Human Resources

Daily Food Lesson: Eat Less Meat


If you are like most Americans, you were taught from a young age that a balanced meal included a hefty portion of meat. Now we know that the typical American meat-and-potatoes diet isn’t all that healthy.

According to the newest nutrition guidelines from the American Cancer Society (ACS), people should limit how much meat they eat, especially high-fat meats. Eating less meat can lead to a healthier heart and reduce cancer risks, among other health benefits.

Trying to change the habits of a lifetime isn’t easy. The ACS suggests that you eat meals that consist mostly of grains, beans, fruits and vegetables, and only a small amount of meat. One way to do this is to think of meat as a side dish instead of the centerpiece of the meal. Serve a three-ounce portion of meat (about the size of a pack of cards) instead of a larger amount.  Also increase the portion of other dishes such as vegetables, fruits, potatoes, rice, baked beans, salad, and whole-grain bread.

Try using smaller amounts of meat in your favorite recipes. When you use meat to add to a recipe’s flavor, cut the amount in
half. Stir-fries, pasta dishes, and many soups and casseroles are good examples of dishes that need only a small amount of

Another way to eat less meat is to figure out what your current “meat budget” is and cut it down by 25 percent. For example, if you usually spend $10 per week on meat, aim for $7.50 per week. This may help you think about using smaller portions or using non-meat alternatives, such as beans and grains. And as an added bonus, you may have more money left over after
you shop.

If you have a recipe that calls for the flavor and texture of meat, try a meat substitute. There are many commercially prepared foods made from soy or vegetables in forms that mimic meat. Some examples include soy dogs, veggie burgers, and non-meat sausage. (If you are not sure where to find these foods, ask your grocer.) Experiment to find the ones you like. Be sure to check the food label for sodium and fat content.

You can also use grains such as cracked wheat (bulgur), barley and rice instead of hamburger in recipes like chili, spaghetti sauce, soups, stews, and casseroles. Beans, tofu (a soybean product), and mushrooms are also good alternatives to meat in many recipes.

But your meals don’t need meat or a meat substitute to taste delicious. For example, many Italian foods, such as spaghetti with tomato sauce, pizza with vegetable toppings, lasagna, and eggplant parmigiana, are terrific without any meat. Soups without meat are also tasty and easy to make. Some examples are lentil, split pea, tomato, minestrone, and bean soups. Macaroni and cheese, casseroles, and omelets are other meatless standbys but don’t overdo it on the high-fat cheeses and eggs.

By eating a variety of foods, you’ll get enough protein even without eating meat. Dairy products, beans, grains, nuts, eggs, and vegetables such as peas, corn, brussels sprouts, potatoes, and green beans will give you all the daily protein you need. Most people will benefit by eating less meat. One word of caution, however. If you are underweight or have trouble getting enough nutrients, talk with your doctor before changing your diet. M