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Meatless Protein | A Healthy Alternative

Mandy Zheng, PharmD,

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Feb 21st, 2015

Protein

A recent study conducted by the National Cancer Institute looked at the eating habits of 500,000 people. The findings found those who consume the least red meat were 30 percent less likely to develop serious health problems, which may mean a higher life expectancy. The good news is that there are many ways to lower meat consumption while still getting the recommended amount of protein and nutrients.

When we think of protein, we often think of meat but there are plenty of meatless options with just as much protein but without the unhealthy fats. Plant proteins alone can provide enough amino acids which are the building blocks of protein; as long as sources of dietary protein are varied and caloric intake is high enough to meet energy needs.  To find out your daily protein needs, the Recommended Dietary Allowances guideline (RDA) recommends that adults consume 0.8 grams of protein for every kilogram, or about 0.36 grams of protein per pound of weight.  For an adult with a weight of 150lbs, an adequate amount of protein is 54 grams.

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends choosing a variety of protein containing foods, including eggs, low-fat milk and dairy products, beans, peas, soy products, unsalted nuts and seeds. The guidelines also suggest replacing protein foods that are higher in solid fats with choices that are lower in solid fats and calories. The fats in meat, poultry, eggs and high-fat dairy products such as cheese are considered solid fats, while the fats in seafood, nuts and seeds are considered oils.

Ways to incorporate meatless options into your meals include adding beans and legumes to casseroles and salads.  Make vegetarian chili by leaving out the ground beef and adding an extra can of black beans. Try using extra-firm tofu rather than chicken for fajitas. Here is an example of how easy it is to incorporate a meatless day into your week:

For a 150lb adult: Protein(grams)
Breakfast: 1 cup soy milk 7
1 medium bagel 10
Lunch: 1 cup of cooked spaghetti 8
1 cup vegetarian baked beans 12
Dinner: 1 cup cooked broccoli 4
1 cup cooked brown rice 5
Snack: ¼ cup of almonds 8
Total: 54 grams

To learn more about how to adopt a meatless lifestyle:
http://www.vrg.org/
http://www.choosemyplate.gov/healthy-eating-tips/tips-for-vegetarian.html
http://fnic.nal.usda.gov/lifecycle-nutrition/vegetarian-nutrition

Resources:

http://www.vrg.org/nutrition/protein.php
http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-living/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/meatless-meals/art-20048193?pg=2
http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/GettingHealthy/NutritionCenter/Vegetarian-Diets_UCM_306032_Article.jsp
Mandy Zheng, PharmD, earned her Doctorate of Pharmacy from St. John’s University. She is currently a community pharmacy resident with Jewel-Osco Pharmacy and Midwestern University Chicago College of Pharmacy.

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