Podcast: Can I eat meat as part of a balanced diet?
We truly are lucky here in Canada to enjoy many different food choices for our diets. Questions do arise on different proteins we consume: how much is enough, what do we need and are plant and animal-based proteins the same? Long-time dietitian and mother, Carol Harrison, answers these questions through a fun and meaningful dialogue about how meat protein is structured differently than plant protein. She also includes some tips on how to extend your meat budget a bit more.
The main points of this podcast include:
- How we should focus our efforts on eating a balanced diet, including ¼ of our plate being protein.
- Identifying if we need more protein in our diets.
- Realizing that proteins are not created equally, and meat-based proteins are more complete than plant-based ones.
- How meat-based proteins offer nutrient dense calories and ways to combine meat and plant-based proteins to actually boost your nutritional intake.
- What we can do to stretch our grocery budget and still obtain the necessary amount of protein in our diets.
“I like the idea that we don’t have to make things over complicated when it comes to our food. Just some simple kind of guidelines that we can follow and live healthy lifestyles and, and we’re going to be more healthy as individuals.”Clinton Monchuk
“Meat is a single ingredient food. There’s nothing added, there’s nothing taken away. And it does provide protein, which people often think of, but they don’t always think of the package: the bundle of nutrients that comes with the protein with vitamins and the minerals…Recent data has shown that a lot of Canadians are falling short in key nutrients, many of which are actually provided by meat. And B12, you’ll only get from meats, actually, and the form is really bioavailable. So adding a little more meat to your diet can help Canadians make up for some of those nutrient shortfalls.”Carol Harrison
Guest: Carol Harrison
Host: Clinton Monchuk
Grain & Egg Farmer
Clinton Monchuk grew up on a mixed dairy, beef and grain family farm outside of Lanigan, Saskatchewan. He received his Bachelor’s of Science in Agriculture majoring in Agricultural Economics from the University of Saskatchewan and Masters of Business Administration in Agriculture from the University of Guelph. Clinton has enjoyed numerous roles across Canada, the United States and Mexico as a researcher, educator, manager, economist and director of trade policy.
In 2016, Clinton accepted the role of Executive Director with Farm & Food Care Saskatchewan to promote farming and ranching to consumers. Clinton understands the value of increasing public trust in agriculture and actively promotes engagement between the agriculture industry and consumers.
Clinton, Laura and their children Jackson and Katelyn, are active partners on their family grain and layer farm in Saskatchewan and cattle ranch in Oklahoma.
Clinton Monchuk: (00:00)
From Canadian Food Focus, this is Ask a Farmer. I’m your host Clinton Monchuk, a Saskatchewan farmer. In this podcast, we talk to food experts to answer your questions about your food. Hi everyone and welcome to the podcast. So, right off the bat, I want to say we are so lucky here in this country to have so many different choices of food. And when you go into a grocery store, there’s tons of different plant-based proteins, animal-based proteins, you name it: we have it. What we’re going to be talking about today is more on the animal protein side and trying to understand that a little bit more.
Clinton Monchuk: (01:02)
So I want to disclose that I have some bias in the game here. I was raised on a cattle farm and a dairy farm and still married into a ranching family down in Oklahoma where we’re still active down there. And what we’re doing with that is talking to Carol Harrison. What we want to talk about is, like I said, the balanced type. But before we get into that, I want all our listeners to understand a little bit more about your background. You are the expert in this field. I think a lot of the listeners can gain from some of your knowledge. So you want to just explain a little bit of your background and then we can get into some of the nuts and bolts.
