As I write this, it is Monday – Meatless Monday. I am pondering what I will prepare for a fabulous dinner tonight.
If you’re anything like me you grew up with meat and potatoes. I can’t help myself. I still plan meals around meat. There is a huge variety of food available today that wasn’t part of my small town, white childhood, like: quinoa, chick peas, soy or hemp hearts. Anything is possible, but it takes a little more effort to prepare food we’re not accustomed to cooking.
Mom wasn’t totally wrong. Protein is a macronutrient, so we can’t live without it, and meat supplies all nine essential amino acids that must come from our diet, making it a complete protein.
I’m not here to make meat a villain, but there is a cost to our health if we eat too much. Environmentally, we can do a lot better also. There are so many great reasons to eat less meat, including weight management, but this article is about alternatives.
Meat alternatives high in protein:
Dairy: particularly Greek yogurt and cottage cheese
Soy: milk, tofu, edamame, tempeh
Beans: black, chickpea, kidney, cannellini, black-eyed, navy
Peas: yellow, green, split
Grains: Quinoa, wild rice, brown rice
Seeds: pumpkin, sesame, flax, chia, hemp
This is not an exhaustive list by any means. If you want to be adventurous there are more high protein sources that are lesser known. Most foods, including vegetables, contain a small amount of protein. Know that not all sources are complete proteins, however, meaning they don’t supply all the essential amino acids.
The key is to eat a wide variety of foods to get all the nutrients you need. It’s a simple as beans paired with grains, for example, to supply a complete protein. When in doubt about your protein needs and/or your consumption consult a registered dietitian.
Here’s a way of looking at getting more meatless meals in your diet.
- Choose the food you’d like to eat. See list above for ideas.
- Consider how you’d like to have it. Will it be a soup, salad, snacks, stir fries, smoothies, burgers, or a stew?
In other words, you could have black beans in a salad, chili, burger or soup. Quinoa works as a salad, with stir fries instead of rice or noodles, or a pilaf on the side. Nuts, nut butters and seeds don’t make a meal, but use them in smoothies, to enhance everything, or as a snack food.
Try substituting vegetables or plant-based foods for meat in dishes like chili, lasagna or tacos – or go half plant-based and half meat.
My interest and motivation in joining the Meatless Monday movement is for personal and planetary health. You certainly don’t have to be a strict vegan or even a vegetarian to benefit. Every small action you take matters.
For everything you want to know about protein and plant-based alternatives look here. Follow the many links within for specifics.
If you’re mostly curious about the musical fruit it’s all here.
Thanks for listening and helping me sort this out. I’ve settled on black bean burgers for dinner tonight, with tomatoes and pickles, and a side of mushrooms and onions. Yum.
Of course, being Easter weekend, you’re probably going to cook a big turkey, (tofurky?) or a ham, as I will. That’s okay, cuz Monday follows soon after. Happy Easter.