I were your traditional mainstream omnivores. We had a portion of meat in our diet at least once a day, sometimes twice.
Once we decided that this reduction was a good idea for our health, the health of the planet and definitely the health of the animals we until then consumed regularly. We began to look for meat substitutes. This was to ensure that we could maintain the difference in our diet over the longer term.
Our initial concerns were places to source these alternatives, so along the way, we talked to friends who were vegetarians to find out how they ate.
One suggestion we took on board was that to use a dehydrated soy meal product that kind of looked like dried up beef mince. You just soak it in warm water for a while, then drain and add to the dish you are preparing instead of mince. Adding a good vegetable stock helped increase the flavour.
We have discovered many delicious meat substitutes on the market, including veggie bacon, veggie peperoni, and mycelium products made to look and taste like chicken, beef, and pork. We definitely have rediscovered the full flavour of our home grown vegetables, and herbs. We add garden grown herbs to just about every meal.
|Home made Passata|
Cooking with veg really reduces the preparation and cooking times of all meals. Because the veg or substitute cooks so fast we find that we have so much more time to ourselves in the evening. It doesn’t take very long to whip up a Lentil burger with a salad, or to make a hearty winter veg soup with beans.
We decided early on that we would have a fortnightly meat allowance, which was a few pieces of free range breed bacon on alternate Sunday mornings or in Egg and Bacon pies. However, as time past, I found a perfectly good veggie bacon substitute on the market that has the same sort of look and taste.
|Stretching the bacon allowance in a pie|
Kim and I are down to a few meat meals a month now, which in hindsight has been a great achievement. Our goal was never one of complete meatlessness (vegans, please respect my lifestyle), and we did cook up a beef madras curry and a chicken korma for my daughter’s 21st birthday dinner in mid October. We used biodynamically grown meats to prepare this meal. There was a fair bit left over, so as each guest departed, they left with a big container to keep them going over the next few days.
After eating that meal, I felt bloated and uncomfortable for the next couple of days, and thankfully we have not repeated that type of meal since.
My other meat vice is anchovies, which I put on my fortnightly home made pizza. I bought a big jar at the start of the year, and we have still not finished it. Talk about making food last.
Over the year we have found that eating mostly vegetarian meals has been quite easy, so much so that it is occasionally becoming difficult to remember the last time we actually ate meat. As we discovered in October, we do not really miss these regular portions, and our bodies have adapted well.
As for missing our favourite dishes, this has not been an issue. With the use of the meat substitutes our normal fare is still on the menu. We still partake in dishes like cottage pie, lasagne, minestrone style soups, meatloaf (sans meat), and spaghetti bolognese to name a few.
We have also been eating much more from the veggie patch. I found that starting the meal preparation standing in the patch gets the ideas flowing. I soon think of something to whip up for dinner even if it is a handful of herbs to add flavour to whatever I am planning. Regular additions are spinach, rainbow chard, leeks, and spring onions. Not to mention all the other veg that I grow when it is in abundance. Eggs from the backyard flock are a staple protein for us.
All we had to do was change the way we thought about food. I have recently had a medical check-up and my GP is very happy with my condition. My blood pressure is getting back to normal (still on meds for it but reducing), and my LDL count is dropping. My stomach issues have all but disappeared, except when I partake in a particularly spicy veggie curry (I am addicted to them). On top of that, I feel fit as a fiddle, even with the odd back pain as I get older.
|A big two leeks up for this lifestyle!|
So there you have it. A good result for all concerned, especially the animals I would have otherwise added to my plate. Our environmental footprint has been reduced dramatically as well.
Who would have thought that we would still be eating this way ten months down the track?
carol hardie says
that sound’s great!i stopped eating red meat 2 year’s ago,i still eat Chicken though!only once a week,i have 2 chicken Drumstck’s for a roast Lunch on Sunday just for me!but i think i will cut that out also,i feel guilty eating it!great post,thank you!
Tania @ Out Back says
Hi Gavin, thanks for the update on your diet…
I have cut back on my meat consumption too. I eat mainly vegetables (from the garden), eggs and tofu. I haven’t yet tried the meat substitutes, although I have bought some Quorn that is sitting in the freezer for now. I feel so much better these days…
Glad to hear that eating this way is improving your health, it’s good for the body and the budget!
Wishing you a great day!
That sounds delicious and very good for you. My only concern is about the use of so much GMO soy. I have been told (not sure by whom) that all the soy we get in North America is genetically modifide. I have not had much soy since I heard this. Is it possible to find soy products that are not GMO?
Take care and happy cooking
Paul - The Kind Little Blogger says
The top three soy-meat brands in Australia; Frys, Quron and Sanitarium Veggie Delights are GM-free. Most tofu you find is also GM-free and organic. All soy milk I have seen in the supermarket is GM-free.
Thanks, Paul. I will have to do more homework on this one.
Google the Food Standards of Australia New Zealand, and you will discover that labelling of GM free products (or having to label GM) on food sold in Australia is mostly self-regulated. In other words it’s not policed.
Food manufacturers can also put up to 1% of GM (per ingredient) on the list, to be exempt from having to label GM on their products.
In Canada it is not a requirement to label for GMO additions, but we hoping that will change soon. Meanwhile it is a product by product check.
