Many studies this year have shown how cutting down on meat and switching to a mainly plant-based diet can boost health. Lowering cholesterol, improving heart health, staving off memory loss -- adding more fruit and veg into your diet can have benefits for everyone. With plant-based foods also set to be a top food trend for 2018, here are some tips on how to eat less meat next year, without missing out on any essential nutrients.
Switch from fish to nuts for omega-3 and omega-6
Omega-3 and -6 are essential fatty acids important for our immune system, brain, nerves and eyes. Our bodies cannot make them, so we must ensure we get them from our diet. But as the most common source is fish, those looking to go veggie or vegan next year will have to look elsewhere. Switching to nuts and seeds such as hemp seeds, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, walnuts and soya spread will ensure that you are topping up levels of the essential omega-6 fat linoleic acid (LA), while adding chia seeds, ground linseed, hemp seeds and walnuts to your diet will provide sufficient amounts of the essential omega-3 fat alpha-linoleic acid (ALA).
Switch from dairy to leafy greens for calcium
Calcium keeps bones and teeth strong and healthy and is involved in the functioning of the nervous system, blood clotting, and controlling your muscles. Although it's a common belief that the best source of calcium is milk and other dairy products, there are many other, non-animal, plant-based sources of the mineral.
It is found in leafy green vegetables kale, pak choi, spring greens, and okra, which are great sources of fibre and other vitamins and minerals.
Switch from seafood to seeds for zinc
Seafood and red meat are common sources of zinc, needed for a variety of different functions in the body, including fighting infection, healing wounds, and growth and development.
However, seeds such as chia seeds, ground linseed, hemp seeds and pumpkin seeds are rich in the mineral, as are legumes such as beans, chickpeas, lentils, and nuts like walnuts and cashew nuts.
Switch from meat to fruit and vegetables for iron
Iron deficiency is the most common nutrient deficiency in the world, and meat is one of the richest sources of the mineral.
However, for those wanting to cut down on meat next year, the good news is that plenty of plant foods contain good levels of iron, including fruits and vegetables such as kale, figs, and dried apricots. It's also found in lentils, chickpeas, beans, tofu, cashew nuts, chia seeds, ground linseed, hemp seeds, pumpkin seeds. To increase absorption even further, add fruit and vegetables rich in vitamin C such as peppers, broccoli, cabbage, kiwi fruit, oranges, strawberries, pineapples and grapefruit to your iron-rich foods.
And finally...switch from bland to seasoned
If you struggle to eat your greens, then a study from the University of Illinois may have found a way to make them more tempting. Published early this year, the study found that adults are significantly more likely to eat vegetables if they are seasoned with herbs and spices when compared to serving them plain and steamed. The team also commented that the findings are particularly important for men and younger adults, who tend to eat fewer plant-based foods overall than women and older adults.