By David Blyweiss, M.D., Advanced Natural Wellness
March 4, 2020
Have you ever been on a cruise or vacation and come back a few pounds heavier?
It’s frustrating, I know.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. It just depends on the food choices you make during your trip.
In fact, I just got back from a 10-day cruise and my weight actually dropped by 7 pounds. And I feel fabulous!
Everything in my body is working better. I don’t hurt. Even my normally cold hands are warmer due to better blood flow.
What’s my secret?
Well, while on my trip, I basically ate a whole foods plant-based diet the entire time. It got me thinking about the eating habits of my patients.
Normally, I recommend my patients reduce their overall meat intake – red and otherwise – to about 13% of their diet.
This is a breeze for some folks. But if you grew up eating juicy steaks, tasty roasts and braised short ribs as the central focus of your meals, it can be a little harder to get past those cravings for red meat.
The problem is, eating too much of this kind of meat is downright unhealthy. Gout, reduced kidney function, certain cancers, diabetes, stroke and heart disease all have links to red meat consumption.
More importantly, when you eat red meat every day – whether it’s beef, pork, lamb or game – it can drastically shorten your lifespan. And if you’re still eating processed meats like bacon, ham and sausage, you’ll likely have even fewer remaining years.
On the other hand, people who eat the lowest quantities of red meat cut their risk of death from any cause over the next decade or two by between 25 and 50 percent.
What to Eat Instead of Red Meat
Now, there’s nothing wrong with enjoying a small cut of grass-fed beef, lamb or buffalo a few times a week. Braising is healthier and can give extra flavor and tenderness. It’s when you eat these red meats every single day, day in and day out, that problems arise.
That’s why I always suggest varying your animal proteins from day to day – along with getting plenty of fresh, organic vegetables in your diet.
My favorite alternative to red meat is wild-caught fish. This is something that everyone should eat more of, if for no other reason than to get more omega-3 fatty acids in their diet.
These fatty acids protect your heart and brain. They cut down on inflammation. Plus, they protect and support your telomeres… the protective caps at the ends of your chromosomes that act as a “genetic clock” when it comes to how fast your body ages.
The more fish you eat, the greater your chance of living a longer and happier life – with less health issues or memory problems.
To avoid excess mercury, choose fish that are lower down on the food chain. Smaller fish like wild-caught Pacific halibut, mackerel, Alaskan/Scottish or Norwegian salmon, sardines, herring, rainbow trout and flounder are your best bet.
Organic, pasture-raised poultry – like chicken and turkey – are also good replacements for red meat. And when you roast or grill them with the right herbs and spices, they’re delicious.
But some of my patients want even more variety when it comes to their meat choices. If you’re cutting back on red meat and want to give your taste-buds a treat, try organic free-range, pastured duck. It has a stronger flavor than chicken, but it’s not overwhelming. I’d call it “robust”.
However, you can’t cook it the way you would a turkey or chicken. That’s because the breasts cook quickly, while the legs and thighs take much longer.
This makes the breasts perfect for pan-searing, just like you would a steak. But think of the legs and thighs the way you would a pot roast or brisket. They need to stew in liquid for a while before they become tender.
Add a little orange, or a berry sauce before serving, and it will really enhance the flavor.
Here are a few more meat replacements that might surprise you. We have a lot more options today than we did even ten years ago.
Vegetarian Alternatives that can Satisfy Your Meat Cravings
While on my cruise, I had an absolutely wonderful vegan hamburger – a gluten-free roll, with a little ketchup, mustard, some grilled onions, lettuce, and tomato – it was delicious!
This burger was made of a plant-based product called Beyond Meat. An even better burger came from the plant based Impossible Burger. But like most food replacements the more of a manufacturing process a product goes through, the less healthy it is for you when eaten on a regular basis. This just shows your meat replacement doesn’t have to be another animal protein.
For example, one of my favorite dishes is a Portobello mushroom steak. It’s basically a giant grilled or broiled Portobello mushroom cap. You can top it with anything you want. I like mine with tomatoes, onions, olive oil, spinach and garlic
Another dish I find tasty and satisfying is “cauliflower steak”. Just slice a head of cauliflower from top to bottom in two inch “steaks”. Sear them with soy sauce, then lay the pieces flat in a baking pan and drizzle a little extra virgin olive oil over them. Toss in some pine nuts – and whatever else sounds good – and roast them in the oven until they’re tender.
One more vegetable that has a meaty texture when you bite into it is the eggplant.
The most well-known dish containing this vegetable is eggplant parmesan. But like the Portobello mushroom, it can also be grilled or broiled and topped with your favorite veggies… (and please don’t forget to buy organic!)
Last, but not least, is the Jack Fruit….I had no idea what this was until a few years ago and now I look forward to cooking with it as a dinner treat (and next day lunch) when I have kitchen time. This vegetable has the best shredded meat texture of all when you bite into it…a meatless pulled pork sandwich that’s good for you!
When you rotate these and other non-red meat foods on a regular basis, you’ll not only be eating in a way that helps promote a longer healthier lifespan, but will keep your taste buds satisfied at the same time.
Fields H, et al. Is Meat Killing Us? The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association. May 2016, Vol. 116, 296-300.