SOME people just don't like tofu, or beans, or even fish. They want meat and they want it now!
If that includes you, the good news is that meat (although probably not bacon or fat-laden pork chops) can be part of a healthy diet.
In other words, there's absolutely no need to give up meat if you don't have objections to it on humanitarian grounds, although you should have a good look at the type of meat and the quantity that you are eating for both weight and health reasons.
First the good news. Meat provides some very valuable nutrients that can be tricky to get if you are a vegetarian. We're talking about iron, zinc and Vitamin B12, all essential to immunity and well-being.
However, it is true that eating too much meat can have its drawbacks too.
The results of a five-year study of half a million people, published in 2005 in the Journal of the International Cancer Institute, found that beef, lamb, pork, veal and their processed varieties such as ham and bacon, increase the risk of bowel cancer.
Those who ate two portions a day - equivalent to a bacon sandwich and a fillet steak - increased their risk of bowel cancer by 35% over those who ate just one portion a week, the study found.
This applied to people who didn't eat plenty of fresh produce too, though, with researchers adding that the risks of eating red meat were less in people who ate a lot of fibre from vegetables, fruit and wholegrain cereals.
Eating any sort of fish on a regular basis - at least 80g every other day - also had a protective effect, reducing the bowel cancer risk.
The Australian Dietary Guidelines recommends we eat meat three to four times a week - women 100g per serve and men 125g - while The Cancer Council suggests a moderate intake of 65 to 100g of cooked red meat three to four times a week.
Examples of one serve of meat are half a cup of meat, two small chops, or two slices of roast meat.
For weight control, limit portion size and balance how often you eat meat, advises Advanced Accredited Practising Dietitian Amanda Clark, author of Portion Perfection.
"Only one quarter of your meal should be meat, one quarter should be carbohydrate and half should be salad or other vegetables," she says.
If you're imagining a pork roast with crackling and apple sauce, or a fillet steak with that mouth-watering strip of fat down the side, think again.
Rather than these fat-rich treats, you want to select the leanest cuts of meat and that avoid processed meats like frankfurters or luncheon sausage that are high in fat and chemicals such as nitrates.
To reduce the fat in your serving of meat further, cook it in a way that does not add fat and also allows fat to drip away from the meat.
Ideally this would mean roasting on a rack, barbecue or grilling.
What not to eat
Salami and bacon: High in fat, salt and potentially carcinogenic nitrates.
Charred meat: Cancer-causing chemicals are formed during the charring, according to The Cancer Council.
Sausages: It's just too hard to control the fat content unless you find a butcher who makes a lean, diet variety. These processed treats can also be high in chemicals.
Marbled meats: These can add several hundred kilojoules to your serve.
Foie gras: Another fat- and cholesterol-rich food that is often a favourite with meat eaters.
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