Like grocery stores, food processing plants across the country are having challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Some consumers rely on meat as a main source of protein, but meat is not the only source of good protein. Because of the pandemic, there may be less meat available in grocery stores and markets near you. But many other foods provide quality protein and may be better for your health while costing less, too!
Eat a Variety of Protein
Protein is essential for the growth and maintenance of all body tissues; it is vital for life. How much you need depends on several factors: age, sex, health status, and activity level. To know what your daily needs are, visit choosemyplate.gov.
Meat, eggs, fish, seafood and dairy are all animal foods that contain protein. Protein also comes from plant foods such as beans, lentils, soy products, nuts, and seeds. Eating a variety of plant and animal protein sources ensures that you are not only getting enough protein but that you are also consuming additional vitamins and minerals that are beneficial for your health.
Choose Proteins to Save Money
Varying foods with protein not only has health benefits, but can help save you money, too. In general, meat is more expensive than most other protein foods. To get the quality protein needed while saving money and maintaining a healthy diet, consider choosing a variety of these protein sources:
Beans and lentils:
Dried or canned beans and lentils are very low-cost and have a long shelf life, so can be stored easily until needed. Beans and lentils are an easy replacement for meat in many meals, and come in all colors, shapes, and sizes. For an easy meal, try this black bean and salsa soup.
Nuts and seeds:
When it comes to nuts, peanuts and peanut butter definitely provide the best bang for your buck and can be found almost anywhere. Pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds are lower cost seed options. Nuts and seeds make for great snacks or addition to any meal; they can be added to cold cereal, oatmeal, baked goods, pastas, salads, and more.
Canned fish such as tuna, salmon and sardines provides an inexpensive alternative to its fresh and frozen counterparts. Use canned fish in salads, pastas, sandwiches or quesadillas, to top a pizza, or simply on top of crackers. Consider this tuna melt pizza recipe.
Eggs may be the gold standard. Given their low cost and versatility, eggs just can’t be beat. No pun intended! Add a fried egg to the top of any grain or pasta dish to add protein for example in this recipe of grits and sautéed veggies, topped with an egg, stuff a burrito with a scrambled egg in place of meat, or add sliced hard-boiled eggs to a salad.
Low-fat milk, yogurt, cottage cheese, and string cheese are all good, low cost dairy choices for getting protein. Greek yogurt has more protein than regular yogurt but can cost more.
Considering selecting foods from all of these categories to add sufficient protein to your diet, while also getting the variety of all the other nutrients these foods have to offer.