Wednesday, May 4, 2011

On eating less meat.

 A few weeks ago, I read about a the documentary, Forks Over Knives. A couple years ago, Food, Inc. rocked my world, so I was immediately curious about another food documentary.

Forks Over Knives, however, takes more of a health approach than that of an overall food policy approach. The "knives" the title are referring to are scalpels, i.e. as in heart disease and related illnesses.

Here's the trailer:

It's pretty gripping, I think. At any rate, Dr. Oz did a show about the movie last week, and had some of the folks from the movie on his show. While I didn't agree with everything they said, they do make pretty good points.

That, and the fact that I picked up from the library, Mark Bittman's new cookbook The Food Matters Cookbook, have had me thinking about how much meat I eat recently.

Please don't take this as me endorsing becoming a vegan, or even a vegetarian. It's a personal choice, and I like steak and bacon as much as the next person. But, for those interested in health and living well into old age, I think it's worth entertaining the idea of cutting back.

Afterall, it appears we have plenty of meat everyday to spare. In the introduction to Mark Bittman's cookbook, he states that Americans eat on average 200 pounds of meat each year--twice the global average.

All this, of course, is much easier said than done. Especially, in a place like rural West Virginia. And, especially in the winter, since I'm trying to eat seasonally now. There just isn't much by the way of vegetables and fruits in the winter.

The guy Dr. Oz had on his show had a some pretty restrictive eating guidelines. In addition to avoiding processed foods (duh!) and conventional meat, he said to stay away from oil (because it's also a processed food, even the cardiologists' favorite, extra virgin olive oil) and to avoid fish (because it wasn't nearly as healthy for you as we've been led to believe). Even Dr. Oz was raising his eyebrows about those two things. But both he and Bittman tout the humble bean as being the logical replacement for meat, as well as unrefined grains such as steel-cut oats and quinoa.

All this has gotten me thinking about how much meat I eat regularly, and if I could make some healthy changes without feeling too short-changed. Recently, Jeremy and I have waded into the quinoa pool and are liking it! My mom got a recipe last year for a quinoa salad that she has mastered, I think, and I've made it a couple times that hasn't turned out too bad. It's actually a seed from a grass native to South America, and is one of the only, if not the only, non-animal souce of all the essential amino acids.  I'm trying to add beans into meals more now, too. Problem is Jeremy isn't too keen on beans because they seem to mess with his gut. (In different ways than they mess with a normal persons gut...) So, it's tricky. I try to make sure they aren't the "star" of the meal, and that there are lots of other components like vegetables, grains and even meat mixed in with beans when we have them.

The good news about all this healthy scaled-back meat consumption is that it's spring and all sorts of vegetables are popping up at the farmers' markets. That will be the case for about the next 7 months, so it should help with the creativity in planning meals with either less or no meat.

Here's one of my favorite early spring vegetarian healthy meals from The Junior League of Boston's cookbook (as modified by me):

Spinach Pesto Linguini
Serves 2

4 oz. fresh spinach
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup grated fresh parmesean
2 cloves of garlic (or more to taste)
1 tsp dried basil
a handful of grape tomatoes, halved
4 oz. fresh pasta

Soak fresh spinach in warm water for 10 minutes. Drain well. Add spinach, parmesean, garlic and oil to a food processor and pulse until mixed and pesto consistency. Cook pasta until al dente (about 3 minutes for fresh--can substitute dried pasta). Add pesto to hot pasta with grape tomatoes. Stir well and serve immediately.

So tasty and fresh and springy. I didn't really miss meat and I felt good about eating it. It was healthy and I got the spinach from the Spanglers Greenhouse via the Monroe Farm Market. Extra credit points!

Don't worry about me getting too comfortable with going meatless. I'm planning on eating pork bbq this weekend...

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