When people tell me “I don’t eat meat, I’m plant-based,” the implication is that plant-based diets can’t include meat, poultry, or fish.
They can! “Plant-based” means only that a majority of the diet comes from plants. Period. That said, being “plant-based” tells nothing about the QUALITY of someone’s diet. You can eat nothing but candy and soda and have a “plant-based diet.” You can live on nothing but kale — a terrific food and all-plant — but both diets would be unbalanced.
Balanced: The Size That Matters
If you want to eat a plant-based diet but also include meat, what’s the right portion?
Less than you think. Figure 3- to 4-oz. of meat, poultry, or fish are definitely enough protein in any meal, because this amount provides about 28 grams of protein. You’ll have several more grams from the grains, starches, and vegetables that balance the meal, bringing you well over the 30 grams of protein for the meal. That’s definitely enough protein!
Why? Because the body can’t utilize more than 30-35 grams at a time, so any extra will just be converted to energy or, if the meal has too many calories, stored in fat tissue.
I’m an omnivore, but I’m also a huge fan of produce (seriously, I can’t get enough veggies and fruit). The sliced ribeye in the platter you see at the right was exactly 4-oz., half the weight of the ribeye. It’s one way we make an expensive cut of beef go farther — as it should. It also leaves plenty of space on your plate for the other foods we like and need and that balance the meal.
Being a Plant-Based Omnivore
I like simple and easy meals, but they have to taste good. Here’s how I made this dish. It’s a “guide” and it’s quite adaptable:
- Take an 8-oz. ribeye, grill or fry it (I used a grill pan) to medium doneness (internal temperature of 145°F ). Let it rest for about 10 minutes.
- Combine all the fresh veggies you like in a large bowl. Include a little fruit if you like (we do). This one is a platter of lettuce, cucumbers, tomatoes, corn, and red pears.
- Divide the salad among two platters.
- Slice the ribeye into 1/4″ slices and put half the slices on each of the two platters.
- Add a fresh herb (optional, but if they’re on hand, add them). I topped the platter with julienned broad-leaf thyme because it grows like a weed on my windowsill, but fresh mint or basil is just as delicious.
- A teaspoon of grated Parmesan adds umami.
- Drizzle with EVOO and balsamic vinegar, or your favorite dressing, but please don’t drown it. You want the flavors of the ingredients to shine through.
All the produce here came from our local farmers market this time, but use whatever you have. It’s easy to substitute leftover chicken, deboned, or grilled fish. Salmon works especially well, but I’ve also done this with canned salmon and sardines. (Laugh if you must, but both are loaded with omega-3s, inexpensive, and great to have in the pantry! I like them packed in water.)
This simple recipe is just a template, but there are dozens more chef-developed, delicious recipes at: beefitswhatsfordinner.com. The Mediterranean Beef & Salad Pita in the featured photo is one of them. Takes 30 minutes and uses budget-friendly 80% lean ground beef, or go even leaner with 95% ground beef. Adapt it with your own touches!