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Newland, N.C. – Panic buying at grocery stores, coupled with the sudden shift to more at-home eating, has America’s food supply chain becoming somewhat sluggish due to the coronavirus pandemic. Also, discounts seem to be less frequent as retailers and manufacturers try to shore up supplies.
With some families being out of work while having less money for groceries and products more difficult to find, you may be asking yourself, “What can families do to provide the most nutritious meals possible with the least amount of work involved?”
Luckily, you can eat healthfully without spending a lot. One way to save is to serve meat less often. Try a plant-based diet that emphasizes vitamins and other nutrients. People who don’t eat meat generally eat fewer calories and less fat, weigh less, and have a lower risk of heart disease and diabetes.
Most Americans get enough protein in their diets. Your individual protein needs vary based on factors such as body size, medical conditions, and activity level. However, adults generally only need 5 1/2 ounces of protein a day; remember, you can choose from more than just meat. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend choosing a variety of proteins including, eggs, low-fat milk products, beans, unsalted nuts, and seeds.
You don’t have to go cold turkey and completely quit eating meat. Instead try easing into eating less meat, especially during the pandemic. Consider going meatless one day a week. Also, when you do eat meat, don’t overindulge. Choose lean cuts and avoid oversized portions. A serving of protein should be no more than three ounces, about the size of a deck of cards.
Some people say it’s expensive to eat healthy meatless meals, but that’s a myth. It will cost you less because meat is usually more expensive than vegetarian proteins. Just by cutting meat back one day a week, it is possible to cut $100 or more a year on your grocery bill. It will also make your family eco-friendlier. Skipping meat one day per week for one year would remove more pollution than an average-sized backyard full of trees. It is one of the easiest ways to make a big difference because this small change will shrink your carbon footprint, put money back in your wallet, and improve your health.
Finally, one of the least mentioned benefits is the time you’ll be saving. Rather than having to wait 30 minutes or more to defrost, prepare, and cook a piece of meat, there are tons of meat-free meals that take only a few minutes to make. The convenience that comes with meatless meals means there is one less thing to worry about, especially if you are working from home or home-schooling children. Meatless meals can be whipped up fast from things you may already have in your pantry and will still be very tasty.
Listed below are several recipes you can try at home.
“Fiesta to Go” by Melanie Cashion McCoury, EFNEP Educator
If you have questions about this article or any other food or nutrition-related topic, please contact Melanie McCoury, Nutrition Program Assistant at the N.C. Cooperative Extension, Avery County Center (828-733-8270).