I ceased eating red meat when I was thirteen years old. While I was the odd one out for a while (and my parents thought I would grow out of it eventually), at 22 years old I find that most of my female friends eat no or little quantities of red meat. With iron deficiency rampant among young women, and the obesity rate constantly on the rise, it is important that we non-red meat-eaters are aware of our eating patterns. Red meat is a major source of protein, and any balanced diet should contain fairly equal proportions of protein and carbohydrates. So how can we get some protein into our diets without slapping a steak on the Barbie?
- Protein isn’t just for dinner
Start your day off with yoghurt mixed with muesli, or baked beans on toast. Both yoghurt and baked beans are good sources of protein, and by combining them with stamina-giving carbohydrates, you will find you don’t need to reach for the bikkie tin at 10am.
- Lunch solutions
A major problem for me is finding ways to fit protein into my midday meal. An ideal way is to have a good old fashioned sandwhich (tuna or chicken pastrami are good alternatives to ham or beef here). If you haven’t got time in the mornings to make a sandwhich, keep some protein bars in your desk at work. While the name might sound disgusting (and remind you of fake-strawberry flavoured diet drinks!) protein bars can actually be quite delicious. Horley’s have a great range out, and the EAS Body for Life protein bars are also tasty and nutritious. Protein bars are of course high in protein, but they also contain a number of other essential nutrients. Just be careful of the fat content – some protein bars have high fat contents and should be eaten in moderation (in other words, don’t eat a protein bar and then scoff two Moros!)
- Say Cheese
A non-vegan vegetarian diet nearly always contains a high cheese content. Like most dairy foods, cheese contains a good proportion of protein and is a delicious way to add flavour to otherwise bland dishes. Reduced-fat options of cheese are available. Edam cheese is a personal favourite of mine. A quick easy snack is a slice of bread smeared with marmite and a bit of cheese. This is delicious grilled and the marmite will give you the added bonus of Vitamin B12.
- Go Nutty
A handful of nuts tossed into a vegetable stir-fry adds a bit of protein to your meal. While nuts are high in ‘good’ fat, eating them in moderation is a delicious way to eat protein.
- Fish is your friend
Fish, particularly oily fishes such as Tuna, are a great source of protein. Ever heard of the Fish and Broccoli diet? It’s a favourite with bodybuilders. Protein is used to build muscle (and therefore encourage fat loss). A tuna sandwhich for lunch, fish cakes for brunch, or grilled fish with salad for dinner are just a few options to enjoy getting some protein into your day. Ask your deli about the uses of each kind of fish, and even get fancy by preparing salmon kebabs!
- Versatile eggs
A few years ago eggs took a publicity hammering, with claims they can raise your cholesterol level. These days, having an egg a day is widely approved by dieticians. If you are eating little other protein, and your cholesterol levels are healthy, you can increase your egg servings to 2-3 eggs a day. Scrambled eggs on toast are a good option for a protein-fuelled breakfast, or toss a boiled egg into the next salad you make.
I have found that a lot of non red-meat eaters really do enjoy chicken. Chicken is incredibly versatile and can be combined with many different flavours and sauces, and is a good staple on the dinner table. The skin of chicken is the most fattening part, so if you are watching your weight, buy skinless chicken breasts, slice them finely, and add them to stir fries.