Remember when meat and potatoes went unquestioned as a typical American meal? Now there’s increased awareness that meat and potatoes don’t cut it as a healthy meal, but with two thirds of Americans overweight or obese, people are still consuming too much red meat—high in saturated fat and cholesterol.
While beef can be a good source of protein and iron, it’s extremely high in saturated fat and cholesterol and it’s beneficial to reduce your intake of red meat. According to the Harvard School of Public Health, a 6-ounce porterhouse steak can give you all sorts of protein, but has as many as 44 grams of fat–16 of them are the bad, saturated kind. Several studies also show that red meat has been associated with heart disease, type 2 diabetes and higher risks of breast, stomach and colorectal cancers.
So, what do you do if you are a meat lover but you also want to be healthy?
Cut down on red meat.
However much red meat you currently consume, try cutting back a little at a time until you are only eating red meat once per week. You don’t have to give up that burger on your grill this summer or the filet mignon at your favorite steakhouse. Just make it an occasional thing, instead of your weekly habit. Keep track of how much red meat you eat in a week and make it your goal to decrease that number a little more each week. Or, reduce your portions. When you eat red meat, try to eat four- six ounces which is about the size of a deck of playing cards. At my house, burgers on the grill are a weekly event. My boys love them! I buy the leanest grass fed ground beef I can and for myself, I use ground turkey. Check out my Spinach and Feta Stuffed Turkey Burgers.
Eat more lean meat.
My cookbook, Choose This! has several recipes using lean, and healthier meat options like turkey or chicken. Try my recipe for Turkey Sausage Lasagna, using ground turkey sausage, in place of pork sausage or ground beef as it has about half the calories and far lower amounts of saturated fat and cholesterol. Or try my Stuffed Flank Steak Recipe loaded with spinach, red peppers, and parmesan cheese. Flank Steak is one of the leanest cuts of beef.
Connect with Meatless Monday.
Join MeatlessMonday.com, a movement to reduce meat consumption by 15 percent and help people improve their health. The website features all sorts of meatless recipes for every meal as well as information and other resources. Meatless Monday also points out all of the health benefits you can reap from skipping meat—at least once per week.
- Reduce cancer. Diets high in fruits and vegetables may reduce cancer risk.
- Reduce heart disease. Nuts and seeds reduce the risk of heart disease by 19 percent.
- Curb obesity. People on low-meat or vegetarian diets have significantly lower body weights and body mass indexes.Studies also show overall meat consumption can prevent long-term weight gain.
- Live longer. Red and processed meat consumption is associated with modest increases in total mortality, cancer mortality and cardiovascular disease mortality.
Too few people get the recommended amount of five servings of fruits and veggies per day, and that’s one of the reasons I am so supportive of the new MyPlate food guidelines by the USDA. Reminding yourself that your plate should always be half filled with fruits and veggies will ensure you are taking some healthy steps for your health, while you work to reduce (or better yet replace!) your protein source!
Need more benefits to reduce your meat consumption? It also helps the environment! You can reduce your carbon footprint by eating less meat. The United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization estimates the meat industry generates nearly one-fifth of the man-made greenhouse gas emissions that are accelerating climate change worldwide. Reining in meat consumption once a week can help slow this trend. Meatless Monday also reports that reducing meat consumption can minimize water usage because the water needs of livestock are tremendous, far above those of vegetables or grains. An estimated 1,800 to 2,500 gallons of water go into a single pound of beef. Lastly, eating less meat helps reduce fossil fuel dependence with about 40 calories of fossil fuel energy going into every calorie of feed lot beef in the United States.
So improve your waistline, health and environmental impact by eating less meat!