Why you might want to consider being a weekday vegetarian

If you had asked me to describe my diet 8 years ago, I would have said, “Meat and three veg, hold the veg”. I was a full-blown carnivore that would eat bacon for breakfast, never miss a steak, and would braai boerie in the rain. My poor vegetarian mom would prepare delicious meat free marvels in the kitchen and I would surreptitiously sneak sausages from my sleeve and proclaim that it was “now a meal”.


Don’t feel like reading? You can also listen to this article on why you should consider being a weekday vegetarian, via our Crumbs Podcast channel.

Then I completed a course in Applied Ethics at UCT, and everything changed. I decided to give chickpeas a chance and went from ham to hummus overnight. However, many people struggle with going cold turkey because… of course, the delicious allure of meats like bacon. Even Graham Hill, founder of the sustainability news website TreeHugger (someone who should only photosynthesise), found the meat sweats too hard to shake completely. He discusses his conscious eating solution in the TED talk video below.

The rise of the compromise

This marks the rise of the flexitarian, someone who is looking to cut back their meat consumption because of ethical, environmental and health reasons but not eliminate meat from their diet or lifestyle entirely. So, what are the benefits to going vegetarian during the week? Are there any positives from adopting something like Meat Free Monday (and perhaps Tuesday, Wednesday…)?

The benefits of eating less meat

You will save money

Meat is expensive; the average price of red meat is about R100 per kilogram. You could instead buy 5 kilograms of beans and make the most delicious chilli non carne, enough to feed a small army or Donald Trump’s ego. Lentils, beans, rice, corn, and vegetables are inexpensive and form part of a healthy diet. Here are some more tips to eating healthy on the cheap.

Better living conditions for farm animals

South Africans eat a lot of meat. Each year we eat over 1.1 billion chickens, 2.6 million pigs, 2.8 million cows and 6.7 million sheep.  If every South African went meat free just once a week; 11 200 cattle, 2.5 million chickens, 10 000 pigs and 22 300 sheep would be saved from slaughter weekly. Less demand for meat means better living conditions for farm animals, making the meat you do choose to eat, a better quality for it .

Save the cow, save the world

Livestock is also the leading cause of environmental damage on the planet and is the largest contributor to global greenhouse gases. Cows produce 500 litres of methane a day, which is not surprising when you have four stomachs (I would double that if I had four because of all the bean curries I eat). Methane isn’t something that can be excused as lightly as a post curry trouser cough because it has real effects on our health. Methane is an asphyxiant and if you are exposed to it in excessive amounts; you may suffer from headache, dizziness, weakness and nausea. Methane is far more potent when it comes to warming our atmosphere (about 25 times stronger!) but it falls out of the air in just 12 years. Carbon dioxide, which comes from burning fossil fuels stays in the atmosphere for hundreds of years, so cutting back your meat today makes a difference in your lifetime – not Gandalf’s. While you may not be able to stop driving to work, if you skipped on a beef burger each week you would effectively take a car off the road for 550 kilometres.

You will live longer

There are also the benefits to your health. Researchers at Loma Linda University in the United States, completed a study between 2002 and 2007 on 73 000 people who were roughly half vegetarian and half meat eaters, to find out if there were any benefits from eating a predominantly plant based diet. They found that, on average, vegetarians lived for about 8 years longer, which means more time to relax and enjoy your hard worked-for-retirement and spend time with your grandchildren. Another study by Oxford University found that eating a vegetarian diet reduced your chance of developing heart disease by 32%. If you munch more on greens than beings, you won’t have to worry too much about having a triple bypass before the age of 60. The study took into account lifestyle; so regardless if you smoke, drink and listen to One Direction; if you eat a plant-based diet, you are better off.

kale recipes

For me, going cold turkey was the answer, but of course, you don’t have to. Even small gradual changes towards a more plant-based diet have real and positive impact on your health, the health of the planet and the animals that inhabit it.

Why not give a variation of the flexitarian a go, in whatever form works best for you?

Check out this healthy lifestyle collection of products that could assist you in taking on a weekday veg or any other flexitarian, more plant-based diet.