On Mondays on CookingManager.Com, I post tips for saving, storing, and preparing food frugally.
Protein is an important part of a balanced diet, but most western diets include too much animal protein. The excess protein turns into fat and can cause health problems. Animal fats also contain more toxins from pesticides than vegetables do.
Animal proteins, including eggs, dairy products, meat, fish and poultry, are usually the most expensive part of our food budgets.
Sometimes people think that in order to eat less meat, they need to become vegetarian or make vegetarian meals more often. This is one approach. But you can still choose to include small amounts of meat or other animal protein in most meals. What counts is how much you eat over the course of an average day.
Beans, legumes, seeds, nuts and whole grains all contain protein and can help satisfy family members who feel deprived when less meat, fish or cheese is being served. Here are some ideas for cutting back on animal protein without going over to a strictly vegan diet:
- Stop thinking of meals as consisting of fish or meat, starch and vegetables. Instead think of a combination of animal or vegetable protein along with the starch and vegetables. One course meals work better than serving smaller pieces of chicken.
- Serve soups rich with whole grains and legumes as a first course. Then people are more likely to be satisfied with less meat in the main course.
- “Stretch” ground meat with vegetables, grains, and beans. Stuffed cabbage, chili, and casseroles are all dishes that can be just as tasty with less meat.
- Add chick peas, beans, nuts, or seeds to salads.
- Mash up beans before adding to casseroles or soups. Not everyone will notice them. Tiny red lentils may also get a pass from picky eaters.
- Chumus and techina are tasty spreads made from chickpeas and sesame seed paste.
- If you have a small amount of leftover meat, fill it out with beans and grains instead of cooking additional meat.
- I don’t buy soybeans or products, except for Tamari sauce. I still have questions about its health benefits and risks.
What techniques has your family used to cut back on animal protein?
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