There Might Be a Meat Shortage In the US—Here Are 8 Protein-Filled Foods to Try If You Can't Buy Meat
You still have a lot of options if all the meat gets snatched up.
With the news of COVID-19 outbreaks among employees of poultry and meat processing facilities, and forced-closure—even just temporarily—of processing plants across the US, Americans are gearing up for a potential meat shortage in the coming months.
John H. Tyson, chairman of the board for Tyson Foods, sounded the alarm through a full-page ad in Sunday's edition of the Washington Post. "The food supply chain is vulnerable," Tyson wrote. "As pork, beef, and chicken plants are being forced to close, even for short periods of time, millions of pounds of meat will disappear from the supply chain." The effects of the pandemic may also be starting to show up in meat production: According to the USDA's weekly report published Monday, beef production is down about 25% compared to this time last year, with pork, lamb, and veal also down 15%.
President Trump signed an executive order to keep meat processing plants open, but TIME recently reported that this may not translate to everyone having as much meat as they usually do in the coming months. (If enough employees at a plant get sick, that plant might not be able to function normally, even if it can legally do so.) All of this is to say: There might not be as much variation in meat options at your local store, and there might be less meat available to customers.
But while meat is a staple in the diets of many Americans, there are plenty of other ways to get enough protein. We’ve rounded up some other items you might want to seek out if your local grocery store starts running low on the meats you usually buy.
A single cup of lentils equates to about 18 grams of protein, Cynthia Sass, MPH, RD, previously wrote for Health. (For reference, one chicken breast has 21.2 grams of protein, per the National Chicken Council, and Health previously reported that, overall, women should get around 46 grams of protein each day.) Another plus: One cup of lentils satisfies more than 60% of how much fiber you need every day. You can buy canned or frozen variations, or ready-to-eat lentils that have already been steamed.
Each whole egg gives you roughly six grams of protein, according to Sass. They’re super easy to make, but you can also buy them pre-cooked. You can make hard-boiled eggs to snack on in between Zoom meetings, or you can throw them into a dinner salad. Sass recommends chopping up a few and adding them to a salad of spinach, red onion, tomatoes, bell pepper, celery, and cooked, chilled quinoa, then dressing the salad with mashed avocado.
Speaking of quinoa, it’s another great protein source to consider if you start running low on meat. Quinoa contains more than eight grams of protein per cup, Health previously reported. Quinoa, which is technically a seed, includes all essential amino acids (there are nine) that your body needs for repair and growth but can’t produce for itself. For this reason, quinoa is called a “complete protein.” Add a cup to your favorite vegetable soup or a veggie-filled salad if you’re worried about how much protein you’re getting.
If you don’t eat eggs, it can be difficult to add protein to your breakfast meal, which is where Greek yogurt comes in especially handy. The specific amount varies from brand to brand, but one container of a plant-based Greek yogurt should have about 11 to 14 grams of protein, according to Sass. Plain Greek yogurt can be easily dressed up with either sweet or savory toppings, depending on what you’re in the mood for.
A cup of green peas gives you 7.9 grams of protein, Health previously reported. If you don’t like eating them on their own, consider making a pesto with them. Elle Penner, RD, previously shared this pea pesto recipe with Health: “I blend frozen peas, toasted pine nuts, fresh mint, and olive oil and serve over linguine. It’s one of my all-time favorite meat-free meals!”
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Every half-cup of boiled edamame contains 8.4 grams of protein, and it can be served hot or cold, depending on other components of the meal you’re adding it to. You can also just sprinkle some salt on edamame and eat it as a snack. It’s yet another ingredient you can add to your favorite salad recipe or pasta dish if you’re looking for ways to add more protein into your diet.
There’s a reason beans are crucial to cuisines around the world: In addition to tasting good, they’re good for you. All beans—pinto, white, heirloom, black, kidney—contain a lot of protein. Adding just two cups of kidney beans to your meal, for example, gives you 26 grams of protein, which is more than half of your daily recommended amount.
Additionally, beans are great because you don’t have to make them the old-fashioned way to benefit from them, Christine Gerbstadt, MD, RD, previously told Health. “If you want to buy them dried and soak them overnight before you cook them, that’s fine. But it’s also perfectly okay—and much easier—to buy them canned, rinse them, and heat them up over the stove,” Dr. Gerbstadt said.
One ounce of cashews, pistachios, or almonds gives you five to six grams of protein. Substituting your usual afternoon snack with a handful of nuts can be a great way to squeeze more protein into your diet, no prep required.
If nuts aren’t really your thing, try a nut butter; they typically provide similar nutritional benefits as raw nuts. Penner has some advice for picking out a nut butter: “Look for brands with as few ingredients as possible—just nuts and maybe salt. Skip the ones with hydrogenated oils or lots of added sugar.”
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