Having just completed Meat Free Week I thought I would fill you in with my experience of the week I just had where I wasn't able to eat any meat, fish or seafood for 1 week....That's right 1 week, 7 days, 168 hours.... in reality a very short time. To all the vegetarians out there I apologise as what I'm about to say sounds pretty pathetic but this 7 short days actually felt relatively long and it turned out to be harder than I thought!
When I decided to accept the challenge I did it purely for myself...I wanted to see how I would feel going meatless for a week. Generally we eat meat free meals about twice a week and in all honesty I never thought anything of it. Eating meat 7 days a week is a big no-go for me... I simply find it to be too much. Cost aside (which would be far too much for my budget!) meat everyday is just overkill (sorry, no pun intended!).
For years I have been an advocate of buying better quality meat and simply eating less of it and I really do stand by that. There are many issues associated with our global meat consumption, notably the impact it has on the environment, animals (increased consumption has lead to inhumane farming practices for a start) and of course our own health. As posted on the Meat Free Week website "the U.N. has identified the livestock industry as one of the most significant contributors to today's most serious environmental problems" so we really do need to stop and seriously think about how much meat we eat.
So how was my week? Well since we eat meat free a couple of nights a week the first couple of days were absolutely fine, although it did present a challenge that I didn't expect on day 2. When the option of not eating meat, fish or seafood is taken away from you, you suddenly realise how much meat there is EVERYWHERE! On Tuesday we were out of town and had to stop for a quick lunch. Since we had a couple of things to grab we opted for the mall food court. Ok so I know not the best but with roughly 8 different vendors we thought we would be fine.... Wrong! Suddenly it hit me just how limited the vegetarian options were. It was meat, meat and more meat! Since I'm not a fan of fast food anyway all burger joints etc were out especially since I didn't fancy a fast food veggie burger (if they even had them - I didn't hang around to check!). Pizza seemed to all be adorned with pepperoni, ham or salami and even one place that offered Mac & Cheese as a side dish had thrown in Bacon for good measures.... It was a real eyeopener! In the end we went for Vietnamese and I had a bowl of Vegetarian Tofu Pho which I might add was absolutely delicious.
The next thing that I discovered was that with all of the food magazines that I have, the majority of recipes once again feature meat, fish or seafood of some description! Of course there are vegetarian recipes but really they were very limited. An innocent side dish of sprouting broccoli was enhanced with chilli.... and then anchovies.... A beautiful salad full of crisp bright vegetables was topped with croutons... and crispy chorizo... And so it went. Having recently discovered the wonderful Zinio Digital Magazines App I had purchased quite a few backdated food mags and as I read through them realised that maybe 90% of recipes do not cater for strict vegetarians.... It was another eyeopener. Of course I have read food magazines for years and years and never once noticed just how limited the vegetarian recipes are... until now.
As the week went on I started to realise that I was actually beginning to miss meat which kind of shocked me to be honest. I thought I would manage a week without any problems but I was wrong. The meat recipes in the magazines were jumping out at me and I found myself mentally planning next week's meal plan to feature some of them. I really enjoyed all of the vegetarian meals that I had but towards the end I wanted some chicken.... or a steak... or randomly, sausages (didn't expect that)!
Interestingly I did notice I seemed moodier than normal. It could have been a complete coincidence and perhaps just my hormones but I definitely noticed a change in my mood, especially as the week progressed. I was also woken in the middle of the night on Thursday with the most horrendous stomach cramps and nausea.... That night I had eaten my beautiful Dhal... Whether it was caused by that or it was a bit of a bug I'll never know but it was a bit of a setback in the week.
With all of that said though I am happy to report that for 7 full days I ate absolutely NO meat, fish or seafood and I feel really good about it! On top of that now that the 7 days are done I kind of feel like I am over the hump and could actually quite happily eat another vegetarian meal tonight! Unfortunately Scott has already requested that we please have meat tonight!! Doing the challenge has definitely made me a lot more aware about the impact of eating so much meat. There is no denying it I simply could not be a vegetarian, however in future I will pay a lot more respect to the meals that we eat that include meat and not just take it as a given, expected entitlement. We'll continue to have 2-3 meals a week that are vegetarian and really enjoy them and the fact that they don't have meat in them, and I urge you to do the same.
Whether you took part in Meat Free Week or not it is definitely worth looking at your eating patterns and seeing just how much meat you eat.... That Ham and Tomato Sandwich for lunch, or perhaps maybe a nice Tuna Mayo Baguette followed by more meat or fish for dinner.... I've done it, I'm sure you have too, but from now on I'll definitely be paying more attention to that and aim to have a few days a week that are completely meat free. As for now I'm off to read my latest Kindle purchase.... Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's River Cottage Veg Everyday!
To make things easier for you if you want to eat more vegetarian meals, here are a few vegetarian meals that I really enjoy:
(I tried this for the first time last week and we all absolutely loved it!)
(A little messy to make but really delicious and worth it!)