World Vegetarian Day, celebrated annually on 1 October, was founded in 1977 by the North American Vegetarian Society (NAVS). The day brings global attention to the health and environmental benefits of vegetarianism. October is, in fact, Vegetarian Awareness Month – so even if you are not vegetarian, October is a great opportunity to kick off a meat-free diet and learn more about the ideology behind vegetarianism and veganism.
Kick-start your meat-free diet
A person does not have to eat meat to get all the nutrients they need for good health. A meat-free diet can lead to better health for several reasons. The health benefits of a vegetarian diet are truly a-maiz-ing…
Benefits of Vegetarian Diets
- Reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and various types of cancer; it may also reduce the risk of metabolic syndrome, which includes obesity and type 2 diabetes
- People who follow vegetarian diets are likely to have lower overall cholesterol levels
- Vegetarian diets may assist with weight-loss
- Saves animals’ lives and help to preserve the Earth
Top tips to getting started on a meat-free diet
- Start learning about the nutrients required and how to obtain them
- Make a weekly shopping and meal plan
- Focus on a variety of meat-free dishes that provide lots of protein, vitamins and minerals
- Consider making the change gradually
Try experimenting in the kitchen
You can get some tips and vegetarian recipe ideas from websites such as BBC Good Food, Tesco Real Food or Jamie Oliver – all offer a whole host of free vegetarian recipes. There is also a range of vegan bloggers at the touch of a phone screen to help you get started. ‘Nikki Vegan’ on YouTube shares her new vegan goodies she found in IKEA, while ‘Caitlin Shoemaker’ shares regular videos on vegan recipes which are easy, delicious and budget-friendly.
Learn more about the ideology behind vegetarianism and veganism
The relationship between Vegetarianism and planet Earth
Taking meat, dairy and eggs off our plates is one of the best things we can do for the planet. You may remember the article in our Summer 2019 Food & Drink Newsletter on ‘Climate Change: How is it changing our diets?’.
In March 2020, Energy Systems Catapult (ESC) issued a report which outlined that people would need to reduce their consumption of meat and dairy by up to half in order for the UK to meet its climate targets and be carbon neutral by 2050. About 15 per cent of global greenhouse emissions come from livestock, partly from methane produced by cows, sheep and goats but also from converting forests to grow crops to feed animals. ESC explained that people need to look at their dietary choices further. Researchers at the University of Oxford found that cutting meat and dairy products from our diet could reduce an individual’s carbon footprint from food by up to 73%.
Watch a documentary
Many documentaries have now been made available as a result of the growing trend of vegetarianism – ‘What the Health’, ‘Cowspiracy’, ‘Land of Hope and Glory’ to mention a few. Our personal favourite is ‘Game Changers’, a documentary that explores the benefits of a plant-based diet and discusses the optimal diet for human performance and health with input from medical professionals. The documentary is produced by several big names such as James Cameron, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jackie Chan, Lewis Hamilton and Novak Djokovic.
Many sportspersons credit a vegetarian diet for good performance. 'Game Changers' illustrates that eating a plant-based diet has impacted a variety of pro athletes.
The food and lifestyle trend of a plant-based diet is said to be most popular among younger generations. Food Revolution Network believes that this is partly due to the increased availability of information via the internet about where food comes from and how it is made.
The number of Brits turning to a plant-based diet is growing at a startling rate – a survey conducted in June 2020 found that around 1,100,000 people in the UK are currently vegan. The results suggest that by the end of 2020, this number is set to double to around 2,200,000 people.
For a product to be vegan, it must be free from any animal-derived ingredients, including honey, beeswax and certain types of collagen and lipids.
Every year, hundreds of thousands of Brits sign up for the Veganuary (Vegan January) campaign – a pledge to embrace plant-based diets for a month. According to the Vegan Society, in 2019 there were 250,000 participants signing up to the campaign. This year, the sign-ups for the Veganuary campaign saw a record number of 400,000 people signing up. 72% of them planned to continue with a vegan diet after finding out that a vegan diet was easier than expected, as well as improved health.
To cater to the growing trend, many restaurants, pubs and bars have now launched vegan menus and plant-based food alternatives. Guinness is now vegan-friendly after excluding isinglass (which is made of fish bladders) in its filtration process. For all vegan chocolate lovers, there are lots of options. Major brands such as Lindt, Green and Black’s and Divine, as well as many supermarkets’ own brands, now offer vegan chocolate. Pret a Manger announced it is now selling twice as many vegan jam croissants a day as their non-vegan croissants. Fast-food giant KFC reported selling one million vegan burgers since launching the new option in January.
Last year, the UK launched more vegan products than any other nation. Almost one in four food products launched in the UK in 2019 was labelled vegan. You may have queued for a Greggs vegan sausage roll which caused an immediate sensation. Furthermore, vegan pies are another growing trend.
As well as plant-based dining options, vegan beauty products are on the rise in the UK. Retailers such as Primark, Superdrug and Sainsbury’s have all released vegan cosmetic lines with vegan beauty sales increasing exponentially. Superdrug’s own vegan cosmetic brand saw a 75% sale increase in January 2019.
So why not go ahead and join the trend and play your part in Vegetarian Awareness Month.
This article was co-written by Nikita Sandhu.