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How Much Meat is Healthy to Eat?

By: Maggie Lonsdale BA (hons) - Updated: 14 May 2013 | comments*Discuss
 
Meat Fruit Vegetables Healthy Protein

Meat is a valuable source of protein, vitamins and minerals and so makes a healthy part of a balanced diet.

The Eat Well Plate

The government guidelines for a balanced diet are illustrated by the Food Standards Agency’s ‘Eat Well’ plate.

The ‘Eat Well’ plate is a visual representation of a good diet, incorporating all the major food groups and ensuring that all nutritional needs are met. The plate is divided into thirds, with one third made up of starchy foods, such as rice, pasta and bread. The second third consists of fruit and vegetables with the final third being divided into three further categories.

The three categories that make up the last third of the Eat Well plate are firstly milk and dairy products, secondly meat, fish eggs and beans and thirdly all foods and drinks that are high in fat and/or sugar.

How to Increase Your Fruit and Vegetable Intake

This means that, in general, fruit and vegetables can be consumed freely and ought to make up the key part of each meal. Try adding some fresh or stewed fruit to your morning cereal, having a handful of dried fruit as a snack in the morning or afternoon, adding plenty of salad to your lunchtime sandwich and having an extra portion of vegetables with your dinner. Or do as the French do and have a separate salad with your meals – a great way to up your leafy green intake.

So in a healthy diet, although meat is to be consumed in less quantity than starchy foods or fruit and vegetables, some of the key nutritional benefits it provides cannot be found in other sources at all, or not in practical quantities. Red meat is a major source of iron, selenium, zinc and B vitamins, especially vitamin B12 which is only found in food stuffs from animals, which is why it is important for vegetarians to take a B12 supplement.

How Much Protein Do You Need?

A healthy, active man needs around 2500 calories each day, and women need 2000, more if exercising a lot or breastfeeding and less if dieting. The Food Standards Agency suggests that between 10 – 15% of this daily diet is from protein, as it builds and repairs many elements of the body. This amount of protein equates to around 55.5 g per day for men and 45 g per day for women.

A Balanced Meal for All the Family

A good example of a well balanced meal that can be enjoyed by all the family would be a Shepherds Pie, served with vegetables. One way to increase the vegetable content of the meal would be to add plenty of chopped carrots, a grated courgette and a chopped butternut squash to the lean minced beef filling.

To make the filling, fry off some onions and garlic in a little olive oil before adding the minced beef. Add chopped tomatoes, seasoning and the other vegetables. Top this with mashed potato and a little grated cheddar – using a strong cheese will mean you need less and so reduce the fat content. Then bake the dish until golden and serve with at least one or two other vegetables – peas work well, as does lightly steamed spinach.

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