Healthful and Convenient Meat Choices

"I rarely eat meat except when I go home to visit my family," commented Christina, a college student who lived off campus and was responsible for her own food. "I like meat, but it's expensive and seems to spoil before I get around to cooking it for dinner." She cooked mostly pasta and consequently wondered if she consumed too little protein.

If you, like Christina, think you eat too little protein and its accompanying nutrients iron and zinc, and you are willing to eat animal protein, eating a small amount of lean red meat two to four times per week can enhance the quality of your sports diet. Here are some tips to keep in mind for health-promoting, low-fat meat eatery:

  • Take advantage of the deli. For precooked meats, buy rotisserie chicken or slices of lean roast beef, ham, and turkey in the deli section at the grocery store.
  • Buy extra-lean cuts of beef, pork, and lamb to reduce your intake of saturated fat. Forgo cuts with a marbled appearance, and trim the fat off steaks and chops before cooking them.
  • Get rid of more fat. After browning ground beef, drain it in a colander and rinse it with hot water to remove the fat before adding it to spaghetti sauce.
  • At a cafeteria, request two rolls when you order one hamburger. Use one roll to absorb the grease. Eat the second roll with the degreased burger, and throw the greasy roll away.
  • Integrate meat into a meal as an accompaniment. Add a little extra-lean hamburger to spaghetti sauce, stir-fry a small piece of steak with lots of veggies, serve a pile of rice along with one lean pork chop, make a savory potato-rich stew with a little lean lamb, or buy deli roast beef for sandwiches made on hearty bread.

Many active people choose not to eat animal protein. Some just eat no red meat; others eat no chicken, fish, eggs, or dairy foods. They may think that animal protein is hard to digest, bad for the health, unethical to eat, or harmful to the environment. Whatever their reason for abstaining, they often overlook the fact that they still need to eat adequate protein to maintain good health. And a balanced vegetarian diet is indeed a good investment in good health.

The trick to eating a balanced vegetarian diet is to make the effort to replace meat with beans. If you eliminate meat, you need to add a source of plant protein. You can easily get adequate protein to support your sports program by including kidney beans, chickpeas, peanut butter, tofu, nuts, and other forms of plant protein in your daily diet. Some non-meat-eaters, however, simply fuel up only on carbohydrate and neglect their protein needs.

Peter, a 150-pound (68 kg) runner, is a typical example of an athlete with a protein-deficient diet. He consumed only 0.3 gram of protein per pound (0.7 g per kg), or half the recommended intake for athletes. A typical day of eating for Peter looked something like this:

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