Christmas is a time of indulgence and excess! A turkey that’s too big for the oven, sausages that you forget to cook until the last minute, streaky bacon, pork stuffing… and the expense! Red meat in particular contains a high percentage of saturated fats, which if eaten in excess, contribute to negative effects on cholesterol levels, blood pressure and body weight.

Well, here are 5 ways to eat less meat over the holiday season:

1. Improve your brain power instead

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The omega 3 fatty acids found in oily fish have been shown to improve cognitive function (may increase your chances of winning the Christmas quiz!). A whole dressed salmon for example will look amazing on the dinner table.

Rich in omega 3 fats, which also help to reduce inflammation, improve skin health and help to regulate blood glucose levels, salmon could be decorated with wonderful iron-rich parsley and filled with wild rice. Salmon also contains vitamin D, the sunshine vitamin, which may also help protect brain cells. Recent studies confirm that deficiency of this vitamin could contribute to cognitive decline.

This alone seems like a good enough reason to eat less meat, and more fish.

2. Think of your bank balance!

Some recent reviews show that individuals who regularly consume less meat also spend less on food. Supplementing with extra whole grains and beans can mean that less meat is needed in the meal.

As an example: One 500g bag of brown rice will provide 5-6 servings and 500g of dried beans will provide 10 servings when cooked, and also provide one of your five a day.

Compare this with 500g of raw lamb for example, which shrinks during cooking and provides only one- two servings.

eat less meat_2

3. Less salt- tofu pigs in blankets!

The same principle, but buy tofu wieners instead. Here are the ingredients to make 16:

– One packet of ready rolled puff pastry (320g)
– One packet of 4 (approx. 300g) of tofu sausages (wieners)
– 25g of poppy seeds
– A few of slithers of buffalo mozzarella (50g)
– 1 egg yolk to glaze

Method

– Lay out the sheet of puff pastry and slice lengthways.
– Cut each half into 8 even slices.
– Slice each wiener into quarters and place each quarter into the prepared pastry.
– Place a small slither of mozzarella on top and wrap up the pastry bundles.
– Use water to seal, brush with beaten egg and sprinkle over the poppy seeds.
– Bake in a pre-heated oven for about 15-20mins at 400 degrees (gas mark 6), until the pastry is golden.

Per 100g, cocktail sausages contain up to 2g of salt, which is a third of the suggested maximum daily intake. Excess dietary sodium intake may predispose to increases in blood pressure, which leads to adverse health effects.

4. Have your vegetables as a main course and your meat as a side dish.

Here are some ways to include meat in a side dish:

Stir some chopped cooked bacon into mash potato. Alternatively you could add chopped bacon to a cauliflower side dish or mix with sliced Brussel sprouts.

A bread stuffing dish made with sausage meat and herbs could accompany a stuffed aubergine. An idea would be to saute some garlic and onion, add a couple of small chopped tomatoes and tomato puree. Stir in a tin of cannellini beans and fill two halves of an aubergine with the mixture. Sprinkle with parsley and grated cheese and bake for 30-40 minutes.

5. Reduce your calorie intake by making a hearty stew

This is a great way to eat less meat by using more vegetables. A slow cooker is ideal for this. Add vegetables such as carrots, celery, onions, parsnips and peas. By cooking slowly, the meaty juices will really flavour the stew.

You can implement one or all of these points into a weekly routine, but here you have at least five ways to eat less meat over the holiday season!

References

Hooijmans CR1, Pasker-de Jong PC, de Vries RB, Ritskes-Hoitinga M. (2012) The effects of long-term omega-3 fatty acid supplementation on cognition and Alzheimer’s pathology in animal models of Alzheimer’s disease: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Journal of Alzheimers Disease. 28 (1) p191-209. Available from: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22002791

Soni M1, Kos K, Lang IA, Jones K, Melzer D, Llewellyn DJ.(2012) Vitamin D and cognitive function. Scandinavian journal of clinical and laboratory investigation. 243, p79-82. Available from: http://ww its and Costs of Vegetarianism Agricultural and Resource Economics Review 38 (2) p 109–124. Available from: http://www.researchgate.net/publication/46536710_Some_Economic_Benefits_and_Costs_of_Vegetarianism/links/0c96052447fa40c6a3000000

David S. Celermajer,; Bruce Neal, (2013) Excessive Sodium Intake and Cardiovascular Disease A-Salting Our Vessels Journal of The American College of cardiology 61 (3) p344-345. Available from: http://content.onlinejacc.org/article.aspx?articleid=1388226

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