Coastal Living

The news we are hearing these days is creating anxiety about possible meat shortages.

Our concerns grow when we go into the store and, in addition to having signs about how much toilet paper we can buy, we see signs limiting us to one package of a meat item like pork, beef or chicken.

Meat is a source of protein and valuable minerals like iron and zinc, but we can get protein from other sources and likely get healthier.

To put it in perspective, studies show that eating just two ounces of processed meat per day, less than the amount on a typical ham sandwich, can up the risk for colon cancer by twenty four percent.

Another recent study found that just one third of an ounce of processed meat a day, the weight of a single poker chip, can raise the risk for breast cancer. On top of that, meat can also up our risk for heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and other health problems.

So, what can we do? The good news is that by moving away from meat and opting for a diet based on fruits, vegetables, grains, and beans, we can improve our health and reduce our risk for developing these lifestyle related chronic diseases. Check out these five easy and healthy meat replacements.

Beans and lentils are low in fat, but packed with protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals that you will not find in meat. Use beans and lentils to replace meat in chili, tacos, salads, and no meat loafs.

Tofu is not a traditional food in our area but readily available in our groceries. Tofu is basically mashed soybeans, which are among the best plant based sources of protein. Soybeans are beneficial for cancer prevention, heart health, and bone health. Tofu, as a source of soybean, has no flavor therefore is versatile and can work like eggs or meat in scrambles, stir-fries, soups, or sandwiches. It is a great thickener in a smoothie.

Portobello mushrooms have a meaty flavor and texture that make them an ideal low fat, cholesterol free meat alternative. They may an excellent vegetable crust for pizza. They can be grilled like steaks or burgers or added to fajitas or pasta.

Seitan, or wheat gluten, is a high protein meat alternative that mimics meat in taste and texture. Unless you have a sensitivity to gluten, such as those with celiac disease, use it grilled, baked, shaped into roasts, and added to stir fries.

Meat replacements are also available, usually in frozen section of our grocery stores. The growing popularity of vegetarian diets has increased the variety of products and I think they the taste and texture has also improved. You can find veggie burgers and veggie crumbles.  While whole foods are best, these can be great to use for transition into a meatless way of eating and also save you time as compared to making these foods from scratch.

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