You might not want to go vegetarian or vegan, but decreasing the amount of meat you eat by going meatless a few days per week can benefit your health, your wallet, and can reduce greenhouse gases. It can help with reducing your weight as studies show that eating meat is linked to obesity.
Decreasing meat consumption can also reduce your risk of diabetes, coronary heart disease, and cancer. When you consume less meat, you have more room for vegetables, fruits, and grains that people eating the Standard American Diet (SAD) don’t often get enough of.
A study showed that the risk of coronary heart disease decreased by 4% with each serving of fruits and vegetables. It also found the risk of stroke was lowered by 5%. Eating a plant-based diet can treat and reverse heart disease.
When eating a more plant-based diet, you eat more fiber which can help you feel full and consume fewer calories. Research shows this can also help fight type 2 diabetes.
The American Institute for Cancer Research recommends limiting your red meat intake and avoiding processed meat. There is evidence that both can cause colorectal cancer. The Institute advises limiting your weekly intake of red meat to 18 ounces.
Worried About Getting Enough Protein?
These are just some of the adverse effects of eating red and processed meat. So you might be wondering what you can eat in place of meat. Don’t worry about getting enough protein. Here are four meatless options.
You might have bypassed lentils in the grocery store not really knowing how to prepare them or how to use them. Maybe they didn’t look too appetizing, but this legume is a good meat alternative. A half a cup of cooked lentils has 9 grams of protein. Lentils also contain potassium, iron, folate, fiber, magnesium, and antioxidants. Simply put them in a strainer and rinse them under water. Boil a pot of water and add the lentils. Simmer them for approximately 25–30 minutes.
Use lentils in salads, stews, veggie burgers, soups, tacos, pasta sauce, lentil burgers, and as a substitute for ground beef or ground turkey in meatloaf.
This seed is a complete protein that provides all nine essential amino acids, and a half a cup of cooked quinoa provides 4 grams of protein. If you haven’t tried it because you’re not sure how to cook it, it’s easier than you think. Unlike lentils, you want to measure the amount of water you use. Make sure your water is twice the amount of the seeds you use. So if you want to cook one cup of quinoa, use two cups of water. Rinse the quinoa with water while rubbing it to remove the bitter tasting saponins in its coating before putting it in a pot. Bring the water and quinoa to a boil and then cover and simmer for 12–15 minutes.
Along with its fiber and protein content, quinoa contains anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory phytonutrients. It also contains vitamin E, zinc, magnesium, and folate.
Quinoa can be used as a substitute for couscous, pasta, or rice, and can be added to stews, soups, salads, and in breakfast meals in place of oatmeal. It’s also good in a bake with nuts, cinnamon, and bananas or berries.
Another alternative to meat, beans can provide about 7.5 grams of protein in a half a cup, depending on the type. To cook dried beans, put them in a bowl and cover with water. Drain them and then fill the bowl again with water, using at least three times as much water as beans. After letting them soak overnight, drain them and then rinse them until the water is clear. If you don’t want to soak your beans before use, canned beans don’t require that step. Try to find a brand that is BPA free and simply rinse the beans thoroughly before using.
There are a variety of beans to choose from including navy, pinto, cannellini, black, kidney, fava, and chickpeas (or garbanzo beans).
Use beans in chili, burritos, enchiladas, tacos, salads, soups, stews, dips, hummus, and in pasta or rice dishes.
Tempeh is made from fermented soybeans and a half a cup of cooked tempeh provides 11.5 grams of protein. It’s a versatile meat alternative, as it takes on the flavour of what it’s cooked with. Since it is fermented, it provides probiotics which are good for such things as improving your digestion and immune system.
You can buy tempeh that is fresh or “ready to eat.” You might still want to steam the pre-cooked tempeh to soften it a little.
Use tempeh in stir-frys, sandwiches, chili, soups, salads, tomato sauce, tacos, fajitas, and on its own.
These are just four of many alternatives to meat you can use. You can start off slowly with one meatless day per week to see how it goes. Even that one day will benefit your health and the environment. Even if you’re the most die-hard meat eater, you just might find yourself trying new food and discovering that you look forward to your meatless days.
Image courtesy of Serge Bertasius Photography at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of Gualberto107 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net