Meat Free Monday
By Amal Ghazali
If you don’t live in a cave, you’ll notice that the past two or three years have seen a sudden boost in the health scene. Everyone and anyone is talking about healthier eating options and lifestyle. The other day I was chatting to an office colleague, a thirty-something female who had been eating consistent amount of cheeseburgers and fries for the past X years (with a waistline to match), and she started talking about chia seeds and ‘superfoods’. This was when I realised that the movement of healthy eating has literally spread itself everywhere.
Perhaps it’s just a trend, but perhaps it’s also the awareness that lifestyle-induced diseases are really on the rise. About two years ago my Father, a self-proclaimed house gardener who managed his own fruit orchard, was diagnosed with hypertension and three blocked arteries. Despite his busy and active lifestyle, it turned out that all the unhealthy meals had begun to take their tolls. Simultaneously, all around me it was evident that office-based work and lack of conscious eating were affecting everyone. Some of my friends, who used to be lean and sinewy, are now overweight and lethargic, and I too was gradually shifting towards that direction.
Realising this, two years ago I decided to commit to a self-promise that I would become a full vegetarian every Monday, a full day dedicated to eating natural, clean food, for the rest of my life. I signed the imaginary oath and here I am, two years later, still fulfilling that promise at least once a day every week, all year round.
“Why on earth would you want to be a goat one day a week?” Asked a perplexed friend.
Plant-Based Food And Their Benefits
Ironically, the idea of having meat-free Mondays really came to me one day when I was watching TV while eating a pepperoni pizza. Jamie Oliver was enthusiastically explaining how we need to eat five portions of vegetables a day as a dietary need. Over my half-chewed pizza, I realised that I had only eaten a few slices of cucumber (from a plate of nasi lemak) for the past three days of my required vegetable supplement.
I began to think about the reasons of why I had subconsciously failed to consume the ideal dietary portion of meals. One, I did not consciously make an effort to prioritise vegetables. I ate whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted to, without really considering nutrition in the whole equation. Two, vegetables are boring. An image of a vegetable dish will either be a bland salad or even worse, overpriced soups that will make you hungry again in exactly two hours.
However, committing myself to a full day of vegetarianism seems to fix a lot of these issues. For one, I am coerced to plan my meals for that whole day. Planning results in conscious eating, which allows me to really think about what I consume. For instance, there really isn’t a point of a meat-free Monday if you end up eating a pile of French fries. Consciously devoting a whole day to plant-based food also makes the whole thing more exciting – I find myself going through online recipes of a variety of healthy vegetarian options (that’s not salad, thank you very much), and making tasty packed lunches which, let’s be honest, makes it easier on the wallet.
Much to my perplexed friend’s amazement, I did not at all have to be a goat one day a week, munching on nothing but raw leaves and green juices all day long.
Tips To Kickstart Your Meat-Free Day
It has been two years and I have absolutely no regrets about having Meat-Free Mondays. It’s hard to begin, but once you have the momentum you’ll find that it’s rather effortless to maintain.
To start, entice yourself by doing a bit of research. You’ll find so many resources that explain the benefits of going vegetarian, even on how it affects the environment! Delve into so many appetizing recipes online that prove vegetables don’t have to be boring. I’m talking beautiful vegetable curries, tarts, roasts, stir-fries, and yes, even healthy pizzas. They will keep you from missing meat, and more importantly make the whole vegetarian premise more exciting. I started off with recipes from deliciouslyella.com, but there are hundreds more of these online.
Secondly, go easy. If there’s an office potluck this Monday, you can always be flexible. Replace the meat-free day on other days, as long as you commit yourself to actually substitute the day. Otherwise, it will be like that time you tell yourself you’ll clean your closet – you postpone it again and again, and eventually it never happens.
Lastly, remind yourself constantly why you’re doing it. I want to travel and do all sorts of fun physical activities even when I am fifty, and this keeps me motivated to look after myself better. Some people are more prone to hereditary illnesses (as do I), and this should drive us to keep tabs on our lifestyles as well.
Whatever it is, there is something for everyone when we make conscious efforts in eating right, especially in tackling vegetable consumptions which seems to be a challenge to a lot of people. Hopefully through initiatives such as meat-free Mondays, we can all encourage ourselves to be healthier, and hopefully still be able to try skateboarding when we’re fifty.