The benefits of becoming a vegetarian
There are a lot of reasons for wanting to become a vegetarian. Whether it’s for health reasons, to help protect the environment or simply to save money, there is a lot to gain from a vegetarian lifestyle.
Help prevent global warming
One of the increasingly common reasons to become a vegetarian is that meat eating is thought to be contributing heavily to global warming. Fertilizers used in farming are responsible for major greenhouse gas emissions, and deforestation to graze animals being reared for meat and make room to grow crops for their feed are some of the main concerns.
Part of the problem is that as the human population increases and particular areas become more and more affluent the demand for meat products also increases. We may have to change our diets significantly in the next few decades to avoid causing more damage to the planet, so if environmental concerns are close to your heart than vegetarianism might be for you.
Enjoy the health benefits
There are lots of potential health benefits to giving up meat. A vegetarian or vegan diet (which means cutting out all animal products including eggs and dairy) is thought to reduce the risk of lots of common diseases including cancer, heart disease and diabetes. It’s especially important to think about your health into the future if you have dependents and eating a healthy, balanced diet can make a real difference. Cutting back on meat will also help you to cut back on life insurance and healthcare costs further down the line.
Contrary to popular belief vegetarians don’t necessarily struggle to achieve a balanced diet. There are lots of sources of protein and other essentials in foods like beans, lentils, tofu, eggs, whole grains and meat substitutes like Quorn products. As long as you avoid high fat foods and maintain a balanced diet you can completely cut out meat without losing anything important from your diet – in fact lots of vegetarians end up eating more healthily than meat eaters.
Save money and get more imaginative
Meat is expensive – especially if you buy free range or directly from a butcher, which you should be doing if you want to eat meat ethically. With meat substitutes and lots of different ingredients at your fingertips (and not just vegetables either!) you can eat delicious and healthy food every day at a fraction of the price you might pay if you were including meat in every dish you eat.
When you’re a meat eater it’s also easy to fall into habits of always eating the same meals every week. Becoming a vegetarian can force you to get a bit more creative and imaginative with your meals, which can only be a good thing.
To get you started we’ve got a recipe for a tasty gnocchi bake. If you’re having trouble finding any of these ingredients, you might like to consider switching to online grocery shopping. And don’t forget to check out the BBC Food vegetarian section to give you lots more inspiration as you set out on your journey as a vegetarian.
Gooey Gnocchi Bake
1 bag of gnocchi
1 ball of mozzarella
1 tin of chopped tomatoes
Bunch of basil
1 tin of peas, drained
1 red onion
Salt and pepper
A few rashers of streaky bacon
Lots of cheddar
Chop onions and garlic, chuck in roasting dish with olive oil
Chuck in gnocchi, mix about
Throw on peas, chopped streaky bacon/pancetta
Add chopped basil, seasoning and oregano
Pour on tomatoes
Scatter sliced mozzarella on top
Sprinkle with cheddar
Bake for about 15-20 minutes at 200 degrees