less meat - mushroom soup with creme heart

The idea of having less meat in our diet is spreading fast around the world thanks to the constant media stories on the health implications of eating too much red meat.

In fact, in the UK we’re slightly behind the times. Australia held a meat-free week from 18-24 March, and in the US the “Meat-free Monday” campaign is now in its fourth year. And in my opinion the movement is long overdue. Our 10 Healthy Meals initiative is partly designed to teach you how to cook without meat while never compromising on flavour.

There’s evidence that too much red meat, which includes beef, pork and lamb, can increase the risk of death from cancer and heart problems – so reducing our intake is an idea Jamie and I are well behind. In Jamie’s 15-Minute Meals, he was keen to encourage having a break from meat, suggesting that families have a meat-free day perhaps once or twice a week. To help, he wrote a whole chapter on veggie recipes to help cater for this, and we worked hard to make sure the dishes would satisfy even the most diehard meat eater. Some of those gorgeous recipes are proof that a meal doesn’t need meat to be delicious and hearty – just try his amazing ricotta fritters or his Keralan veggie curry.

But the issue of eating too much meat isn’t just about habit and flavour. A 2012 spending survey by the Office for National Statistics found that the average UK family spends £14.40 a week on meat and fish, £4 on fresh vegetables and £3.10 on fresh fruit. Meat is clearly the biggest strain on the family purse strings, so it would be wise for your health and your wallet to go meat-free a little more often. It also means that when you do have meat you can afford to buy the best quality. Trading up can make a huge difference, because the animal will have been reared with more care to taste delicious in whatever recipe you choose.

The Department of Health suggests that people who eat 90g of processed red meat each day should cut down to 70g – currently the average adult daily consumption in the UK. To put that in perspective, 90g is the equivalent of three thin slices of meat.

I’m not suggesting you give up your traditional Sunday roast or the occasional bacon sandwich – red meat can be eaten as part of a balanced diet – but do consider how much meat (especially processed red meat) you have in your diet and at each typical serving. If you think you need to cut back or just want to try out some veggie recipes, there are lots of ideas as ever on jamieoliver.com, like this delicious mushroom soup with Stilton, apple & walnut croutons!

About the author

Laura Matthews

Laura is head of nutrition at Jamie Oliver. Her passion for food comes from having cooking lessons at a local college from the age of 10, and the nutrition side from a fascination for how the right foods can fuel the body.

Laura Matthews