The food we eat and how we produce it determines not only the health of the people who eat it but also the planet.

"Eat like a vegetarian who eats meat." - I overheard someone saying this recently and it really resonated with me. Unknowingly it’s something I have been practising myself for quite some time, and no, I’m not a flexi-tarian, in fact I have no label for the way I eat and I couldn’t be happier about this.  

For years I followed all of the paleo principles strictly, however, in the last 2 years or so I have been experimenting with different foods and have found what I think is the perfect balance. 

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Nothing has changed too dramatically, I still hold the same principles when it comes to eating – fresh, unprocessed, seasonal food. Buying Irish and supporting Irish food businesses is something I feel very passionately about. 

The only main change I have made is drastically reducing my protein intake. Previously 80% of my plate would have been made up of meat, fish or eggs – now 80% of my plate comprises of vegetables. 

The results? I got leaner, stronger and my hair and nails are healthier than ever.

Finding your food freedom is something that I encourage everyone to do – and I appreciate that it is completely unique to you. But what if you could help yourself and the environment by reducing your meat intake and upping your intake of nutritious vegetables, nuts, seeds & pulses?

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The most important part of the process of finding your food freedom is "coming to a point where you are able to sit back and say, 'I can and will happily eat like this for the rest of my life'. For me, being happy with the way in which you are eating is the most important part of that sentence. If you are not happy and willing then you haven’t found that freedom yet.

With everything there needs to be balance, you shouldn’t feel that you are depriving yourself of anything and that is why I am not calling on the whole world to become vegetarian or vegan. I’m simply suggesting that you flip the ratio of your plate. 

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So how can you get more vegetables into your diet?
Experiment with veggie noodles/rice, a couple of times a week switch out regular pasta/rice for vegetable alternatives. It’s a great way to get more micronutrients into your diet and also a fun way of trying out new things. 

My favourites are courgette noodles (zoodles) & broccoli rice. 
(I even grate courgette into my porridge! It’s a great way to bulk up your portion) 

Instead of a sandwich, why not roll up the ingredients in a couple of leaves of iceberg? 

Veggie buns are also a great substitute on burger nights, my favourites are Portobello mushrooms or sweet potato discs. 

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Always add a couple of handfuls of greens to your meals, whether it’s spinach with breakfast, some extra salad leaves with lunch or green beans with dinner.

If you are a batch cooker, add one meat free option to your rotation a week, my favourite substitute for mince is walnuts, simply blend them down with your herbs and spices and cook a Bolognese/Chili Con Carne as normal. Lentils and beans are also cost efficient substitutes. 

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Bottom line, there are many unique ways you can include more vegetables into your diet, allowing you to significantly increase your intake when it comes to fibre, nutrients and antioxidants. You really can’t go wrong when it comes to eating more veggies! 

To find out more about Nicola Halloran, visit The Wonky Spatula website.