Eating less meat - an easy way to eat better

If you're thinking about eating more healthily in 2015, Eating Better is encouraging everyone to take the Eating Better Challenge –and enjoy tasty, affordable and healthy meals by incorporating more plant-based foods and less meat into everyday eating.

The idea of reducing meat consumption without cutting it out completely – also called 'flexitarian' eating - is growing in popularity. YouGov research for Eating Better published at the end of 2014 found over a third of the British public (35%) are willing to consider eating less meat with 20% already cutting back.
Many people cite health as a key reason to reduce their meat consumption, and the Department of Health recognises that eating less meat and more plant-based foods is a great way to help your heart and for high meat consumers reduce the risk of bowel cancer. Other key reasons for eating less include the cost of meat, concerns about the impacts of livestock production for climate change and the environment, as well as animal welfare.

By following Eating Better's top tips and making simple tweaks to everyday meals like these, you can save money and make meals healthier.

The Eating Better Challenge top tips:

  • Use half the meat in curries, casseroles and stews and double the amount of vegetables. Add a tin of beans or lentils and extra veg to a curry or a stew. Grate a courgette or carrot into pasta sauces.
  • Replace some or all of the mince in spaghetti bolognaise, cottage pie and lasagne with Quorn or other meat substitutes.
  • Buy smaller portions of meat and use to add flavour, rather than as the main ingredient.
  • Try eating more meat-free meals and having one or two 'meat-free days' each week. Look out for veggie options, or make veggie versions of your favourite dishes like vegetable curry. Go easy on the cheese though, as it's high in fat.
  • If possible, use the money you save from eating less meat to choose meat that is free-range and outdoor reared and produced to higher animal welfare standards such as Freedom Foods or organic.

We've created the hashtag #EatingBetterChallenge for people to tweet their recipes and pictures to us @Eating_Better.

Strong evidence now exists of the need to shift diets towards reduced levels of meat-eating among high consuming countries like the UK to help address climate change, promote public health and help feed the world more fairly and humanely. High levels of meat consumption, particularly red and processed meat, are associated with increased risks of bowel cancer and heart disease. In respect of bowel cancer, the Department of Health advises that people who eat more than 90g/day of cooked and processed red meat should reduce their intake to 70g/day. Additionally the livestock industry is a massive contributor to greenhouse gases which increase global warming. Greenhouse gas emissions from the livestock sector are estimated to account for 14.5 per cent of the global total, more than direct emissions from the transport sector.

At Eating Better we're working to understand how best to shift our food culture towards less and better meat/more plant-based eating. Last year we commissioned a literature review of relevant consumption patterns, trends, and people's attitudes and behaviours. Our report: Let's Talk About Meat: Changing dietary behaviour for the 21st Century (published December) identifies 10 ways to motivate behaviour change towards less and better meat eating. Promising drivers include concern for health, concern for farm animal welfare and cost savings of eating less meat.

We also make a number of recommendations for governments, businesses, researchers and civil society organisations. Cities can help with this transition too. With Brighton & Hove being a One Planet City, action to tackle meat consumption will need to be considered. Eating Better is encouraging caterers to provide reduced meat and no-meat choices on their menus and for supermarkets to offer a greater range of meat-free choices from ready meals to sandwich. By providing tasty and affordable alternatives, reducing our meat consumption needn't feel like a sacrifice.

Find out more at www.eating-better.org, follow on twitter: @Eating_Better.