There are many benefits to dropping meat from your diet, and they’re not limited to reducing animal cruelty. Eating less meat can be beneficial to your health, as well as your bank balance. To see if just how far your purse could be positively affected by ditching life as a meat-eater, we’re having a look at how much cheaper it is to be a vegetarian.
The appeal of being vegetarian
Vegetarians get their fair share of ribbing from friends and relatives about their dietary choices, and “Do you miss bacon?” is probably the question most frequently asked to vegetarian converts! Many find that the minor irritation of banter is worth the advantages they have in their health, their finances and for some, their peace of mind.
Research has shown that by choosing to cut down on the amount of meat you eat, or cutting it out all together, you’ll keep costs down. Not only that, you’ll improve your overall health, have better nutrients going into your body and save, on average, 202 animals per year. The question is, how?
The studies are in favour
If the ethical motivation for turning veggie doesn’t do much for you, then the financial savings might. A recent study published in the Journal of Hunger & Environmental Nutrition, focused on the direct impact of becoming vegetarian on our pockets. The researchers compared the US government’s recommended weekly meal plans – which contain meat- against a comparable seven-day plant-based meal plan. Both of these plans had a minimum of 50 grams of protein per day and totalled 2,000 calories per day.
Where the cost of each diet was concerned, the results of the study were quite clearly in favour of going veggie. Of the two diets, the vegetarian one was $750 cheaper than it’s carnivorous counterpart over a year, while also containing 25 more servings of vegetables, not including potatoes. This works out as a saving of roughly £565, which is more than the average cost of a flight to the Bahamas! The diet also contained 14 more servings of grains and eight more servings of fruit per week. If that’s not getting more bang for your buck, then we don’t know what is!
While living more frugally may be the main motivation for turning veggie, a vegetarian diet doesn’t only affect our own pockets. A study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences by Marco Springman and his colleagues at the University of Oxford shows just how important encouraging people to adopt a vegetarian or vegan diet could be for our futures. The researchers compared the average meat-heavy diet common in the US – which falls in line with current diet recommendations – and compared this to a vegetarian diet. The results show that following a vegetarian diet could save the US economy $258.1 billion, or £190.78 billion per year. If everyone in the world were to change their diets in this way, we could save around £1096.53 billion in one year alone, saving on health care and environmental costs.
Being a healthy vegetarian
Of course, it’s normal to be concerned that by eliminating a certain food type from your diet you may be missing out on essential nutrients. The last thing you want is your wallet to feel better at the expense of your health. Those converting to vegetarianism are most likely to be concerned about drops in their iron levels, as we’re constantly told that red meat is the best source for getting this nutrient into our systems. However, this isn’t the case and, in fact, it’s more than easy to fulfil your daily iron requirements by eating dark leafy vegetables such as broccoli and spinach and eating plenty of rice, wheat and oats.
The iron you receive from vegetables such as these is known as non-heme iron, whereas 40% of what we get from animals is heme iron. Your body finds heme iron easier to absorb because it contains blood proteins from the animal, but on the other hand, too much of this type of iron is known to increase the risk of certain iron disorders. To make sure you get enough iron simply ensure you eat enough dark leafy greens and other iron-rich foods such as legumes, grains, nuts and seeds.
Other important things to keep an eye out for include B12, Zinc, Vitamin D and Omega-3 fatty acids. It’s important to be aware of these nutrients though you’ll probably find you consume them quite naturally. These are all available in fortified cereals and soy products in particular. B12 is slightly harder to come across, and you may wish to take a supplement for this. Supplements aren’t for everyone, though, and if you’d rather find a way to get this in naturally, a bit of extra soya milk should do the trick.
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If you like the idea of trying out turning vegetarian then that’s great! You have some great quality food, cost savings and health benefits to look forward to. However, it’s still important to eat healthily and avoid opting for processed substitutes as a way of replacing meat in your diet. Meat substitutes can be unhealthy, and you should consider these as an occasional treat rather than an every day staple. They can also cost almost as much as meat so to maximise your cost savings, make sure you fill up with plenty of beans and grains instead. They’ll keep you feeling fuller for longer as well as giving you plenty of energy.
If the thought of going completely vegetarian feels a step too far, then cutting down on number of times per week you eat meat might be more appealing to you. Going from eating meat every day to every other day will make a noticeable impact on your bank balance, and it’s doing your bit for the environment, too. For diet inspiration, you could look at Mediterranean inspired dishes and ways of eating, which are famously low in animal products.
Would you ever consider going vegetarian to keep costs down?