In 2009, approximately 2.5% of adults in the United States and 4% of adults in Canada followed a vegetarian diet. Additionally, 20 to 25% of Americans reported eating at least 4 meatless meals a week. Vegetarianism has been growing in popularity due to consumer concerns surrounding the economic and ecological impact of eating meat-based diets. So, what are the alternatives? A recent reader expressed her interest in fake meat, which unfortunately is not the answer to a meatless meal, so I’ll spend some time here discussing meat alternatives.
You might be wondering why I blew off fake meat so easily - well it’s because research is nonexistent. Unfortunately, there are not even standards to define what fake meat is. It just sounds like a marketing ploy right now - why are you spending good money on “Meatless BBQ Pulled Shreds” when you can buy cheap legumes?
So let’s say you blow off this post and buy the full vegetarian marketing ploy, what’s the downside? You’ll be missing some essential nutrients such as protein, iron, zinc or the B vitamins. To minimize the loss of these essential nutrients make sure the meat alternative you choose is appropriate. Here are some good ones: fish, shellfish, beans (kidney, soy, black), peas, lentils, eggs, and nuts.
The number of Food Guide Servings of meat and alternatives for adult females is 2, while for adult males it’s 3. So, what’s a Food Guide Serving for meat and alternatives? According to Dietitians of Canada one Food Guide Serving of meat equals 75 g (2 ½ ounces) cooked. This is approximately:
• 1/2 of a chicken breast or a chicken leg with thigh (without skin) • 125 mL (1/2 cup) of flaked fish or ground meat • 3 slices (75 g) of packaged luncheon meat (check the package label for the number of grams per serving)
As for alternatives, a 175 mL (3/4 cup) serving of cooked beans, peas or lentils, or soybean curd (tofu) counts as one Food Guide Serving. A Food Guide Serving equals 30 mL (2 tbsp) of peanut butter, 60 mL (1/4 cup) shelled nuts and seeds, or two eggs.
One thing I have taken away from my research is there are meatless ways to have protein-rich meals. Just meat-yourself halfway.
Image courtesy of arvindgrover