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Americans eat a million chickens per hour! Sounds terrible, right? Well, Australians are fast catching up to them as we are now the third biggest meat eaters in the world…

The average Aussie is gobbling down 111.5 kilos of meat a year. Way above the world average of 41.9 kilos.

So when the second annual Meat Free Week takes place next week (March 24 – 30) the nation is being encouraged to get on board by doing away with all meat – including red meat, fish, seafood, chicken and processed meats like ham and sausages – and to increase a healthier eating regime incorporating greens and grains.

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Meat Free Week campaign aims to get you thinking about how your consumption of meat impacts not only your health, but the environment and animals being farmed.

Founders, Lainie Bracher and Melissa Dixon hope to encourage participants to consider smaller portions of meat for the other 51 weeks of the year and to buy sustainably and ethically produced meat, fish and poultry.

Consider this – eating too much meat contributes to Type 2 diabetes, bowel cancer, heart disease, obesity, high cholesterol and a reduced life expectancy.

The benefits of a meatless diet include: reversal of heart disease, losing 10% of your body weight, cancer risk is reduced by up to 40%, lower blood pressure, lowers your risk of Alzheimer’s, improves or reverses diabetes.

There are three charities you can choose to fundraise for; Voiceless, Australian Conservation Foundation, and Bowel Cancer Australia.

And if you’re already vegan or vegetarian there are still plenty of ways to get involved.

Here’s a meat-free recipe from celeb chef Bill Granger to get you started… Remember, what you eat is the foundation of your future.

BAKED EGGPLANT, CHICKPEAS & GREEN CHILLI

3 eggplants, cut lengthways into 1cm-thick slices
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tablespoon grated ginger
1 green chilli, finely diced
2 teaspoons paprika
1 teaspoon ground cumin
400g tin diced tomatoes
400g tin chickpeas, drained and rinsed
2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses (or 1 tablespoon brown sugar mixed with 1 tablespoon lemon juice)
1 tablespoon chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 tablespoon chopped mint leaves
2 tablespoons pomegranate seeds

Preheat the oven to 180°C. Sprinkle the eggplant slices with salt, place in a colander and leave for 20 minutes. Rinse well and pat dry with paper towel.

Place two large frying pans over medium–high heat. Lightly brush both sides of the eggplant slices with olive oil. Add a single layer to each pan and fry for 4–6 minutes on both sides, until well browned. Set aside and repeat with the remaining slices. Place half the eggplant slices in a medium casserole dish.

Return a frying pan to the heat with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Add the onion, garlic, ginger, chilli, paprika and cumin, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is translucent. Add the tomatoes, chickpeas and pomegranate molasses. Mix together and season well with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Pour half the tomato mixture over the eggplant slices in the casserole dish, cover with the remaining eggplant and then pour over the remaining tomato. Transfer to the oven and bake for 15 minutes.

Serve in the dish or allow to rest and serve warm or at room temperature dressed with parsley and mint, pomegranate seeds and sea salt.

Serves 4–6

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