Sun | Feb 26, 2017

Meatless Mondays with Jacqui 'Juicychef' Sinclair

Published:Thursday | January 29, 2015 | 12:00 AM

Meatless Mondays is a global movement sweeping over 36 countries with a simple message in mind - for one day of the week, cut out meat.

Fresh from launching the movement's new website, Food recently caught up with Meatless Mondays ambassador and food writer, Jacqui 'Juicychef' Sinclair.

Passionate about healthy eating and the environment way before it rose to popularity, Sinclair explained that the main reasons for this phenomenon are twofold - for personal health as well as the health of the planet. "The movement seeks to provide meat-free recipe ideas and information on how to deal with increasing climate change, such as super storms and the severe drought we experienced in Jamaica, while partnering with government, schools, hospitals, restaurants and celebrities to decrease the level of certain lifestyle diseases arising from unhealthy eating habits," Sinclair noted.

The average Jamaican can feel the benefits of going meat-free once per week, as it reduces the risks of diseases such as hypertension, diabetes, heart issues and some forms of cancer. Increasing our vegetable intake and going meat-free once per week can assist in reducing illness risks by 15 per cent or more.

Additionally, she pointed out that it also encourages supporting local vegetable farmers, "Eating what we grow is not just for national pride, but good for the economy and even better for our health. Doesn't it make sense to spend on more vegetables than medications?"

Get Creative With Salads

So how do you get started? First step, she advises getting creative with salads. "Many Jamaicans still balk at having a salad for a meal, but if they have one a day, they will be surprised at how filling they can be with the addition of various nuts and cheeses for protein, and herbs and spices for flavour." She also recommends vegetable puréed soups such as pumpkin, tomato or peas soups without meat, as an inexpensive and healthy option. Pastas with a lovely sauce and mixed vegetables, stir-fries, vegetable fried rice, using leftover rice are also great choices.

Not a whizz in the kitchen? Well, the movement is currently in the process of targeting some eateries as well as non-traditional vegetarian spots to encourage them to offer meat-free menu options on a Monday at a discount, so that people get to practise to perfect this lifestyle habit, "Once we have these locations officially on board with us, we will have a directory on our website of recommended spots."

And if you want to make it a family event, let's explore how we can entice the children. Begin with breakfast meals like cereal, callaloo, and make your way up to something like rice and peas, a slice of pizza with cheese, and baked beans.

"Take the familiar and gradually get them accustomed to no animal protein. For example, cook ackee without salt fish, teach them to make pizza with vegetables on top, a meat-free red peas soup or pasta with a simple and tasty vegetable sauce. Let them help you assemble a salad in the kitchen and show them how to peel and chop vegetables if it is safe and age-appropriate to do so. Teach them why vegetables are important and how they will make them healthy and strong when they grow up."

Monday was chosen as the perfect day according to the Sinclair, because studies in the Western World showed that people tend to start a new habit at the beginning of the week such as a new diet or exercise programme. But if you are culturally traditional about your Sunday-Monday, then Sinclair suggests that you choose another day to be meatless. "Choose one day which suits your personal lifestyle. The message really is for you to become conscious about eating less animal protein and increasing your vegetable intake and formulating a dedicated day towards a plant-based diet," she said.

Still not a believer in its impact? The Juicychef herself has already lost 40 pounds counting on the new system. "Jamaicans are changing their tunes. Where I was once laughed at, now people approach me and say 'Juicychef you were right, I am eating less meat', or 'I feel better eating more vegetables'. I feel vindicated, it was just a matter of time. I am not a vegetarian and not forcing anyone to become one. If you do, kudos. I am simply stressing balance. The movement is just trying to change our attitudes to a more positive and beneficial way of eating. People are now more conscious about the foods they consume.

For more information, connect with Juicychef at:

Facebook: Meatless Monday Jamaica

Twitter: @MeatlessMonJa

Email: meatlessmondayja@gmail.com