Meat and meat alternatives

Red meat is an excellent source of essential nutrients such as protein, iron, niacin, zinc and vitamin B12. However there is probable evidence that red meat increases the risk of developing bowel cancer. In particular, processed meat, such as ham, bacon, pastrami, salami, bratwursts and frankfurts seem to be of most concern, with convincing evidence linking processed meat to an increased risk of bowel cancer.

We recommend eating only moderate amounts (less than 500g per week) of lean red meat with all the visible fat trimmed off. Lean red meat includes beef, lamb, veal, pork, kangaroo and many game meats. This is around 65g of cooked red meat (about the size of your palm), no more than 7 times a week. Most people eat bigger portions than this, so should eat it less often. Processed meat should be limited as much as possible.  Alternatives to red meat include poultry (such as chicken, turkey and duck,  fish and seafood, eggs, legumes, nuts and seeds.

A serve of lean red meat is:

  • 65g cooked meat
  • ½  cup of lean mince
  • 2 small chops
  • 2 slices of roast meat

65g of meat is about the size of your palm.

Alternatives to a serve of red meat are:

  • 80g of cooked chicken
  • 100g of cooked fish
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup of cooked legumes, such as lentils, chickpeas, split peas, dried or canned beans
  • 30g of nuts such as peanuts or almonds
  • 170g tofu

Tips for a moderate and healthy meat intake:

  • Fill half your plate with vegetables and think of meat as aside (rather than the main part of the meal).
  • Have fish at least three times a week, such as salmon fillets and canned tuna.
  • Have some legume-based meals each week. Legumes include peas, beans, lentils and chickpeas. These can be added to dishes such as casseroles, soups or salads.
  • Remove skin from chicken before cooking.
  • Buy lean cuts of meat and trim any visible fat off the meat before cooking
  • Adapt your recipes to reduce the meat and include more vegetables. For example add vegetables like carrot, celery, peas, corn and zucchini to bolognaise sauce.
  • Add extra vegetables to stir-fries and reduce the amount of meat.
  • Experiment with vegetable risottos, frittatas made with vegetables and eggs, hearty vegetable soups and vegetable curries. You can find some great recipes and ideas on the LiveLighter website.