Meat Free Week – Are you joining me?

Meat Free Week It’s time to get prepped and ready for a challenge. Next Monday 23rd March through to 29th March, marks Meat Free Week and kick-off is fast approaching. Before you start panicking about not having meat on your plate for an entire week, lets take a look at why this week exists. Meat Free Week is an international event that encourages us to start thinking about how much meat we eat and the impact eating too much has on our health, animal welfare and the environment. It’s also about raising awareness of some worthwhile charities – including Meat Free Week health partner Bowel Cancer Australia. I have to say straight up that I have a close affinity with bowel cancer. On April 17th 2007, my world as I knew it, was turned upside down when my Dad was diagnosed with bowel cancer. Within two weeks he had 30cm removed from his large bowel and had started a gruelling regime of chemotherapy, reducing him into a shell of his former self. Thankfully, eight years down the track, my Dad has made a complete recovery. However, that moment of diagnosis meant that I and the rest of my family had an increased risk of bowel cancer and it most certainly made me have a good think about what I could do to reduce my risk in the future.

So what can we do to reduce our risk of bowel cancer?

There is convincing evidence that eating too much red meat and processed meat are linked to bowel cancer. Processed meats such as bacon, sausage and hot dogs, ham, salami and other luncheon meats pose the greater risk but eating more than 100g fresh red meat every day can also be a problem. Meat Free Week is not about pushing people into vegetarianism. The fact is, red meat provides valuable key nutrients such as iron, zinc and protein. We just need to be careful about how much and how often we eat it and the way we cook it.

Some Healthy Tips

  • Consume less than 500g of red meat per week, with very little if any to be processed

  • Cook meat carefully. Charred or blackened meats can damage the cells lining the bowel

  • Partly cook meat inside to reduce cooking times on open flames, grills or BBQ’s

  • Keep cooking temperatures low and use marinades to protect meat from burning

What about the alternatives?

As a poverty stricken uni student, I enjoyed vegetarianism for several years due to financial constraints and it very easily became a way of life (although it had to really). Over the following years, I reintroduced meat a few times each week to counteract low iron levels as a result of running. Now, with three young children, we do eat red meat but certainly less than 500g per week each and I am very careful about the amount of processed meat that is eaten in our household. This can be especially challenging as we love all things Italian and their penchant for prosciutto, salami, ham and every processed meat other imaginable. Preparing meals without meat certainly requires a bit more thought and design simply because it not a simple matter of removing the meat and leaving the salad or vegetables to fend for themselves. It is important to include quality protein in your meal and this can be challenging if you have become accustomed to having red meat as a staple item. The wealth of recipes that we have available to us both in the traditional format of the cookbook and online is fortunately unlimited. Some sites that you might like to take a peek at include: Meat Free Mondays  Jamie Oliver Sanitarium So the big question is – are you joining me next week?