The idea definitely supports my approach to dietary habits, but I have to say that the report was neither as sensational as many depicted it, nor did it even really state anything new that science has not already acknowledged for years.
After all, by now it’s old news that plant-based foods should make up the bulk of our diets.
That’s the approach health-minded individuals have taken for years, and it’s also the mainstay of the highly touted Mediterranean diet with its proven long-term health benefits.
Instead, the everyday diet was based overwhelmingly on legumes, such as beans and lentils; a wide variety of root and other vegetables; daily servings of green salads; and occasionally, fish.
And bread. Every meal was served with thick slices of fresh bread.
Meat was on the table infrequently, rarely more than once a week.
The Link Between Excessive Meat Consumption and Health Risks is Nothing New.
The truth is that this report simply reiterates the long-known fact that it’s better to practice restraint when it comes to eating meat.
While it may come as a shock to see in the report the comparison between meat in our diets and smoking for carcinogenic effects, there is essentially nothing new here when it comes to a link between excessive meat consumption and cancer.
We’ve long known about that, particularly when the food in question is processed meats such as cold cuts, bacon, and hot dogs.
And I would suspect that items such as frozen chicken nuggets, Steak’ums, and other, similar ready-made products are also candidates for the list of cancer-causing culprits.
I encourage the idea of incorporating vegetarian options in your diet and the use of fresh ingredients whenever possible and practical. Aside from the known health issues, these meats are also typically very expensive ways to get protein into our diets.
That said, the cancer risk the report mentions refers to excessive processed meat consumption.
That would apply to those individuals who eat several strips of bacon every day, or indulge daily in deli-style pastrami sandwiches loaded with a quarter pound of the cold cut -- or more.
As with pretty much everything else in our diets – and in life, for that matter - the best approach is moderation and not hysterical or rigid avoidance of entire food groups.
People on a Budget Already Know How to Constrain Themselves.
If you live on any kind of reasonably frugal food budget, you are likely already applying restraint to your food habits. So this report probably does not pertain to you at all.
Adhering to a budget lifestyle - whether you do it out of financial necessity or simply by choice - has the distinct advantage of eliminating most excess from our lives. It’s always good to bear in mind that just because you can afford to do something does not mean you should.
But even if you are a person who has no budget concerns and currently eats too much of these processed meats, there are easy ways to steer your food consumption in a more healthful direction.
Doing so might also have the accidental outcome of money savings as well. That's never a bad thing.
Start by keeping your meat portions to a suitable size. I think one of the advantages of growing up in a family of 11 was that budgetary and logistics concerns imposed an automatic portion control on all of us.
t would simply never have occurred to any of us to put more than one cold cut slice onto a sandwich, or help ourselves to more than a serving of meat at meal time.
But even if you can afford to indulge yourself, refrain from doing so. There is absolutely no need to pile 3, 4, 5, or even 6 slices of meat in our sandwiches. Restrict yourself to 1-2 slices instead.
And one slice of bacon instead of a whole rasher is plenty good enough from a health and budget perspective.
Eliminate one cold cut sandwich a week and try substituting peanut butter or hummus instead. PB&J may have a bad reputation, but it really doesn't deserve it. They are both healthier options and save money besides.
If you make your own hummus, which is super easy to do, it’s even cheaper.
RELATED ARTICLE - Try my recipe for hummus here.
At the grocery store, skip the aisles with the processed, ready-made meals or food products altogether.
Instead, learn to make the most of your time in the kitchen and to stretch your food dollars by cooking more in quantity for yourself and your family.
In doing this, you can create your own frozen “convenience” meals that do not rely heavily on preservatives and less than wholesome ingredients.
I talk more about this in my blog entries that you can find here and here.
Replace just one meat-based main meal a week with a legume-based one. There are plenty of delicious recipes on this website and others for great dinners that are centered around beans and lentils.
Give them a try and you may surprise yourself with how delicious vegetarian options can be.
Try to incorporate more vegetables into your daily diet in general, both in the main course itself and through side dishes, such as leafy, green salads.
Start with these simple steps and you may find that expanding your food universe beyond the usual meatcentric choices is a good move, not only from a health perspective, but also from a flavor and economic one as well.