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JEFF TIEDEMAN: Meals without meat

I grew up in a household where we had meat -- or some animal byproduct -- at almost every meal. For breakfast, there might have been ham, bacon or sausage -- but most often, it was just eggs. At school lunch, the main course always was meat -- ho...

Jeff Tiedeman
Jeff Tiedeman

I grew up in a household where we had meat -- or some animal byproduct -- at almost every meal.

For breakfast, there might have been ham, bacon or sausage -- but most often, it was just eggs.

At school lunch, the main course always was meat -- hot dogs, fried chicken, a spaghetti sauce over noodles or beef and gravy with mashed potatoes. (On weekends and during the summer, a cold meat sandwich usually was the order of the day.)

And the centerpiece for supper always was meat: plenty of beef -- pot roasts, steaks, hamburger (on buns or in a casserole), etc.; and occasionally pork chops or liver.

About the only time we didn't eat meat was on Fridays, when we abstained because we were Catholic.

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To put it succinctly, eating meat ran deep in our family, as it did with a lot of other people I know who grew up in the 1950s,'60s and '70s.

I don't remember hearing about vegetarians and vegans back then, unlike these days, when the likes of ex-President Bill Clinton, baseball Hall of Fame manager Tony LaRussa, former Beatle Paul McCartney and "American Idol" graduate Carrie Underwood count themselves as one or the other.

For the most part, their reason is that it's healthier. A plant-based diet, which emphasizes fruits and vegetables, grains, beans and legumes and nuts, is rich in fiber, vitamins and other nutrients. And it's been proven that people who eat only plant-based foods generally eat fewer calories and less fat, weigh less and have a lower risk of heart disease.

Healthy approach

I still love meat but haven't given up eating it entirely, although there was a time in the mid-1970s when my diet consisted entirely of vegetables, breads and fruits with a little fish thrown in on the side. We try to limit our meals, especially with red meat, to one or two a week.

If you're considering a similar approach but think this is a bit drastic, try easing into meatless meals. Maybe go meatless one day a week. Or if you don't like the idea of a whole day without meat, start with a couple of meatless dinners each week or plan meals that feature entrees that are typically meatless, such as lasagna, soup orpasta salad.

The Mayo Clinic suggests that you might try substituting protein-rich foods for meat in your favorite recipes, such as beans and legumes in casseroles and salads, vegetarian refried beans, which are a good substitute for meat in burritos and tacos, and tofu -- a perfect addition to stir-fry dishes.

Mayo tips

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Mayo dietitians also say that when meat is on the menu, don't overindulge. They offer the following tips:

-- Choose lean cuts and avoid oversized portions. A serving of protein should be no more than 3 ounces -- or about the size of a deck of cards -- and should take up no more than one-fourth of your plate.

-- Vegetables and fruits should cover half your plate. Grains make up the rest.

That said, I'm heading off to Minto, N.D., on Friday to help judge the 26th annual Harvey Avenue Saloon Bologna Cook-Off (in the Community Center), at the invitation of organizer Chris Misialek.

If it's anything like last year, there will be well over 110 entrants in the field. That means judges will have to sample at least 20 to 30 different kinds of bologna.

You can bet that I'll be ready for several days of meatless meals after that.

Tiedeman is food editor at the Herald. Reach him at (701) 780-1136 or toll-free at (800) 477-6572, or e-mail at jtiedeman@gfherald.com .

Related Topics: FOOD
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