Carol Harrison: (01:43)
Well, thanks Clinton. Yes, I’m a registered dietitian. I live and work in Toronto. I have three kids and one fur baby. I’m a registered dietitian; proud to be a registered dietitian. I actually studied at the University of Guelph and there are lots of agriculture students there. So it was a great combination of food, agriculture, and nutrition. I just loved that. And my focus really as a dietitian is to show people how to eat nourishing foods, but keep it tasty and uncomplicated. It doesn’t need to be too much work or overcomplicated for sure. We all want to live well and eat well, and just keep it simple, right? Now, you mentioned that you were being transparent growing up at a dairy farm and your family has cattle. And I just want to mention as well, as a dietitian, I always wear my dietitian hat first. And so even though I have also consulted for the animal agriculture groups, I only share information that is evidence-based and things that I know is going to add value and that I really believe, you know, is good information and food that I would recommend for my own family.
Clinton Monchuk: (02:41)
One of the things that you actually talk about is, you know, if you could roughly split up your plate when you’re eating, half of it should be veggies. A quarter of it should be whole grains. And then the other quarter is supposed to be proteins. So what we want to do with this segment is kind of drill down into some of these proteins and understand how we can better balance our, I like to say ration on the livestock side, but we’re not rationed, or balanced in our diet, for the proteins. So first of all, are all proteins created equal or is there differences between that we sometimes don’t really talk about?
Carol Harrison: (03:21)
Well, you know, not all proteins are created equal, Clinton. And there’s a few things that are important to keep in mind in relation to that. So number one is the nutrition profile can be very different. We’ve got, like you said, so many wonderful foods that we could eat here in Canada that do contain protein. Thankfully, lots of them that are produced on Canadian farms, coast to coast as well. And the nutrition profile, of course can vary. So fatty fish, you know, are going to be offering us omega three fats — great for brain health and heart health and beans are going to be offering us fiber important for our gut health and to keep our blood sugars in check; red meat, like beef, for example, rich in iron, which makes the feel-good hormone serotonin. So the package of nutrients that comes with the protein can be very different because we get proteins from animal sources and plant sources.
Carol Harrison: (04:07)
So the nutrients can be different. The other thing that we need to keep in mind that can be different is the amount of protein. And so meat is a very concentrated source of protein. And what that practically means is to get the same amount of protein from meat, you typically would have to eat maybe several portions of plant-based proteins. And then the third thing that makes them different is, and animal proteins that people have probably heard this before called complete proteins. And plant proteins are incomplete except for things like tofu and edamame, like the soy-based foods, quinoa as well, actually. So incomplete meaning they don’t contain all the essential amino acids that our body needs. And those are building blocks to build proteins in our own bodies. So they don’t contain all those essential amino acids. But when you combine proteins and eat a variety of proteins, and maybe you’re mixing in some animal-based foods as well, it’s really not an issue. But yes, not all protein foods are created equal. Those are three things to keep in mind.
Clinton Monchuk: (05:02)
I’m trying to understand. So how can we ensure we get enough of this protein? Because the more I look at whether it’s aging or different stages in your life, it requires differing amounts of protein. And if you’re working out or exercising, again, that that requires different levels of protein. But how do we ensure that we in our stages of life are actually getting enough protein for our diets to fulfill, like you said, the body’s needs?
Carol Harrison: (05:29)
Yeah. Well if you don’t mind, Clint, can I just back up really quickly and just try to bust a myth that we don’t actually get too much protein? Because a lot of people, they kind of dismiss that and they think, well, we get too much protein anyway. Like, why do I need to worry about even getting enough? And so, according to the best data that we have available in Canada, Canadians are getting about, I’m going to get a little technical here, , 17% of their calories from protein. I’m not suggesting anyone needs to do the math. Never figure that out because you miss a dietitian. I have never once done that.
Clinton Monchuk: (05:58)
So I’m an economist. I’d love to take the numbers, but I, I think majority of the other people probably are just okay. 17% , right.
