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Meat as a side dish: The balanced way to eat more vegetables

Renae Smith, specialised plant-based chef and former Masterchef Australia contestant, is pushing her personal boundaries with her campaign to get people eating less meat.

The edgy chef, who has been completely vegetarian for the past 18 months, is hoping to inspire home cooks wanting to reduce their meat intake. Renae understands that many people feel going 'cold-turkey', or cutting out animal products all together may become overwhelmed, or frustrated with the concept.

Instead, Renae is introducing a new style of eating, where meat is no longer the main focus of our meals, and rather, the side dish.

“With the goal of phasing meat out of meals several nights a week - most find the transition to only eating meat on weekends quite simple; and many go on to entirely plant based diets from here," says Renae. "My meat recipes are designed as a special meal to cook when entertaining guests on the weekend."

When starting to cut back your meat intake, it's important to ensure the other vegetarian elements of the meal are filling and protein-rich. As a guide, Renae recommends a side-serving of beef to be no more than 90-100 grams raw, and 65 grams cooked.

Where possible, avoid mass-produced meat products which are often heavily processed and laden with nasties. Renae advises looking for certified sustainable products, beneficial for both our health and the planet. Things like mussels are environmentally friendly to grow and harvest, and different farmlands contain wild animals or small producers.

Also, make sure the vegetable element of your meals are loaded with nutrients, to keep you satiated while ticking the flavour boxes. Leafy greans like kale and spinach are a great addition to many recipes, loaded with vitamin K and C, fibre and potassium. Carrots, broccoli, zucchini and avocado are other versatile vegies to always have on hand.

More than ever, Australians are struggling to reach their recommended vegetable intakes, and Doctor Michael Greger says this could be impacting on our ability to fight off or prevent disease.

“An affordable plant-based diet can help prevent and even reverse some of the top killer diseases in the Western world… So long as animal-products are not consumed regularly, a plant-based diet can detoxify the body and promote significant health benefits overall.”

Introducing meat as a secondary element on your plate is a great way to reduce your intake, and have you on track to eating more vegies and reaping the benefits.

For more information, head to www.renaesmith.com.au.

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