Paul - The Kind Little Blogger says
Glad to hear you and your family are committed to cutting down on your meat, Gavin. I think for a lot of people substitutes are good idea. Many vegetarians that don’t consume substitutes instead rely heavily on eggs and dairy to substantiate their meals. The tolls of which are huge in animal welfare / exploitation terms.
I am a vegan and shall respect your lifestyle however I will say one thing, from a welfare point-of-view in particular, put dairy into the same category as flesh. The industry is no less cruel and wasteful than the flesh industry and ought to be treated with caution. You’re cutting down on your meat consumption for a variety of reasons and these same reasons ought to apply to dairy. As for eggs: you get your eggs from your backyard chooks. I have no problem whatsoever with that and would probably do the same if I had my own chooks. 🙂
Well done to you and your family! It’s great to hear about the why’s behind your choices and how they have worked out. I likewise only eat meat a few times a week (although more than you by the sounds of things) and buy mostly from farmers markets and occasionally certified organic from the supermarkets, mainly as I’m concerned about animal welfare. I refuse to buy commercially reared meat. I am becoming increasingly concerned about dairy too, and have just moved to buying only organic milk and yoghurt, as I understand certified organic standards also include welfare components. But I do feel frustrated at times that it is quite difficult to make informed choices about exactly the sort of produce you are purchasing, and its not like keeping a cow or meat animals is an option for me in suburbia. I have to purchase the (attempedly minimal) animal products I choose to eat (except eggs, I get those from my grandmothers chickens and I know how well those animals are kept), so really I have no other choice. But I do the best I can. Unfortunately I’m allergic to soy so I rely heavily on legumes – felafels are a regular meal at my place! This year I’m trying to grow storing beans too!
Paul - The Kind Little Blogger says
“I do feel frustrated at times that it is quite difficult to make informed choices about exactly the sort of produce you are purchasing”. You’re right Bek. That’s why I believe the only way you can be sure is to abolish all support for the practices you oppose.
An interesting post Gavin. I find I am eating less and less meat since I took on my allotment.
Wow that is great going. We don’t eat very much meat. it happened by accident, after kidney stones, the urologist scared me… An we noticed substantial savings when not to buying meat.
I am addicted to a packet mix of falafel. I know it is an expensive way to make them but I haven’t been able to reproduce the flavour, plus it has carrot in also that I would never have thought of adding. (the packet is Simon Rimmers flafel mix in case you were wondering)
Could you please post the recipe for your vegetable loaf pictured? it looks tasty… does it freeze well?
I too would suggest some HEAVY research into soy as, apart from the GMO fears (maybe less issue in Australia), I have also heard a lot of rumblings about how it is actually NOT good for you at all. I don’t use it except for the occasional soy sauce so I’ve not bothered to research into it but it’s well worth a look. I would also be concerned with using meat substitutes as whatever they are made from is highly processed, possibly full of artificial colours, preservative and flavours, not to mention the carbon and processing mileage. However, I totally commend you for cutting down your meat intake. I love my meat and have no plans to cut it from my diet although, like you I am increasingly concerned about its impact on the world, particularly factory farmed animals. We don’t eat a lot of meat, certainly not on a daily basis and as we’ve been blessed with the space, we are hoping to raise our own organic meat and dairy. I completely respect that this isn’t always possible though. It’s one of those areas where there just seems to need to be compromise in some way or another.
I would second rabidlittlehippy’s comments. Beware of what is now being called Frankenfoods. They are foods wholly manufactured through high processing and the need for artificial preservatives/flavours, to give it the “just like” qualities you’re trying to substitute.
I’m all for going less meat, but avoid substituting it with something that is even less better for your health than commercial meat.
I understand this is your first step of many, to change the way you eat for the better. I don’t want to discourage that success you’ve made giving up commercial meat products. Just be aware that the wholly processed products you are substituting however, will probably have to go at some point too.
I’ve lived with several chronic illnesses, all requiring I give up various foods. I tried the substitution route for a while, but then found myself developing other (quite serious) health issues. The only improvement I got, was when I gave up as much “processed” foods as I could.
my aim has been to reduce processed foods (and i’ve lost 20 kgs in 4 months doing this!) which i honestly think is the healthiest way we can possibly eat… i feel as fit as i did 10 years ago before having babies took its toll on my body!! 🙂 mostly veges make up the bulk of my diet (a good percentage of which i grow myself in my garden), but i do enjoy a small piece of lean meat! i find i crave it!
p.s- can you please do a post that gives us a good look around your spring garden? i’d love a sticky beak!
Good for you Gavin! We use soy in good amounts as well as TVP to augment the almost complete loss of red meats. A carefully planned change is key, but there definitely are many alternatives to the old standbys.
Gavin you should publish a recipe book!
Always very interesting for me to read about people transitioning to a “vegetarian-ish” 🙂 diet. I was raised almost exclusively lacto-ovo vegetarian, mostly for religious/health reasons (we are Seventh-day Adventists; most Adventists are either vegetarian or eat very little meat). Having eaten many meat substitutes, therefore, over my lifetime, I’m always interested to see what others think of them! I believe that one of the answers to the soy issue is to be, as always, moderate in all things. Whether one eats meat or a meat substitute, if the majority of the diet is made up of whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and nuts, it seems to me that you can’t really go wrong. I agree with others who have commented that having a garden or allotment almost automatically means consuming many more produce products — after all that work, you certainly cannot just let them rot!
Thanks for a very interesting post, as always.