Carol Harrison: (06:05)
So 17. But let me give you, so to context though, the range is from 10 to 35 is the recommendation. So we’re sitting on the lower end of that range. So it’s not true that we’re over consuming protein. So that’s the number one thing. And then, so how do we get enough? Well, you mentioned that for sure: needs can vary. You’ve got a son who plays AAA baseball, growing, you know, an athlete. His needs might be different than, you know, one of his peers in his class. A pregnant women’s needs are going to be different. You know, my parents when they were in their eighties, like their needs were different as well. So you can find a registered dietitian, they’ll help with individual needs, but you know, it’s a good ballpark for most of us. Basically kind of healthy, optimal living, we’re looking to make, like you said, the outset one quarter of our plate protein. And so that could be a mix of plant and animal-based proteins.
Carol Harrison: (06:52)
And a good ballpark if people really want numbers is maybe, again, for adults, about 25 to 30 grams of protein per day. But if you’re shooting for that quarter plate, that’s really going to be fine. One tip I want to add in there is that breakfast is usually the meal that’s most shortchanged for protein. So if people are trying to think, well, where should I put my focus? I would say focus in on breakfast because typically that’s where we’re not getting enough protein. And again, just underlining trying to get a variety of plant and animal-based proteins and not to forget our snacks. So try to build in some protein with those snacks, because that’s going to help us to feel full a little bit longer and make it to that next meal.
Clinton Monchuk: (07:28)
You mentioned one thing about maybe not getting enough protein right off the, the hop in the morning when we’re starting our day out. Does that have some effects on our body then throughout the day? So for example, if I have, say something that does not have protein for my breakfast meal, does it have an effect of possibly even slowing me down during the day?
Carol Harrison: (07:53)
Well, it’s really important. Our bodies don’t store proteins. So our body will take the protein from food and they’ll break it down into these individual amino acids, and then they recombine those into new proteins in our body and it doesn’t really store them. So it’s waiting for that protein. So we do need it throughout the day. So it’s waiting for us to provide those amino acids so it can build. Clinton, there’s over a hundred thousand proteins our bodies build. Like, isn’t that amazing? Every single cell in our body, it’s a major part of every single cell in our body. So it can also slow you down, yes. Because as I mentioned with the snacks, it helps us to feel fuller longer. So if you had a tea and toast kind of breakfast, then that’s not really going to set you up for feeling satisfied and energized and keep you going, giving you that lasting energy to go till lunchtime. And so what that might mean is that mid-morning you’re hungry. And what do we reach for mid-morning often? Maybe it’s going to be another grain product, so it might not be like something that’s got protein in it. And again, our body is waiting for those amino acids throughout the day, to kind of top us up so that it can do what it needs to do behind the scenes keeping us, you know, our brains and bodies working smoothly, functioning well.
Clinton Monchuk: (09:00)
If we know we’ve got to add some of these proteins into our diet and like you said, try and make a balance throughout the day so our body can keep that, that rhythm going. What other nutrients do some of these animal-based proteins provide for us that, you know, help us get what our body needs?
Carol Harrison: (09:19)
Right. So of course meat, I like to always mention it’s a single ingredient food, so there’s nothing added, there’s nothing taken away. And it does provide protein, which people often think of, but they don’t always think of the package, like you said, that bundle of nutrients that comes with the protein with vitamins and the minerals. And not only is there a wide array of vitamins and minerals, so for example, beef has 13 essential nutrients in addition to protein that it offers, but it’s also in a form that’s highly bioavailable. A little technical term there, which basically just means the body can use it and absorb it really well. And so usually meats as well provide this great package of nutrients vital for good health for a modest number of calories as well. So that’s the other thing to keep in mind as well. And it’s really relevant right now to eat nutrient-rich foods because recent data has shown that a lot of Canadians are falling short in key nutrients, many of which are actually provided by meat. So iron, zinc, vitamin B 12, you’ll get those from meats. And B 12 you’ll only get from meats, actually, and the form again is really bioavailable. It’s well used by the body. So adding some, you know, maybe a little more meat to your diet can help Canadians make up for some of those nutrient shortfalls.
Clinton Monchuk: (10:31)
Like I mentioned before, there’s a ton of different articles that our listeners can go to on canadianfoodfocus.org.
