If Meat-free Mondays work for you because it helps you establish a routine around incorporating more plant-based protein, great! But are there alternatives?

Meat-free Monday was a campaign designed to encourage people to decrease their intake of meat. The intention behind going meatless one day a week was to improve our health and that of the planet by reducing our global footprint. The meat industry uses up a vast amount of our precious resources to make grain which in turn is used to feed livestock.

However, we don’t have to cut out meat for a particular day of the week, or month of the year, to reap benefits for our health, animal welfare or the environment. There are lots of other small, regular choices that we can make to improve our health and that of the planet. So, what are some examples of small, regular changes we can make?

Commercial foods
Palm oil is found in around half of all supermarket products (from foods such as noodles to ice-cream as well as toiletries such as soap and shampoo). Our increasing demand for commercial foods has led to an increased demand for palm oil. The media has highlighted how palm oil plantations have led to deforestation and its impact on biodiversity. Soybean oil is quickly becoming the next palm oil. However, replacing palm oil with soybean oil will not fix the problem. Growing soybean for oil on a large scale will have impacts on the environment as well. The solution lies in reducing our reliance on commercially made foods.

Organic
Buying organic, not because it’s ‘healthier,’ but because people involved in its production and transportation are exposed to fewer chemicals, as well as our environment.

Antibiotics
Avoiding products made using antibiotics, as their use in farming is a major contributor to antibiotic resistance.

Seafood guide or app
Using a seafood guide or app helps us be informed about how to buy sustainable species of seafood.

Food waste
Last, but not least, is being mindful that everything we buy has taken up valuable resources – water, nutrients from the soil, fuel. It is therefore important to aim to keep food waste to a minimum.

According to OzHarvest, Australia’s top five wasted ingredients are: bread, bananas, bagged lettuce and salad, milk and meat and costs the nation approximately AUD $20 billion dollars each year. About four million tonnes of food ends up in landfill annually and one in five grocery bags of food is wasted. In New South Wales, the average family wastes almost AUD$4, 000 worth of groceries each year. The average household bin is now 35 percent food waste.*

The method we choose to minimize food waste will vary from one household to another. For most of us, the challenge may be a mind-shift with buying imperfect produce or using fresh produce that is past its prime. For example, using saggy carrots in a soup, freezing ripe banana for smoothies, turning stale bread into mini Quiches or using sad bagged lettuce to make a pesto which can be frozen for future use. For some, it may be a matter of buying less overall, buying small amounts more regularly throughout the week, or for others, it could be using meal kits in which all ingredients are measured out and therefore helps to minimize waste. Another challenge may be getting creative with using dinner leftovers. Perhaps new versions of recipes such as Bubble and Squeak and Bread and Butter Pudding are needed to reignite enthusiasm for using dinner leftovers.

Yes, cutting down on animal products, in particular, red meat, on one day of the week can go some way towards reducing our carbon footprint. However, other small habits, when done regularly, can also amount to a significant benefit to our health and that of the planet.

*Australia’s top 5 wasted food ingredients, Australian Food News, July 2017.

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