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A year ago, I decided to shake up my diet by practising ‘Meatless Mondays’ with my husband. We did it to consciously eat more greens and become less dependent on meat-heavy meals. Since we don’t cook on most days, it’s easy to go a whole day without our recommended portions of fruits and vegetables if we aren’t mindful about it. Then, there are also the purported health benefits of cutting down on meat – a lowered risk of heart disease and cancer, to name a few.


Determined to stay the path, I incorporated one to two vegetarian meals (besides breakfast) weekly. Here’s what I’ve learnt from my experience so far.


You don’t just need to stick to Mondays

While the movement is called ‘Meatless Mondays’, don’t be too hard on yourself if you forgot and ordered chicken rice during lunch. I personally tried sticking to vegetarian meals on Mondays, but there were weeks where I switched it to Tuesday or later in the week. Play around and see what works for you. 


Start with a mindset shift

In the beginning, the hardest thing about giving up meat during my meals was my belief that vegetarian options weren’t tasty. It was so ingrained in me – I thought that I needed to eat meat to feel satisfied. Turns out, vegetarian forms of protein like tofu and mushrooms are equally tasty and filling. I just had to overcome my own prejudice first. 


It’s easy to be unhealthy

This is a common trap to fall into. What counts as meatless doesn’t necessarily translate to healthy food! In Singapore, our diets are so carb-heavy that it’s easy to get a plate of meatless – and vegetable-less – hawker food. Think about it: Roti prata and fried carrot cake (chye tao kway) both pass the meatless test, but probably aren’t doing your health or waistline any favours.


You get to try new places

My three favourite vegetarian-friendly places so far are Haakon, Green Dot and Real Food. They all offer delicious and wholesome meatless meals. I like Haakon for their smoothie bowls, Green Dot for their Asian-inspired home-cooked favourites like mushroom rendang and sweet and sour soya nuggets, and Real Food for hearty all-day breakfasts, burgers and pasta. These eateries serve up some seriously yummy nosh, and I probably wouldn’t have even considered eating at vegetarian cafes or outlets if not for starting ‘Meatless Mondays’!


It can be costly

As much as I love healthy-eating cafes, vegetarian food does seem to come at a premium. You have much fewer options in hawker centres too. In order to cut costs, consider cooking instead.


You learn to be creative

When prepping vegetarian meals at home, I’ve learned to cook a variety of egg and tofu dishes. I’ve also started experimenting with different vegetables and cooking styles. 


You become more mindful of what you eat

Perhaps this is the biggest takeaway of all. Actively seeking out vegetable dishes has definitely made me pay more attention to what I’m eating. It’s so easy to forgo greens if I don’t think about it. I’ve also realised that veggie-based meals are equally tasty, and I can get by with eating less meat on a day-to-day basis.


Article first published on Shape