Health & Fitness

Jay McGuiness on Life as a Vegetarian

TLL chats to the Strictly star on meat-free BBQs and vegetarian buffalo wings.

Will you be taking part in World Meat Free Week?

Running from June 11-17th, the charity initiative aims to encourage people to swap at least one meal to meat free for the sake of our planet, in a global effort to highlight the crucial need for a more sustainable, less and better approach to meat consumption.

Sounds simple, but by doing this, the charity hopes people will realise how easy it is to make a small change that has a massive impact.

To inspire you to give it a go, we caught up with Strictly Come Dancing winner and The Wanted member Jay McGuiness on his vegetarian journey.

TLL: Talk us through why you became a vegetarian?

Jay: “I’d never considered being vegetarian until I was 13 and at school, we were learning about diets and I realised that chicken was actually just chicken. From that point on my mum and I were on a quest to find alternative meals for me, to have separately from my brothers and sister. Being vegetarian didn’t feel like a big change and was always a fun thing. It was as I got older I realised it was an amazing thing to do for the environment too. During my time with The Wanted I start learning about the cost impact on our planet to create meat and by that point I was happy with the decision I fell into when I was a kid.”

TLL: Have there been any downsides to being a vegetarian?

Jay: “Once or twice there’s been a big cast meal and there wouldn’t be anything for me but I’m good at stitching sides together and making a plate out of that. There really haven’t been any other downsides! As I go through the journey I just find more positives, like new foods that I really enjoy and of course, the ongoing positive effects on the environment. The more I learn, the better reasons there are for doing what I’m doing. In terms of endurance and energy levels, I don’t feel at a disadvantage at all as I get my protein from other sources.”

TLL: What have the challenges been?

Jay: “For me the challenge was travelling. In the UK, I quickly found what I liked to eat and where I could get it, but when we went travelling you’d only be in a country for a week so it would be tricky to adapt. Some countries like India and Japan are way ahead of us and they’re always ready to feed you vegetables but when I travelled to South America it was really difficult. Whenever you travel you have to be aware that some cultures are completely different, and you have to plan ahead.”

TLL:  Are there any foods you miss?

Jay: “No. I remember BBQs being fun but there are so many tasty veggie burgers and sausages available I don’t miss out. Everything I’d want to eat there are plenty of veggie versions out there.”

TLL: What’s your favourite vegetarian dish?

Jay: “At the minute I really like cauliflower buffalo wings which are similar to chicken buffalo wings. You just throw on a spicy, hot sauce so when you have friends over you can have a big basket of them and people can just relax and eat their fill. I like it because it’s casual and for groups. If I make a Bolognese, I use onion, carrot, celery, tomatoes, basil and sometimes courgetti instead of pasta and I always use a veggie mince to replace the beef mince.”

TLL: What benefits have you seen?

Jay: “I’m never sluggish after shows. And whilst I’ve seen health changes personally, it is also about the environmental aspects as a whole. If people cut down meat then the changes we can make to the planet are huge.”

TLL: What is World Meat Free Week? Should people try and go Meat Free all week as part of it? Or just one or two days?

Jay: “World Meat Free Week is a week where we encourage people to just cut out meat for one meal during that week and show them how easy it is to switch out meat and make some tasty vegetarian recipes. Whilst they’re doing that they can save the planet too, as slowly but surely we’re using up our resources. It’s such an easy decision to switch meat out of a meal and you only have to do a little to make a big difference. Start small with one meal and if you enjoy that experience, see how you feel about doing it long-term. If you’re struggling for inspiration there’s loads of recipes online as it’s becoming more popular and everyone’s sharing ideas.”

TLL: How can people try to incorporate a veggie-friendly diet into a busy lifestyle?

Jay: “I think if you’re trying to do it for the first time try cooking a favourite dish but using a meat replacement. Stick to what you know and replace meat parts with options that are better for the planet.”

TLL: What’s your number 1 piece of advice for anyone thinking about going vegetarian?

Jay: “If you’re going vegetarian start slow, don’t announce to the world that this is your master plan. Start cutting out meat at your pace and don’t beat yourself up if you struggle with it -you might be someone who likes to stick to their routine and the meals you know. If you’re doing this because you’re passionate, look to other countries and cultures and the vegetarian foods they eat for inspiration and have fun with it. That’s why World Meat Free Week is such an interesting campaign, as its just one meal to start with and from there you can make an ongoing lifestyle change.”

Visit the World Meat Free Week website for recipes, inspiration and how you can get involved.


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