7 ways to eat less red meat (and why you should)

Going meatless might be easier than you think.
Going meatless might be easier than you think.

With all the many fast food chicken outlets and most beloved South African “braai”, there is no doubt that meat and chicken are popular among South Africans.

From a health point of view, this is in contrast with robust evidence that proofed that a predominately plant-based diet is the best way to eat to protect us against lifestyle disease such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease and cancer.

Here are a few ideas to help you cut back on your meat consumption without sacrificing taste. These ideas might even motivate you to introduce more plant proteins into your diet.

The facts

Still asking why you should be cutting your meat consumption? Here are the facts:

1. Evaluating groups of people who followed a mixed diet compared to vegetarians – the risk to develop Type 2 diabetes were 62 % less in the vegan and 38% less in the ovo- lacto vegetarian group

2. People who followed vegetarian diets showed a significant reduction in all blood fat levels (total cholesterol 4 % and LDL cholesterol 9%) compared to people who followed mix diets

3. Red meat and processed meat contain substances such as nitrates, heme iron and AGES (Advanced glycated end stage substances) that develop with high temperature cooking that causes cell damage that contributes to arteriosclerosis and the failure of Beta cells in the pancreas.

4. Meat doesn’t only affect your body, but also the environment. A previous study published on Health24 discussed the sobering facts - according to experts, consumption of foods such as red meat will have to decrease by about half to make sure the Earth will be able to feed the global population by 2050. Experts also reckon that our consumption of plant-based products need to double.

Important to remember

  • If you are still not convinced, our nutritionists want you to take note of a couple of key points.
  • To reap these health benefits it is not necessary to avoid meat and chicken but rather to minimize the consumption to approximately twice a week and enjoying fish and plant proteins instead.
  • It is not single foods that promote health but food patterns Plant proteins in combination with whole grains, fresh fruit and vegetables provide fibre, essential fatty acids, vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients that promote health processes such as improved blood glucose control, liver detoxification and reduced inflammation and plaque formation to name only a few.
  • Replacing meat on the menu or preparing less meat require us to plan the meal. A dry grilled vegetable soya patty served with a salad does not do much for the appetite. However, when the protein dish is accompanied by whole grains and a variety of a minimum of two delicious vegetable dishes it can be mouthwatering. The plate looks full, bouncing with colour, nutrients, fibre and therefore much easier to enjoy a much smaller portion of meat.  

Ways to replace meat

1. Lovely lentils

Lentils can be used canned or soaked and cooked. Lentils however need a bit of taste and nothing can beat a red lentil curry served on a bed of wild/brown rice, a carrot-pineapple salad and minted green peas.

2. Eat eggs

Eggs can come in handy when we arrive home late from work. An omelette can be whipped up and be served with a stir fry and a filling of your choice. Serve this with health bread and nut butter to add more fibre and protein for a balnaced meal. 

3. Make baked, filled potatoes

Baked potatoes in skin provide fibre and a whole range of valuable vitamins and minerals especially potassium to the meal. Top the potato with low-fat chunky cottage cheese, chopped gherkins and peppadews and serve with steamed broccoli and baked butternut.

4. Make beans and legumes a pantry staple

All types of beans provide not only protein but also valuable cholesterol lowering fibre. All types of dry beans can be made in a tasty stew on the weekend to be warmed up during the week. Serving the vegetable bean stew on pearl wheat (stampkoring) for a nutty taste accompanied with stewed peanut butter spinach and baked pumpkin       

5. Eat more fish

Compared to lean beef that have 7 g fat per 100 g, white fish contain only 1g. Fatty fish such as sardines and pilchards have valuable essential fatty acids that is cardio protective. Pour a commercial low- fat lemon herb cooks in sauce over a couple of hake fillets and bake in the oven. Round the plate off with a variety of roasted vegetables including sweet potato wedges for a delicious nutritious meal.

6. Rethink your portion sizes

Stir-fry a small portion of chicken or beef strips with a large portion of stir fry vegetables, soya and sweet chilli sauce and serve on noodles.

Bulk up your spaghetti bolognese by adding cooked lentils or beans to the lean beef mince to stretch it.The dish becomes more economical and healthier as the fat content of the meal becomes significantly lower without compromising the protein content. Serve this dish on a small portion whole wheat low carb pasta, baby beetroot on rocket and Coleslaw.

You can also apply this to a chicken curry. Prepare a curry with cubed chicken breast and add canned or cooked butterbeans, carrots and green beans to stretch the dish. Serve with brown basmati rice and a large, crunchy green salad.

Prepare a hearty beef stew by adding canned or soaked and cooked kidney beans and vegetables to a beef stew can stretch the meat and the dish results in to be high in essential nutrients and lower in fat. Serve a small portion of the stew on a bed of cauliflower mash, samp and beans or cooked quinoa and a green salad.

7. Rethink your weekend braai

Shop wisely for your weekend braai. Reconsider serving three types of meat and one salad. Place the focus on your side dish and serve only one portion of meat. Alternatively, swap the chops and wors for a vegetable patty or fish wrapped in foil (with tomato onion, lemon juice and fennel) served with an onion tomato chilli relish, a chickpea salad and a green salad.  

Image credit: iStock

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