Last updated: November 11. 2013 2:49PM - 1195 Views

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Contrary to popular opinion, it’s OK to eat a meatless meal, at least once a week. This does not mean you are becoming vegetarian; however, it is a less expensive meal option.

Did you know the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s 2013 State Indicator Report on Fruits and Vegetables indicates 44.5 percent of North Carolina’s high school students and 44.5 percent of adults eat fruit less than one time a day? This is higher than the national rates of 36 percent and 37.7 percent respectively. Only 44.5 percent of North Carolina’s high school students and 21.9 percent of adults eat vegetables less than one time a day, with adults doing better than the national rate of 37.7 percent and high school students doing worse than the national rates of 22.6 percent. How can Robeson County residents help to improve these numbers? The U.S. Department of Agriculture Dietary Guidelines recommend building a healthy plate. You can start building your healthy plate by making half of it fruits and vegetables (one-fourth grains, one-fourth protein, and don’t forget the dairy).

You may ask, “How am I to get protein without any meat?” Beans and peas are considered part of the protein group, because they are an excellent source of plant protein and nutrients such as zinc and iron. Beans and peas are also part of the vegetable group because of their excellent source of dietary fiber and nutrients like folate and potassium. Let’s not get confused; green peas, with only 7 grams protein per serving, are not considered a strong protein source. Green lima beans contain 19 grams of protein per serving. Green beans are not considered to a part of this group, because their protein content is equivalent to vegetables like onions, lettuce, celery, cabbage, and other vegetables. People who normally eat meats consider beans and peas as part of the vegetable group, and those who seldom eat meat count beans and peas in the protein group.

The benefits of eating meatless meals are great, such as better health through increased consumption of fruits and vegetables, increasing daily fiber, managing weight, preventing many chronic diseases, and simply stretching your dollars. Did you know it is also a great way to support a sustainable economy? If you buy local fruits, vegetables, beans, peas and yes meat, this helps local family farmers stay operational on their land, earn a fair living, and preserve a traditional way of life. So go ahead Robeson County, and consider planning a meatless meal. Bon appétit (enjoy your meal).

For information, contact Renee Diggs-Neal, Extension Adult Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program Assistant with North Carolina Cooperative Extension, Robeson County Center, at 910-671-3276, by email at renee_diggs-neal@ncsu.edu, or visit our website at http://robeson.ces.ncsu.edu/.

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