One of the largest parts of a grocery bill is the cost of meat. Beef, chicken, pork, duck…the list goes on! An innovative way of cutting your grocery bill costs down is to go meatless. Once or twice a week, try dedicating yourself to a meal or an entire day of meatless meals/snacks.
Here are some benefits to eating less meat:
(1) Intake Less Saturated Fat: We primarily get our saturated fat intake from meat and meat products. Foods high in saturated fat generally are high in cholesterol as well. It is a dangerous combination that increases one’s risk for cardiovascular disease and disorders like hypertension, plaque build up in blood vessels, heart attack, and stroke.
(2) Save money! Meat is the biggest part of most grocery bills. By eliminating a couple of portions of meat per week, the savings will add up!
(3) Eat More from Other Food Groups: For some, meat is the primary source (i.e. steaks filets for dinner!) of food. However, ADA and The U.S. Department of Agriculture agree that protein (meat) should be at most 1/4 of our plate (see myPlate). By portion controlling our servings of meat, we can eat more whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. These beneficial changes will contribute to a more balanced and healthy diet.
The trouble with going meatless or entirely vegetarian/vegan is that most of us either don’t know how to eat a hardy meal without meat or we imagine it to be bad “rabbit food.” Here are some awesome food ideas that can help you enjoy a meatless meal!
Meatless Food #1: Eggs
Did you know that eggs have the highest biological value ranking of #1 of all foods? HUZZAH! Eggs are a great source of protein and fat, and they are much more inexpensive than meat. Caution: because of the high fat content in the actual egg yolk, it is suggested that we eat no more than 2 egg yolks a week! Try switching to egg whites, which are the primarily source of protein within the egg.
Ways to incorporate eggs: Make eggs as quiche, omelets, or egg salad sandwiches. Or toss hard-cooked eggs in salads.
Meatless Food #2: Quinoa
Quinoa is what I consider a power food. It is a grain that provides all the essential amino acids we, as humans, must get from our diets since our bodies do not make these important amino acids. This is why it is considered a “complete protein.” Additionally, it is an excellent source of minerals and fibers! It is a great staple to any vegan diet and it is a wonderful GLUTEN-FREE FOOD for those who have celiac’s intolerance/disease. (aside–celiac sprue is a disorder that affects the body’s inability to properly digest gluten. When someone who has celiac sprue consumes gluten products, it destroys the villi in their intestines, which are responsible for nutrient absorption. As such, this is a very dangerous condition!)
Ways to incorporate quinoa: Add quinoa to soups, salads, and oatmeal. Try substituting regular rice with quinoa instead. Best of all: try quinoa pasta. Those with gluten allergies may rejoice because they can finally enjoy pasta without getting sick.
Meatless Food #3: Beans
Legumes. Wonderful legumes. No one really knows where they belong, but I say that they belong in your belly. There are a kajillion different types of beans: black, pinto, kidney, soy, green/string, chickpeas/garbanzo, etc. They offer protein, complex carbohydrates, and my favorite, FIBER. And they are simply delicious. NOTE: refried beans are not the healthy way to go because although they are delicious, they are generally loaded with add saturated fat. I’ll pass on the heart attack, thank you.
Ways to incorporate beans: Throw them into any dish whole! add them to any pasta, salad, stir fry, or soup to bulk up your meatless meals. My favorite creative ways to eat beans: (1) make hummus to eat with whole wheat pita bread or add as a spread to bagels and sandwiches or (2) make bean/falafel burger patties! You can either buy beans dried or in cans. If they are dried, soak them before cooking! If you buy them in cans, rinse them out so you can wash out 50% of the added sodium (used for flavor and as a natural preservative).
Meatless Food #4: Tofu/Soy Anything
Tofu and Soy Products are the poster children of vegetarian and vegan diets. It’s easy to make fun of tofurkey (tofu shaped turkey) or fakin’ (soy bacon), but soy products are fabulous meat substitutes due to their high protein value, amino acid content, and fiber levels. You can find soy in pretty much any form.
Ways to incorporate soy: Try any soy products like soy cheese, milk, meat like products. Substitute meat with TOFU: add it raw to salads, grill some tofu and put it into sandwiches and burgers, or toss it into your stir-fries and soups.
Meatless Foods #4: Fruits & Vegetables
As noted above, we can enjoy nature’s bounty of fruits and vegetables instead of eating so much meat. This will increase our vitamin and mineral consumption each day, increase our fiber intake, and decrease our intake of saturated fats/cholesterol. Talk about win-win! Simply try dishes without meat and you’ll noticing the heaping portions of fruits and vegetables that are offered instead.
Ways to incorporate fruits & vegetables: Eat a hearty/hardy salad/soup more often. Feast on fruits as your snacks throughout the day. I have a personal food rule when I cook. Every meal has to have at least one or two fruits/vegetables on the plate. That way, I can increase my fruit and vegetable intake and decrease my meat intake.
Aside from the ethical standpoint of not eating meat, there are physiological and financial benefits to eating less meat. A rule of thumb is to treat meat as a condiment to your meals. That way, it won’t be the “star” of your plate. This is where cooking allows you to be creative and adventurous. Eating should be fun, especially when it comes to experiencing new foods. I hope you will try these meatless great options. Cheers!