Thursday, October 7, 2010

Combining Proteins: Save Money And Healthier Too!

Serving at least one meatless meal (or more) per week can be a great way to start cutting down on your grocery budget, since meat is generally the highest priced ingredient that we purchase at the grocery store.  Serving your family less meat is also healthier.  Animal proteins are often high in calories, fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol.  They also do not provide any fiber to your family's diet.  (I also did several speeches in college about how eating less meat is better for the environment too!  It is a win-win situation in almost every way!)  But what about your growing child's protein needs?  The truth is, most Americans get way more protein in their diets than they need, so going meatless one or two nights per week is probably just fine for your family. 

However, what if you have a child or other family member who does not eat very much meat to start with?  My little boy would truly be a vegetarian by choice if we allowed it.  Of course, when he is older he can make that decision for himself, but right now he is just picky about what he eats, so we try to encourage him to eat as many different foods from every food group as possible.  In case you are worried about making sure your family is getting enough protein, I am going to tell you how to combine proteins to ensure that you are meeting your and your family's protein needs:
  • Combining proteins really does not have to be a complicated science.  It used to be believed that complementary proteins needed to be consumed together at every meal to ensure adequate protein intake.  It is now believed that as long as complementary proteins are eaten in the same day, that they will combine to form the proteins that your body needs.
What Are Some Complementary Proteins?  Most people think of rice and beans when they think of complementary proteins.  And that is true, but that is not your only option.  Here are two images showing foods that can be combined to form complete proteins:

(I hope you can read the top graphic!  I had to really shrink it to get it to fit)
Follow the arrows to see which food categories can be combined:
  • You can combine Animal Proteins with Grains
  • Animal Proteins or Soy Products with Legumes (such as beans, lentils, split peas)
  • Soy Products with Nuts and Seeds
  • Grains with Legumes
  • And Legumes with Nuts and seeds can be combined
All of these combinations are complementary proteins.
If you would like more information check out this website:  The Vegetarian Resource Group
There is tons of great info on this site including all about vegetarian nutrition (special topics for kids and teens), as well as quick and easy low-cost vegan menus, how to best cook vegetables to preserve their nutrients, and more.

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