The UK government today announced new measures to encourage families to eat more healthily.
The measures are part of the government’s Change 4 Life public health campaign and are designed to prove that it is possible to eat healthily on a budget.
Fruit and vegetables
Four million recipe leaflets will be posted to families across the country and discounts on products including fruit, vegetables and fish will be available at major supermarkets.
Celebrity Chef Ainsley Harriott has also helped to put together a cookbook, promoting healthy recipes that can be made for under £5. Some of these recipes are vegetarian, but I think the government could do much more to promote a vegetarian diet.
Let’s get one thing straight. I am certainly not saying that I think people should be pushed into becoming vegetarian. I completely believe it is a matter of personal choice. However, I do believe a vegetarian diet can be cheaper, healthier and better for the environment.
Firstly, a vegetarian diet is much cheaper. Some friends at university used to claim they couldn’t afford to buy fresh fruit and vegetables. Yet when you compare the price of fruit and veg to the price of meat, frozen foods and ready meals, it is much cheaper to cook with fresh ingredients.
One of these friends used to eat pizza several times a week, but, bearing in mind a pizza costs at least £3.50, it works out much cheaper to throw together something simple, like veggie pasta, chilli or curry – all of which can be cooked in 10 to 15 minutes.
Secondly, a vegetarian diet can be much healthier. Many people argue that vegetarians do not get enough protein, but in fact, I think many vegetarians eat more healthily, simply because they need to be more conscious of how to maintain a balanced diet.
For example, pulses are great value for money and are often overlooked by meat eaters. A tin of chickpeas / lentils / mixed beans costs about 40 pence and can be used in many different dishes. These are high in protein, low in fat and very versatile.
This also makes vegetarians more imaginative and experimental in the kitchen. Many vegetarians like to try out recipes from countries around the world, such as India, Morocco and Japan, whereas their meat-eating counterparts are more likely to stick to the traditional British meat and two veg.
What is more, it is not natural to eat meat everyday. This has become a luxury since meat became easily available. Even in the recent past, people only ate meat two or three times a week, due to cost and availability.
Encouraging people to eat more vegetarian food would also help to reduce carbon emissions. This was tried in Belgium in 2009, when people were encouraged to go veggie for one day a week in response to a UN announcement that livestock breeding is responsible for nearly a fifth of global greenhouse gas emissions.
All in all, a vegetarian diet is cheaper, healthier and more sustainable. So maybe the government should be encouraging more people to Change 4 Life by reducing their meat consumption.