A visit to the the Vegetarian Society in Altrincham

Principal tutor, Alex Connell

Principal tutor, Alex Connell - Credit: Archant

Determined to eat more healthily this year? Try cutting out meat, writes Paul Mackenzie

Layering the salad

Layering the salad - Credit: Archant

A new year brings promise of new starts, fresh resolve and renewed vigour. More exercise and less alcohol will be high on many people’s lists as 2014 gets underway, but another popular resolution this and every new year is to eat more healthily.

For some that means cutting out the odd fry-up here and there, for others it will entail choosing the low fat organic hummous instead of the regular brand. But one easy change could make a big difference to the diets of people all over the county – eating less meat.

Alex Connell, the Vegetarian Society’s principal tutor at their Altrincham headquarters, said: ‘There are a number of health benefits to a meat-free diet, or to simply cutting down on the amount of meat you consume.

‘A vegetarian diet is typically lower in saturated fats and higher in fibre, both of which have real health benefits. And by eating less meat you’re likely to eat more fruit and vegetables which is obviously a good thing. There is a myth that vegetarians lack protein and iron, but with a balanced diet that’s not the case.

‘It is very easy and convenient now to buy vegetarian food, all the supermarkets these days have lots of choice of meat-free food which isn’t just aimed at vegetarians, but at everyone.’

The society offers courses throughout the year, and for those who are beginning 2014 with good intentions, they are holding a healthy eating course this month. On January 18th Alex will lead the course which will discuss elements of a balanced diet and will also include cookery demonstrations and the chance to try some of his healthy and tasty creations.

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‘We get a real mix of people on our courses,’ Ales added. ‘There’s roughly a 50/50 split of vegetarians and non-vegetarians – some of them are there because they have a family member who is vegetarian and others are just foodie types who have an interest and want to learn more.

‘We also offer professional training and bespoke courses for caterers and a week-long diploma course for chefs which attracts people from all over the world. A lot more people are choosing meat-free meals in restaurants these days and caterers need to be up to speed and making sure they are offering good choice.

‘If one restaurant is not offering a good selection and next door is, the party with the vegetarian will take their custom, and their money, there.’

Figures released recently show that a quarter of the British public say they are eating less meat than a year ago. The survey commissioned by the Eating Better alliance also found that 34 per cent are willing to consider eating less meat, while one in six young people said they don’t eat any meat. With these figures in mind restaurants across the UK should be examining their menus and planning for the future.

Liz O’Neill, who works with Alex at the Vegetarian Society said: ‘The findings of this survey should encourage chefs and caterers to take stock. For far too long vegetarians have been expected to be grateful for pasta and tomato sauce! As more and more customers choose not to eat meat it’s the restaurants with variety, an imaginative menu and good customer service that will survive.’

For more information and recipes, or to download a free seven day vegetarian food plan called V Healthy, log on to vegsoc.org.

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