Thinking green, by Caitlin

Thoughts and ideas on environmental topics from Caitlin Howlett, editor of Green Lifestyle.

How to go meat-free

Meat-free-blog

My regular food box delivery from Aussie Farmer's Direct made the transition off eating meat so much easier.

quorn

Soft, home-made pasta with vegan bolognese.

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I used to be a weekday vegetarian for environmental reasons. We've all heard the stats about the impact of intensive factory farms on pollution, waste and resources, and while these are still important, lately I've had a change of heart.

The further I look into meat industry, the more I want to change my eating habits for more personal, ethical reasons. Worldwide, two out of three farm animals are from factory farms, living in cruel conditions. As a nation, we now eat 10 times more chicken than in we did 50 years ago, yet we have less poultry farms and most of our chicken meat comes from just two corporations that run factory farms.

For the past month I've been completely pescatarian ('ll admit to eating some sustainable seafood in the last four weeks!) and next week I've signed up to participate in Meat Free Week - I'm determined that next week it's completely vegetarian for me!

The past month has been easy in many ways, mainly because of a few simple things I've learnt along the way:

- I let my friends and family know publicly that I'm not eating meat for a month. This is where wide-reaching communication like facebook is great, because you can't selectively make excuses for yourself depending on who you're hanging out with. And, I wrote a blog about it...

- I didn't realise it at the time, but signing up for a delivered fruit & veg box made quitting meat super easy. Green Lifestyle magazine has a super deal on organic boxes with Aussie Farmers Direct until 31 May. By avoiding the supermarket I've been eating fresh organic food all week, and I'm saving money too!

- Planning ahead. Our intern came up with a tip that we published on pg 88 of the current issue to write a list on your fridge door of what's in it and cross it off as you use it. I've found this the best way to use up everything in my food box and avoid waste.

- Google it. I love the recipes that come up when I pop the items I want to use up into the Google search bar - they're dishes that I'd never normally think of making. For more great vego recipe ideas visit the Meat Free Week site here, I love the Friday nom noms from econest, or if you're short of time try this cheat's vego meal by Down to Earth Mother.

- I have friends over for dinner more often than eating out. I have a great deal with a few friends where we take it in turns at each others houses. If you do want to eat out, support places that have lots of vego options. I'm keeping an eye on Lord of the Fries, originally from Melbourne, expanding to Sydney and perhaps further soon.

- I embraced Quorn. It's a meat-free protein made from a type of fungi that means I can still make the dishes I know how to cook, but make them meat-free. I surprised my boyfriend with a vegan spaghetti bolognese the other day. It's not too mean that I didn't tell him it wasn't meat until he was halfway through it, is it?

One of the best things about making this switch is that I've now reduced my risk of heart disease, obesity, and I'm healthier. The latest Australian Dietary Guidelines say we eat twice as much eat as we should be for our health. The decrease in fat in my diet means I've even lost a bit of weight too! I've also been taking iron supplements until I learn more about different ways to get enough iron from vegie food - I know that it's super easy to have high iron levels as a vegetarian, and that in fact vegies, fruit and nuts have a much higher iron content than beef, I'm just covering all bases til I'm sure I'm eating right with my new diet and absorbing it properly.

I can't say yet whether or not I'll going to go back to my weekday vegetarian ways, but I've proven to myself that I can go without meat, and at the same time I've significantly changed my eating habits to support small-scale, organic fruit and veg producers. So go on, give it a go, and sign up for Meat Free Week. Let me know if you found any of these tips useful, and if you have any more of your own great tips at editorial@gmagazine.com.au.