Meat Free Week: eat well to be well

21st September 2020 | Eativity editors

It’s Meat Free Week – an opportunity to go meat-free for seven days and start thinking about how much meat you eat, as well as the impact eating too much meat can have.

Meat Free Week is not about trying to make meat-lovers shift to a totally vegetarian or vegan diet – it’s all about raising awareness. Going meat-free for seven straight days is a great way to really stop and think about the amount of meat you and your family normally eat in an average week. It’a also a chance to start making more informed dietary decisions if you’re eating more than the recommended intake of meat.

The latest statistics from the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics found that the average Aussie now eats 27.9kg of pork per year, more than double the 11.7kg we ate in 1975. In addition, Aussies eat around 27.9kg of beef per person, per year.

Studies from by the World Cancer Research Fund show bowel cancer risk increases by 17 percent for every 100g of red meat eaten per day, and by 18 percent per 50g of processed meat eaten per day. On average, Australians consume 565 grams of red meat per week.

If you choose to eat meat during the other 51 weeks of the year, research recommends limiting the amount to 500g per week and to limit or cut out processed meats like bacon.

We now eat more than double the amount of pork that we did 45 years ago.

The facts on bowel cancer

• Bowel cancer is Australia’s second deadliest cancer, claiming 103 lives every week.
• According to the World Cancer Research Fund, eating red meat is a probable cause of bowel cancer and eating processed meat is a convincing cause of bowel cancer.
• Eating 90g whole grains daily can reduce the risk of bowel cancer by 17 percent.

Eating for a healthier life

• Eat a diet rich in whole grains, vegetables, fruit and beans.
• If you eat red meat such as beef, pork or lamb, limit the amount to no more than about three portions per week. That’s equivalent to about 350-500g cooked weight.
• Eat very little – if any – processed meat, such as bacon, ham or salami.
• Limit consumption of fast foods and other processed foods high in fat, starches or sugars.

Meat-free meals don’t have to be dull. There’s a whole world of colour and flavour to explore.

Top 3 tips for Meat Free Week

Bowel Cancer Australia’s bowel care nutritionist Professor Teresa Mitchell-Paterson, who holds a Masters of Health Science in Human Nutrition, is not just an expert in food; she’s also a bowel cancer survivor and works as a member of Bowel Cancer Australia’s patient services team. Here’s her advice on how to get the most out of your meat-free week.

Get more iron from foods

Add a squeeze of lemon to your salad. The vitamin C helps to increase iron absorption from leafy greens. Foods high in iron include dried fruits, button mushrooms, leeks, dried coconut, raspberries and peas in their pods.

Throw a tofu burger on the barbie

A crispy tofu burger with all the trimmings – like onions, beetroot, sauce and lettuce – is a tasty and satisfying alternative to a meat-based burger.

Boost high quality protein

Add nuts and seeds to your meals, including yoghurt or porridge, salads or steamed vegies. To ensure you get all the amino acids for a complete protein, remember your ABCs: mix together almonds, Brazil nuts and cashews.

Tofu is a great source of protein, and contains all nine essential amino acids.

Teresa’s chilli tofu burger

You’ll need:

1 block extra firm tofu
1 tbsp sweet chilli sauce 
1 tbsp tomato paste
½ peeled red onion, finely chopped
2 cloves of peeled, crushed garlic
1 tbsp of lemongrass paste
5 tbsp of plain flour
Himalayan salt and cracked black pepper to taste

Method:

1. Squeeze excess fluid out of the tofu (put it between two tea towels and press)
2. Put all the ingredients into a big bowl and mash them together with your hands
3. Divide the mixture into 4 patties
4. Shallow fry them in olive oil until cooked through*
5. Place on a hot BBQ grill when ready to cook
6. Serve on a wholemeal roll with your choice of fillings: lettuce, onions, tomato, beetroot, haloumi… plus the sauce of your choice.

* You can store the burgers for a day in the refrigerator before grilling.

Want more inspiration? Head to meatfreeweek.org for loads of meat-free recipe ideas, as well as healthy meat-free cooking tips and sample meal plans. For even more tips on how you can get more Aussie vegies into your diet, follow eatmoreausveg on Instagram.

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