Meat such as pork, lamb and beef has been eaten by humans since prehistoric times. It is a good source of protein as well as vitamins and minerals but there is often confusion around how much meat is healthy to eat. This is why in this blog post we’re going to look at the benefits of meat as well as what is an appropriate serving size.
What are the benefits of eating meat?
Meat is a source of high quality protein, and as a complete protein it provides all of the nine essential amino acids. Amino acids are the building blocks of protein and the ‘essential’ amino acids are the ones that our body cannot make; meaning that we need to get them from our diet.
Red meat in particular is a good source of iron, a nutrient which 27% of women aged 19 to 64, and 48% of girls aged 11-18 fail to achieve minimum recommended intakes of. A lack of iron in the diet could lead to tiredness and iron deficiency anaemia.
Meat is also one of our main sources of vitamin B12, which helps to make our red blood cells and keeps our nervous system healthy, as well as selenium, a trace element which plays an important role in our immune system’s function, and niacin, which helps to release energy from the foods that we eat.
How much red meat should you eat?
The Department of Health suggests that red meat can be enjoyed as a part of a healthy balanced diet, but if you currently eat more than 90g (cooked weight) of red and processed meat a day you should reduce it to 70g a day; which is the average daily consumption in the UK.
The simplest way to judge an appropriate portion of meat is to use the palm of your hand as a typical 70g portion of cooked meat is roughly the amount that would fit into the palm of an adult’s hand. Using ‘handy measures’ are useful especially when it comes to feeding children because their hands are smaller; this reflects their need for a smaller than adult serving.
Regarding how often you should eat red meat, the Meat Advisory Panel (MAP), which is a group of independent scientists and health professionals tasked to provide objective and evidence-based information about red meat and its role as part of a healthy, balanced diet, are in fact going to be running a ‘5 a week’ campaign; showing that if you stick to the 70g recommended serving then you can eat red meat five times a week; the confusion around how much red meat you can eat will finally be over!
Healthy recipe idea using red meat
My husband loves lamb (with a glass of red wine!) which is why I couldn’t wait to make the dish below for us; it provides the perfect balance of protein and iron (from the meat), slow release carbohydrate (from the quinoa) as well as phyto-nutrients (from the onions and cauliflower). Healthy fats are also provided from the olive oil and butter.
Do let me know if you try it too – pictured is the perfect portion of red meat to serve, which you can enjoy up to 5 times a week!
Lamb Chop & Roasted Cauliflower Quinoa Salad
For the Lamb:
- 4-6 lean lamb chops or French trimmed cutlets (should be 70g when cooked per person)
- Salt and freshly milled black pepper
For the Spiced Butter:
- 50g/2oz butter, softened
- 5ml/1tsp sweet paprika
- 2.5ml/½tsp ground coriander
- Small handful freshly chopped flat-leaf parsley or mint
For the Salad:
- 175g/6oz cauliflower, cut into small florets or pieces
- Grated zest of 1 lemon
- 30ml/2tbsp rapeseed or olive oil
- 100g/4oz quinoa, rinsed in cold water
- 600ml/1 pint good, hot vegetable stock
- 45ml/3tbsp freshly chopped flat-leaf parsley or mint
- 1 small shallot, peeled and finely chopped
- 15ml/1tbsp red wine or sherry vinegar
- 15ml/1tbsp runny honey
- To prepare the spiced butter; in a small bowl mix all the ingredients together. Form the butter into a sausage shape, wrap in cling film or foil and set aside in a cool place.
- Preheat the oven to Gas mark 7, 220°C, 425°F. Put the cauliflower, the lemon zest and oil in large non-stick roasting tray, season, toss gently and roast for 15-20 minutes until golden brown.
- Cook the quinoa in the stock for 12-15 minutes. Drain in a sieve and set aside to cool slightly.
- Meanwhile, place the chops on a chopping board and season with salt and pepper. Cook under a preheated moderate grill for 12-16 minutes, turning once.
- Transfer the chops to a warm plate and top with a disc of the flavoured butter.
- Put the roasted cauliflower in a bowl with the quinoa, add the remaining salad ingredients, toss gently and serve with the chops.
Serves two people.
For more recipe ideas using red meat check out the following Facebook pages: Simply Beef & Lamb & Love Pork or follow them on Twitter (@simplybeefandlamb & @lovepork.UK) using the hashtag #RedMeatAdvice.
*This blog post was written in collaboration with the Meat Advisory Panel. All words are my own.