Housewife MacGyver: Keira's Meatless Meals - A Case for Less Meat

Keira is here again! Today she's showing off her nutritional chops by talking about meat -- cutting back and making nutritious meals without the meat, for both nutritional and financial benefits. Having a few meatless recipes up your sleeve can also save you from the take-out monster on those days when you're out of your staple meats but still have a hungry family. :) Take it away, Keira!

I'm sure you and I are like most Americans--we plan our meals every night around a cut of meat. That's how we did it in MY house, so I couldn't even fathom what to do with a meal that had no meat! I'm slowing converting to the strange idea myself, but meals CAN be fun without the meat!

As a side-note here: I love meat. Especially the worse they are for me. I blame my iron-deficiency that makes me crave a mean steak in the summer. And I will never get over my love-affair with bacon. But I'll admit to anyone that NOT having meat doesn't make me miss it much, and then when I DO have meat, it makes the meat taste better. :) Absence makes the heart grow fonder, I guess! On a serious note, though, I find it risky at best to become a vegan. The more I study nutrition in college, the more I realize how important meat is to our systems. It's necessary in my book--but not necessary for every meal, or even every day. In our family, we're down to meat about 3-4 times a week. That's pretty manageable.

With that out of the way, I'd like to make a case for having less meat. Meat is expensive, and if you're trying to be a little more thrifty, cutting meat out 3 times a week can be very budget-friendly. Meat provides complete proteins that are absolutely necessary to your body, but you don't need it everyday to get that benefit. Meat often has quite a bit of saturated fat and cholesterol attached to the complete-protein-advantage, so less of it can help you manage your fat intake and cholesterol levels.

Although we do not need meat every day to meet our protein needs, we DO need protein, every day--both complete proteins and incomplete proteins (I didn't know there were two types either, until college!).

Basic breakdown:
Most animal products are complete proteins.
Most plant proteins are incomplete proteins.

The exceptions: gelatin (made from animal product) isn't a complete protein (or much of anything, really); soybeans are the one complete protein you can get from plant foods.

What does this mean? It means when you eat a grilled cheese sandwich, when you put sour cream on your taco, when you pour milk on your cereal--you are getting a complete protein. There it is! No meat! On the off chance you eat tofu or drink soy milk or enjoy edamame--you are getting a complete protein (as close as you get).

So, some examples of meatless meals are very simple: mac and cheese, cereal and milk, grilled cheese sandwiches, scrambled eggs/omelettes, tacos with beans instead of beef, tomato bisque, pizza (even the veggie lovers one!), nachos, stir fry with tofu, fettuccine Alfredo, even your spaghetti (minus meatballs), when you sprinkle Parmesan on it, is complete.

Whew. Isn't that nice? Meatless meals have started to become very popular with me at my house because it eliminates cooking a huge feast--sprinkle cheese and sour cream on my taco and we're good!

Two notes on how to "complete" an incomplete protein:

* If you aren't keen on meat or animal products, but are tired of soy in its varieties, there is one way to "match" incomplete proteins: have beans and corn in the same meal. This has been used in Latin-American cultures for centuries because meat was so expensive and rare, but beans and corn were their staples. Put corn into your chili instead of meat; have corn tortillas with your re-fried beans in your tacos, or use corn tortilla chips in your bean dip.

* If you eat an incomplete plant protein, you won't be able to use the protein in its incomplete state (with the exception mentioned above), you will need to "complete" it. For example, if you snack on walnuts, you won't absorb most, if any, of the protein to be used properly without a complete protein. This is mostly an easy fix, though: stir walnuts into yogurt with fruit and granola; have sour cream or cheese with your bean taco, have a glass of milk with your moudjadara, or just plain replace meat with an egg.

Replacing most of the meat in your dishes with high-protein, low-fat alternatives can be easier than we think, and better for our wallets and our bodies! Here is a list of a few of my favorite recipes. Enjoy!

Source: Nutrition and You by Joan Salge Blake, 2008 edition, published by Pearson-Benjamin Cummings.

Thanks, Keira! I think you've just started a meatless revolution! Plus now I feel very smart, knowing that there are two types of proteins. :)

Don't forget to hop on over to Keira's blog and check out her awesomeness there. In addition to her fantastic recipes, she shares wise insights about motherhood and life and oh, you will LOVE the subway art she did recently! 

This post is part of the Housewife MacGyver series on just Lu. Read more about Housewife MacGyver and see all the posts in the series here.


Nick and Keira said...

Whew! Thanks for all the work you did for me! And all the links! You're the best! :)

Bridget said...

What a great and timely post for me because we're trying to lessen our meat intake as well. Last night I was positively giddy because I actually made tofu taste great (I know, shocking), in a pasta recipe and my kids ate it and didn't even question that it wasn't meat. WAY cheaper and healthy so I was pretty delighted. Thanks!

Debra said...

Awesome post! I have such a hard time getting my meat and potatoes husband to not eat meat, I have a few meals that he will go for without meat but not many...

Gwen @ Gwenny Penny said...

Wow, that's a whole lot of information! We don't eat red meat more than once a week, but almost every other night of the week it's chicken or turkey. I have a couple of meatless recipes that I use once in a while but not often enough. Thanks for the insight :)

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
Blogging tips