Protein-rich foods as an alternative to meat

May 14, 2020 | by Edward-Elmhurst Health
Categories: Healthy Driven Life

On average, Americans consume about half a pound of meat each day.

But with meat shortages predicted as a result of plant shutdowns due to COVID-19, you may be looking for alternative sources of protein for some of your meals.

In a recent New York Times full-page ad, Tyson Foods warned that the country’s food supply chain was breaking. A Time magazine article also pointed to statistics from an April 27, 2020 USDA report showing that beef production was down more than 25 percent from the previous year and pork production decreased by 15 percent.

Though farms have plenty of livestock raised for meat production, meat packing plants have slowed operations, with some shutting down temporarily, to deal with COVID-19 outbreaks among plant workers. Experts warn shoppers should expect to see meat price increases and a continued decrease in supply or variety of meat selections available on store shelves.

That may leave some wondering what options they have for protein at mealtime.

Though the amount of protein needed varies by person (based on factors like age, weight and activity level), the American Heart Association (AHA) recommends 10 to 35 percent of your daily calories come from protein.

For the average adult female, that works out to about 46 grams of protein and 56 grams for the average adult male. To put that in perspective, a 3-ounce piece of meat (the size of a deck of cards) has about 21 grams of protein, according to the AHA.

If you find yourself looking for alternative sources for protein because meat is in short supply, or just for a healthier diet change, Edward-Elmhurst Health outpatient dietitian Mary Gardner, RD, LDN, offers a few options:

  • Edamame. A one cup serving of edamame packs 17 grams of protein. Gardner suggests adding some to vegetable soup, serving them over brown rice or adding edamame to a salad. It can also be served with quinoa, another high-protein source.
  • Canned or dried beans. You can find a good source of protein in beans such as lentils (17.9 grams per cup), chickpeas (14.5 grams per cup), kidney beans (13.4 grams per cup), black beans (15 grams per cup), pinto (15.4 grams per cup) or navy beans (15.0 grams per cup). Toss some in a salad or with pasta, or make a soup for a hearty meal.
  • Tofu or tempeh. A half cup of tofu offers 10 grams of protein and a half cup of tempeh has roughly 15 grams of protein. Gardner notes that “seasoning is key” with both. Gardner likes using tofu in stir fry or for tacos. Tempeh, with its slightly nuttier flavor, can be sliced or cubed and added to a salad, or it can be marinated and then grilled, baked or sautéed. While both need to be refrigerated, tempeh has a longer shelf life than tofu, she says.
  • Dairy products. An eight-ounce glass of milk offers 8 grams of protein. Yogurt also is another good, typically offering about 11 grams of protein per serving. Eggs offer 6 grams of protein per egg.
  • Seeds, such as chia, flax or hemp seeds, are another source of protein and can be added into smoothies, mixed in with yogurt or used as an ingredient in bread or homemade granola bars. They can also be added to salads or trail mix.
  • Nutritional yeast powder also is a protein source Gardner suggests. It can be sprinkled on popcorn, on a baked potato or on stuffed pasta shells.

Shelf-stable options like peanut butter or canned tuna or salmon can be a good source of protein.

While including some meatless options in your weekly menu planning may help during a meat shortage, going meatless also offers some health benefits. As most meats are high in cholesterol and saturated fats and processed meats are high in sodium, adapting a plant-based diet can decrease the risk of heart disease, stroke, obesity, hypertension, elevated cholesterol and Type 2 diabetes, Gardner says.

If your weekly menu options must include meat, try shopping at your local grocer earlier in the day for a better selection or talk to your local butcher about what might be in stock during the week.

Get the latest coronavirus information from Edward-Elmhurst Health.

Get more information about coronavirus from Healthy Driven Chicago.

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