MEAT-EATERS have reported being 'shamed' for their dietary choices, leading to some choosing to cut down their meat consumption, and others left perplexed as to what constitutes a balanced meal writes Claire Taylor.

A study of 2000 adults ran alongside the ‘Your Plate, Your Choice’ campaign, which aims to help consumers make healthy informed choices about their diet, and avoid 'mis-truths' surrounding specific foods.

The results found that 54 per cent of those polled are 'confused' about whether they should or shouldn't eat meat in order to stay healthy. Four in ten admitted that they have "no idea" what a balanced meal looks like, and whether meat should feature in it.

Ex-England rugby star, James Haskell, has thrown his support behind the campaign. He said: “I have no issue with those who choose to become meat-free, but shaming those of us who don’t want to is simply wrong.

“There’s a lot of nonsense written about meat which I think is really dangerous. People shouldn’t be cutting out perfectly healthy elements of their diet altogether based on inaccurate or confusing information,” he warned.

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“The purpose of the ‘Your Plate, Your Choice’ campaign is to empower consumers to make sensible and healthy choices that suit their preferences and what’s right for them.”

Some experts have warned that reducing or eliminating meat could lead to an unbalanced diet. TV nutritionist and dietician, Nichola Ludlam-Raine said that meat is often "unfairly demonized" and insisted that meat can "absolutely" be part of a healthy lifestyle.

“What matters isn’t what you do and don’t eat, but how much and how often you eat certain foods,” said Ms Ludlam-Raine. “For anyone looking to achieve a healthier lifestyle this year, my recommendation is to maintain a varied and balanced diet – and to not ditch certain food groups – to give yourself the best possible chance of achieving vital nutrient intakes, and not missing out on health benefits,” she advised.

Ms Ludlam-Raine identified key benefits to eating meat such as specific nutrients that it contains, including iron, which contributes to a reduction in tiredness and fatigue, as well as vitamin B12, folate and niacin. Despite the anti-meat lobby stating that certain plant-based foods such as beans and pulses can also contain iron, she pointed out that the iron in meat is haem-iron which is better absorbed in to the body that that found in plant alternatives.

She also stressed the importance of zinc found in meat and its role in contributing to the normal function of the immune system, and potassium, which helps support normal blood pressure. For fitness enthusiasts, she added that meat helped towards the maintenance of normal bones and growth in muscle mass.