During this unique time in history with the COVID-19 pandemic and its aftermath, many things in your life may be disrupted. Whether it's your work schedule, the way you buy food, or your social schedule, you've had to adapt to doing things differently. Another thing where you may have noticed a disruption is in the meat supply. Stores in early May 2020 began to limit how much meat you purchase, and prices of meats were on the rise.
While this may seem like an inconvenience, could this be just the reason you need to change up your diet? Read below for ways you can use this disrupted meat industry to eat less meat and be more creative and healthier with your protein intake.
Protein is one of the three major macronutrients that you need as part of a balanced diet. It makes up your hair, skin, muscle, bone and assists in many functions of the body like carrying oxygen in the blood. A major source of protein in many people's diets is in animal products like beef, pork, poultry, fish and seafood. However, it's also found in plant-based products like beans, nuts, seeds and certain vegetables like broccoli and peas.
Most adults need about 7 grams of protein for every 20 pounds of body weight. Therefore, if you're 200 pounds, then you need about 70 grams of protein per day. To put that into perspective, about 1 ounce of skinless boneless chicken breast contains about 9 grams of protein. And if you're following a meatless diet, then one-half cup of cooked lentils contains about 9 grams of protein.
Eating less meat can help your health in many ways. Besides adding more fiber to your diet, eating more vegetables means more antioxidants in your diet. Antioxidants help reduce inflammation in the cells of the body. This in turn can reduce your risk of chronic diseases that are related to inflammation like heart disease, type 2 diabetes and arthritis, for example.
In fact, research shows that eating more antioxidants in the diet can support brain function in aging by preventing brain cell damage. Also, a 2018 study shows that by reducing heart disease risk, eating a plant-based diet rich in antioxidants can increase longevity in aging adults. This means that eating such foods can improve quality of life as well as quantity of life in some people.
You can still eat some meat in your diet and reap the benefits of plant-based proteins. A 2017 study shows that eating a mostly plant-based diet that includes some meat and fish, also known as a flexitarian diet, can still provide health benefits like reduced body weight, improved blood pressure, and lower risk of type 2 diabetes.
Like with any change in your diet or lifestyle, it's important to take small steps toward your goal for long-term success. Experts at the Mayo Clinic suggest that you should start by making one to two meatless meals per week. Build these meals around beans and whole grains and then add in other non-starchy vegetables like carrots, cauliflower, green beans, onions or zucchini for more flavor and fiber. Then, if you choose, you can start eating more and more meatless meals each week.
If you have access to less meat, or it's becoming to expensive for your weekly grocery run, then you may want to find ways to eat less meat. To do this and still eat enough protein, it can help to add plenty of legume-based foods like beans, lentils, soy protein and tofu to your diet. These options may not sound as good as a juicy steak, but can be delicious when prepared the right way.
For example, beans can be a part of a vegetable soup made with your favorite stock, diced potatoes, tomatoes, onions and carrots, for example. Lentils taste great cooked down and flavored with simple spices like salt and pepper and maybe some curry powder.
On the other hand, tofu soaks up the flavor of anything you place it in. One way to enjoy it is to slice firm tofu into 2-3-ounce slices and marinate the slices for about 30 minutes in coconut aminos soy sauce alternative (found in the Asian foods aisle of your grocery store near the soy sauce).
Then heat a cooking pan over medium heat, coat with olive oil, and cook the slices for 2-3 minutes on each side until golden brown. To make tofu even more delicious, coat each marinated slice in shredded mozzarella cheese before cooking. Pair with your favorite steamed vegetables for a balanced meal.
Other ways to add plant-based protein to your diet include:
It can benefit you to eat less meat and more plant-based protein during any time of your life. But especially now, since you may not be out and about as much as usual, eating healthy is vital to keeping your body and immune system strong.
If you're not sure where to start in eating healthier, then call your insurance company and see if you are covered to talk with a registered dietitian remotely by telephone or computer. These specialists can take a look at how you're eating now and can help provide tips on how much protein you should be eating daily and ways you can consume protein in a more plant-based, but flavorful way.
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