Canada’s Food guide recommends 2 servings daily of meat and alternatives for females 14 and over and 3 servings per day for males 14 or older. If you are a lacto-ovo vegetarian, a vegan or just trying to cut down on your consumption of meat, Canada’s Food Guide contains a number of alternatives to meat.
Beans and Lentils
Beans and lentils are meat alternatives that are great sources of protein. Three quarters (3/4) of a cup of a cooked or canned beans or lentils are considered to be one food guide serving. Not only are beans and lentils inexpensive protein sources, they are also rich in fibre and folate. Dried or canned beans and lentils have a long shelf-life so it is easy to keep them on hand. Dried beans generally need to be soaked and rinsed prior to cooking, and canned beans should be rinsed prior to use to help decrease the sodium. Try making vegetarian chilli with plenty of beans and lentils, or a pasta sauce with lentils to pair with your favourite whole grain pasta. Legumes, such as kidney beans and chick peas, can be added to soups or salads to add protein and fibre. Beans can also be pureed and made into a dips like white bean dip or hummus. Three quarters of a cup of hummus is one food guide serving of meat and alternatives and it makes a great portable dip to bring with vegetables for a snack. Dips can also be added to sandwiches and in pitas.
Nuts, Seeds and Nut Butters
Nuts, seeds and nut butters are also easy inexpensive alternatives to meat. While their fat content generally makes them higher in calories than beans or lentils, the fat is mainly monounsaturated and polyunsaturated which are the types recommended by Canada’s food guide. Nuts and seeds are very portable and ¼ cup (1 food guide serving) makes the perfect snack on the go. Keep a small baggie of almonds or walnuts in your desk drawer or in your bag for a quick snack. Nuts and seeds can also be added to breakfast cereal or salads. If you prefer nut butters, they are available from a wide variety of nuts and make great portable lunches. Spread two tablespoons of nut butter on whole grain bread, grab apple and you are ready to go.
Tofu is a high quality protein made from curdling soy milk. Tofu is very versatile because it is available in different textures and it has a mild taste that picks up the flavours of the food it is cooked with. Soft or silken tofu can be used to make dips or shakes. Firm tofu can be used in soups, stews or stir fries. 150 grams or ¾ of a cup of tofu is one serving of meat and alternatives.
If you do eat animal products, eggs provide many nutrients including protein, vitamin B12, vitamin D, vitamin E, and iron. Eggs are inexpensive and are quick and easy to prepare. Add a boiled egg to a salad or make an egg salad sandwich. Try poached eggs on whole grain toast with tomatoes and cucumbers or a vegetarian omelette for a quick lunch. French toast with whole grain bread and cut up fruit makes a great supper on those nights where you are in a hurry. If you want something fancier make a quiche with herbs and your favourite cheese. If you are looking for a way to increase the omega 3 fatty acids in your diet you can try omega 3 eggs. Omega 3 eggs contain the same amount of fat and cholesterol as a regular egg, but contain more omega 3 fatty acids because the chicken feed contains flax seeds or fish oil. Two eggs are considered one food guide serving of meat and alternatives.
Fun Fact: Did you Brown and white eggs have the same nutrition but are produced by a different breed of hen.
As you can see, there are many alternatives to meat that can easily be included in your day. Meat alternatives are often less expensive and lower in saturated fat than meat, so get creative.