With an obesity epidemic sweeping the rich western world and creating a generation of overweight youngsters, cutting down on meat intake is one way to ensure they eat well and stay fit.
At the Conservative Party conference last week, David Cameron said obesity was on the verge of overtaking smoking and drinking as the biggest health challenge facing Britain, and refused to rule out a “fat tax” like the one recently introduced in Denmark.
Meat Free Monday could impact significantly on rising obesity figures according to a report published last year in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. It shows that vegetarians of all ages generally have a lower body-mass index (BMI) than meat-eaters.
Obesity is less prevalent among those who have cut or are cutting out meat, and a vegetable-heavy diet also means less likelihood of developing cholesterol or heart disease. Meat-eaters have the highest average BMI and are more at risk of a heart attack or stroke.
A more sedentary lifestyle, junk food – including low-grade meat products – and food with high salt content are all contributory factors to obesity in children. One in three kids in the US and approximately the same number in the UK is now overweight.
The authors of the report say that “obesity represents a significant threat to the present and future health of children and leads to a wide range of physical and psychological consequences. A plant-based diet appears to be a sensible approach for the prevention of obesity in children.”