The Meatless Monday campaign has become a worldwide endeavor, encouraging people to cut meat out of their diets one day a week to improve their health and the health of the planet.
If you are taking part to reduce your risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, colon cancer or heart disease, or to save money, be aware that there are a lot of alternatives besides tofu. It’s difficult to get away from the traditional meal with meat as the centerpiece, but knowing some alternatives will be helpful in making choices and planning meals.
Meatless Monday has even made its way to Iran and the Middle East. Because of their alarming increase in meat consumption, the region’s nutrition and food activists have prompted Iran to join the Meatless Monday movement.
Eating less meat doesn’t mean not having protein. Protein can come from dairy products, eggs, legumes (beans, peas and lentils), nuts, grains, vegetables and soy-based foods. There are meat substitutes that resemble bacon, hot dogs or veggie burgers that offer a familiar look and help people transitioning from a diet that contains lots of meat to one that has less.
Here are some foods to consider in planning Meatless Monday meals.
This is a highly nutritious grain often referred to as the “mother grain” of the Andes. Quinoa (KEE-nwah) contains all the essential amino acids, is high in iron, and has a delicious nutty flavor. It cooks up quicker than rice. Quinoa is good hot or cold, with steamed vegetables or cold in a salad.
Veggie burgers don’t necessarily taste like meat and there are many different kinds out there, so if you don’t like one, don’t give up. Try a different brand — Gardenburger, MorningStar Farms, Boca burgers, Amy’s, Gardein and Trader Joe’s are just a few of the brands available. Some veggie burgers and veggie chicken patties provide 10-15 grams of protein per serving. The source of the protein is most often soy. By comparison, a three-ounce cooked hamburger patty provides 20 grams of protein. If the product isn’t made with soy it will provide much less protein. Gardenburger’s Black Bean Chipotle Veggie Burger provides only five grams of protein per serving.
The carbohydrate content of veggie burgers varies considerably depending on the source of the protein and what other ingredients are added. If the product contains rice and beans, it may provide 10-20 grams of carbs per serving. Additional carbs are added if the product is breaded.
Quorn is made from mycoprotein, a protein in the mushroom family. It is then combined with egg white and vegetable flavors to give it the taste and texture of meat. It is available in a range of products such as burgers, fillets, bacon and deli meats. Quorn is low in calories and fat, high in fiber and contains all the essential amino acids.
Legumes, lentils, black beans and chickpeas, or garbanzo beans, are high in protein and fiber and are filling. Hummus is made from legumes and is simple and easy to prepare. Black beans and lentils make wonderful soups.
Seitan has been used in Asia for hundreds of years. It is a high-protein gluten made from rinsing a flour dough with water. Sometimes referred to as “wheat meat,” seitan can be found at natural product stores and Asian markets.
2 garlic cloves, mashed and then minced
2 15-ounce cans garbanzo beans (chickpeas), drained and rinsed
2/3 cup tahini (roasted, not raw)
1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
½ cup water
¼ cup olive oil
½ teaspoon salt
Pine nuts (toasted) and parsley (chopped) for garnish
In a food processor combine the first 6 ingredients. Process until smooth. Add salt, starting at ½ teaspoon, to taste. Spoon into serving dish, sprinkle with toasted pine nuts and chopped parsley.
Georgia Clark-Albert is a registered dietitian nutritionist and certified diabetes educator at Penobscot Community Health Care in Bangor. She provides nutrition consultant services through Mainely Nutrition in Athens. Read her columns and post questions at bangordailynews.com or email her at GeorgiaMaineMSRDCDE@gmail.com.