Carol Harrison: (10:37)
Clinton Monchuk: (10:38)
But a few of them are talking about how as we age, some of the muscle maybe break down a little bit more. Yes. So maybe explain and there’s a specific name to that process. Sure. And I tried to pronounce it before and, and I’m not going to pronounce it now because I know I’m going to mess it up, but what, what can the meat protein do in an effort to help with that process?
Carol Harrison: (11:02)
Right. Okay, so as we age, whether we like it or not, we start to lose muscle mass, sort of from our forties onward. And the term is called sarcopenia.
Clinton Monchuk: (11:10)
There you go. That was the name.
Carol Harrison: (11:11)
And it’s kind of like, think of like osteoporosis for your bones, but for your muscles. So many people are familiar with osteoporosis — it’s a weakening of the bones as we get older, but they’re not so familiar with sarcopenia. Now we can’t stop it, Clinton, but we can slow it down . And we can slow it down by eating a protein-rich diet, but also exercise is important. So you can’t have one without the other, you know, you’ve got to work that muscle. And it’s really important as for healthy, active aging, again from 40 onwards. So we’re not talking elderly, I’m not talking like 70-year-olds here, like from our forties onward, we want to make sure that we’re optimizing getting enough good-quality protein and working that muscle as well. Because when you don’t have enough muscle mass, you’re more likely to have falls. And we probably all know someone in our family, an aunt or maybe a parent who the fall was the first start of their demise. Right? And it can really impact your quality of life. We all want to live as long as possible independently. So like, okay, like, honestly like simple things like getting up and off the toilet and being able to like, you know, do your groceries and those kind of things so that you don’t have to have someone else help you.
Clinton Monchuk: (12:17)
Carol Harrison: (12:17)
That’s what we’re talking about here, like really important lifestyle considerations.
Clinton Monchuk: (12:22)
And that already starts in your forties? So it already starts with that process to limit some of those abilities. So, and you mentioned two things. One is making sure that you have that right protein and, and the meat sources give you that balanced, you know, with all the nutrients and, and some of those amino acids and stuff, but also making sure that you’re active, you know, trying to start that to make sure that you have a good lifestyle well into your aged years. I think it’s great advice, right?
Carol Harrison: (12:54)
Yeah. And weight-bearing exercise. So it’s not enough to walk, you’ve got to be lifting the weights…
Clinton Monchuk: (12:59)
Lifting the weight, pumping the iron!
Carol Harrison: (13:00)
Yeah, in some shape or form, you know, like it doesn’t have to be going to a gym. It can be your body weight, but yeah. Most Canadians are not meeting the physical activity guidelines, so they can always look those up online as well to see how they’re doing there. But both are important. And you had mentioned meat’s important, and I just want to emphasize again, you know, we get protein from plant-based foods too. And really it’s the mix of both that is ideal for our diet because the plant-based foods have some things like say fibre and folate that animal foods don’t have. Animal foods would have, you know, B12 and really bioavailable source of nutrients that are limited in, in plants, but it’s together they work better.
Clinton Monchuk: (13:39)
Yeah. Which gets back to the whole idea of a balanced diet with the different foods. And you mentioned, you know, we need to be more active. I was at a conference with you at the Royal Winter Fair, I think, and I believe you were the moderator. Oh my. And you got me off my seat and we had to do, I don’t know if it was at some dance or some wiggle or whatever it was.
Carol Harrison: (13:57)
A salsa. Salsa!
Clinton Monchuk: (13:58)
That’s what it was, salsa.
Carol Harrison: (13:59)
Salsa, yeah. Yeah.
Clinton Monchuk: (14:01)
But it was, it was great. I did it in my cowboy boots and it was great because it made me energized for the rest of the meeting.
