What are healthy alternatives to red meat?

Here's how to eat less red meat without sacrificing flavor:
  • Grill something new. Fire up your grill and lay out beefy-tasting veggie burgers -- yes, veggie burgers. I'm a big fan of many types of veggie burgers, from spicy to barbecue to classic. I recently had a veggie burger "taste off" of more than 20 different brands at my house.
  • Opt for low-fat, low-sodium tofu dogs instead of traditional hot dogs. Pair with sauerkraut on a 100% whole-wheat bun and top with a thin ribbon of yellow mustard, which contains brain-healing turmeric. Heterocyclic amines, nasty compounds that form when meat is cooked at high temperatures, are linked to many cancers, including colon cancer, breast cancer, stomach cancer, pancreatic cancer, and prostate cancer.
  • Skip the beef and eat more beans. In your favorite soups, stews, and casseroles, use mild and trendy black beans; big, creamy kidney beans; and/or white cannellini beans. Beans are excellent meat substitutes because they're high in protein and filling fiber, and ultra low in fat. (Meat contains high levels of saturated fat, which can turn on inflammation-triggering genes, increase skin wrinkles, decrease sex drive, increase low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol -- as well as your waist size -- and make blood sugar control harder.) The calorie trade-offs are another plus. You'd have to eat more than 4 cups of black beans -- and that's not going to happen -- to match the calorie count of one 10 oz. rib eye steak (860)! One cup of black beans delivers just 190 calories along with 14 to 20 grams of protein and nearly 20 grams of cholesterol-lowering, inflammation-soothing, heart-smart fiber.
  • Don't give up "umami." U what? Umami is a naturally occurring glutamate that delivers the subtle, savory taste of beef. It turns out plenty of other good-for-you foods tickle your taste buds in the same way. Foods with big umami impact include mushrooms, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, and even carrots. Grill big Portabello mushrooms or sauté some shitake mushrooms to add to scrambled eggs. In one study, people who ate mushroom-based dishes instead of meat-based ones consumed 420 fewer calories, and in a blind taste test said the food tasted even better and left them feeling just as full for just as long.
Dr. Vinayak A. Manohar, MD
Interventional Cardiologist

A healthy alternative to red meat would be something like fish. It's relatively higher in the unsaturated fats or the good fats. If people have difficulty with fish they could try increasing the amount of poultry in their diet.

Red meat in general tends to be relatively high in saturated fats. Those are the bad fats associated with arterial disease and heart attacks.

Lisa Lillien
Nutrition & Dietetics Specialist

Red meat is rife with saturated fat and calories. Fortunately for meat lovers, Hungry Girl author Lisa Lillien talks in this video about an alternative that looks and tastes exactly like the real thing.

Swap out red meat for healthier proteins: fish; skinless poultry breast; combos of beans, lentils, chickpeas, nuts, and whole grains; and nonfat or low-fat cheese or yogurt. These swaps mean tasty eating, too. How about stuffed whole-wheat pizza, Asian salmon with brown rice pilaf, turkey roll-ups with baked red potatoes, or grilled shrimp with peanut sauce and snow peas?

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.