Using non-meat proteins and smaller meat portions lowers food costs

MSU Extension says many people could eat less meat with more fruits and vegetables, whole grains and dairy foods for good nutritional health and savings.

As the price of bacon is projected to go up, will you eat less? Because the price of feed for livestock rose as a result of widespread draught, prices of pork and other meats will likely rise.

Prices of most meats have been more expensive per serving than many other foods such as fruits and vegetables, grains, and even most dairy foods. While many people savor meats on their dinner plates, eating smaller portions of meats is more healthful and less expensive. Meat is a high source of protein, iron and B vitamins, but it also can contribute a large amount of saturated fat and cholesterol, which can contribute to heart disease and high cholesterol readings.

To save money on meals and lower your fat and cholesterol intake, consider non-meat proteins and eating smaller portions of meat. MyPlate recommends that adults consume 4 to 6 ounces of meat each day (three ounces of meat is about the size of a deck of playing cards). Several foods provide substantial high quality protein to our diets. Legumes, which include dry beans like kidney, pinto, navy and garbanzo, can be purchased in cans and ready to add into soups, casseroles, skillet dinners and Mexican entrees like burritos or taco salads. They can also be added to salads or turned into dip. Bags of dry beans are even less expensive, and can be soaked and cooked until tender and then be added to recipes or frozen for later use. Lentils are another legume that is easy to cook because they don’t need to be soaked. To use lentils, just boil for 15 to 20 minutes, and add to casseroles, skillet dinners and soups. Many delicious recipes using legumes can be found at the United States Department of Agriculture recipefinder website.

Dairy foods also contribute a lot of protein to our diets, as do soy or almond milk, especially when combined with healthy grains such as bread, rice, pasta and oatmeal. Since we should get three to four servings of dairy foods every day for calcium, we can also get significant amounts of iron, B vitamins and protein.

Take care to store meats properly in the freezer in meal size packages and use refrigerated leftover meats within two to four days in other meals. Don’t overlook the nutritional value of leftover broth from cooking meats. Broth can be used as liquid in casseroles and skillets, and to make hearty soup. Broth, leftover from cooking meats, can be frozen for later use or refrigerated and used within two to four days.

Meat is a rich source of iron, B vitamins, and zinc that can be challenging to get in adequate amounts from other foods. Still, most of us could do well to have smaller portions of meat with more fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and dairy foods for good nutritional health and savings in our pocket book. Other foods usually cost less, and provide us with the variety of nutrients that we need for optimal health.

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