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Dietitians Dish: Meatless meals save money and are good for you, too

Sept. 20, 2010 at 4:20 a.m.
Updated Sept. 21, 2010 at 4:21 a.m.

Lisa Hagan

By Lisa Hagan

How often have we heard the words, "I am tired of eating the same foods over and over?"

Eating the same menu rotation of chicken, beef and fish can be dull. Mealtimes should be interesting and exciting.

Solve the dilemma of repetitive meals by simply adding meatless dishes to your repertoire of recipes a few times a week. You expand your menu rotation and trim your grocery bill and waistline.

SAVE MONEY

Buying meats cost more than buying whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds. A meal for four of baked chicken can easily add up to more than $10, while a meal of cornbread and pinto beans costs less than $4.

Over time the cost adds up and you are healthier.

BENEFIT FROM FIBER

The typical American diet is often low in fiber. We consume less than 15 grams of fiber a day when the recommended amount for adults is 25 grams of fiber a day. A serving of black beans will give you 15 grams of fiber, almonds 4 grams of fiber and brown rice 2 grams of fiber.

EAT LESS CHOLESTEROL

Cholesterol is found only in animal source foods such as beef, poultry, seafood and dairy products. Plant source foods do not have cholesterol and can make a great cholesterol-free meal. But, use caution when measuring out nuts or seeds for your meatless meal. They may not contain cholesterol but they do have fat. Even though it is a healthy type of fat, eating too much can cancel out the positive health benefits.

ADD VARIETY OF NUTRIENTS

Eating a variety of foods increases the pool of nutrients that the body can use. A good example would be adding beans for additional folic acid, a commonly deficient nutrient. Foods rich in folic acid can decrease homocysteine levels and help prevent heart disease. Other nutrients include omega-3, antioxidants, B vitamins, etc. Adding a variety of foods increases the availability of nutrients that the body would not have had if variety was limited.

GET ESSENTIAL PROTEINS

Often, there is a misconception that meatless meals lack essential proteins found in meats. In fact, combining certain plant sources can give you the same essential proteins that are found in meats. These combinations are grains with legumes, grains with nuts or seeds, and legumes with nuts or seeds. Some examples are brown rice with black beans, pasta salad with sunflower seeds, wheat bread with almond butter, and a stir fry of vegetables with bean sprouts and cashews.

Strictly following these combinations is not necessary, but it would be prudent for those who live a vegetarian lifestyle to keep these combinations in mind when preparing their meals.

Some delicious meatless meals are veggie pizza, split pea soup with barley bread, portobello mushroom or eggplant panini, polenta topped with your favor marinara sauce, pita bread with hummus, seven bean chili or a stuffed baked potato topped with your favorite vegetable mix.

Enjoy good food and good health.

Lisa Hagan is a registered and licensed dietitian. Send questions or comments to dietitians@vicad.com..

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