With the warm weather season upon us, many are beginning to take to their yards and fire up the grill. Many grills and smokers in the United States, especially in Kansas City where barbecue is king, feature staples like burgers, ribs, brats and steaks. However, as more and more Americans look for lower saturated fat options, experts say nonmeat alternatives provide just as much flavor with less health concerns. According to a 2018 Nielsen survey, 39% of Americans said they were actively trying to eat more plant-based food.

“A plant-based diet, which emphasizes fruits, vegetables, grains, beans, legumes and nuts, is rich in fiber, vitamins and other nutrients. And people who don’t eat meat — vegetarians — generally eat fewer calories and less fat, weigh less and have a lower risk of heart disease than nonvegetarians do,” states a Mayo Clinic report. “Research shows that people who eat red meat are at an increased risk of death from heart disease, stroke or diabetes. Processed meats also increase the risk of death from these diseases.”

While how much each person should consume is relative to their body, the general recommended daily value for protein is 50 grams based on a 2,000-calorie diet. Varying the types of proteins one consumes helps keep the body functioning as well as possible, states a report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture on choosemyplate.gov.

“Varying your protein food choices can provide your body with a range of nutrients designed to keep your body functioning well,” states the report. Proteins function as building blocks for bones, muscles, cartilage, skin and blood. They are also building blocks for enzymes, hormones and vitamins.

Nonmeat options great for the grill include:

• Fake meat burgers — Brands vary in options, texture and varieties and include fresh and frozen patties made from pea proteins, soy, black beans and other food sources.

Some options are higher in sodium than meat counterparts so labels should be read carefully, experts recommend.

• Tofu — Soybean curds pressed into firm blocks can be marinated or rubbed with spices to create a near limitless combination of flavors. These blocks can be sliced and cooked on an oiled grill.

• Jackfruit — This large fruit grows from trees in tropical regions and is sold shredded in many frozen food aisles. It can be cooked in a skillet on the grill with a slathering of barbecue sauce. It may remind eaters of a pulled pork sandwich.

• Portobello mushroom caps — These large and hearty fungi resemble the shape of a hamburger patty, have an earthy flavor and are high in antioxidants that can help prevent cancer and heart disease, according to www.healthline.com.

Managing Editor Amanda Lubinski can be reached at amanda.lubinski@mycouriertribune.com or 903-6001.

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