Carol Harrison: (14:08)
Yeah. And every people laugh. Oh yeah, because we were being a little bit silly doing the salsa and everyone’s a little bit awkward and they totally were not expecting that. They probably thought I was going to say, let’s roll our head on one side or the other…
Clinton Monchuk: (14:19)
And fall asleep, yeah.
Carol Harrison: (14:20)
Fun fact: I used to be a fitness instructor years ago.
Clinton Monchuk: (14:22)
Oh yeah, right. So I’ve, I’ve heard of people talking about cutting back on saturated fat. So this is something that it seems like it comes in, comes out in, in the media and different studies that come in. How does that factor into our decision of consuming red meat?
Carol Harrison: (14:41)
Right. Well, I’m really glad you bring that up, Clinton, because as a dietitian, I do worry that people might fear eating meat when they hear these messages. And of course, we’ve talked about it being a nutrient-rich source of nutrients, many nutrients of which Canadians are not getting enough of. And, you know, maybe we should have started this podcast talking about how, you know, the human species of the eating meat for like over a million years. You know, I’ll tell you that I, one of the reasons why I love to eat meat is simply the taste of grilled steak with some chimichurri sauce on it. I’m in heaven. It nourishes my soul and my body. Yeah. So I really, I do worry about people limiting it, like for the nourishment, but also the taste and enjoyment and pleasure that it brings, because that’s an important part of healthy eating as well.
Carol Harrison: (15:23)
So back to the saturated fat, well, that idea that saturated fat causes heart disease was introduced in the 1950s. Just a little backstory on this, but it was always based on really weak evidence. And they’ve gone back over that evidence. And in the last decade, they’ve also done more studies, bigger studies, larger quality studies, global studies, over 20 review papers that have basically concluded pretty much that saturated fats have no effect on cardiovascular disease or total mortality. Now, Clinton, just to give you a perspective on some of these studies, like the epic study was a half a million people followed for 12 years. So we’re talking some really significant papers that were, again, very rigorous. And I would say my perspective is that the policymakers, you know, really do have to catch up on the science. The FAO, that’s the Food & Agriculture Organization with United Nations just recently came out with a paper and they reviewed 500 scientific papers.
Carol Harrison: (16:16)
And what they wanted to do was synthesize the risks, like the analysis, kind of the pros and cons of consuming modest amounts of unprocessed meat. So that means like your steaks and your roast, and like I said, nothing added, nothing taken away. And they said that if you were in the range between nine and 71 grams per day, there’s a minimal health risk. Okay? So then the question becomes, well, how much are Canadians eating? Well, we’re kind of like smack in the middle of that ish. We’re around 41 grams per day. So they reviewed 500 papers. They’re independent. This isn’t something coming from the, you know, the beef or the, you know, pork people. They’re reviewing those and they said that if you’re in that range, it really has a minimal risk. The other thing that people might find really surprising and interesting to know is that the Heart and Stroke Foundation’s position paper on saturated fat says, well, they don’t even have a limit on saturated fat. So they say that it’s more important to focus on total dietary patterns moreso than any single nutrient, even saturated fat. Because, you know, here’s the truth: about 45% of the calories in the Canadian diet are coming from ultra-processed foods, foods that are not naturally nutrient rich. And so we’re focusing on single nutrients like this. We kind of miss that big picture.
Carol Harrison: (17:23)
And that is what I think people really need to focus on. It’s not whether you’re eating animal-source foods or plant source foods. You know, like you said, the outset, you have your choice and there’s lots of wonderful high quality Canadian produced foods here. So choose what you like, have a balance, you know, however you want to choose to meet your nutrient needs. But I wouldn’t say we want to be thinking about swapping animal proteins for plant proteins in their whole natural nutrient state. You’re switching one healthy food for another. Like whether you choose almonds or eggs, in my mind as a dietitian, go for it. They’re both good foods. I would rather that instead of you had a store-bought muffin, you might have that hard-cooked egg.
Clinton Monchuk: (18:00)
Carol Harrison: (18:00)
Like as a snack. Yeah. Yeah. So I think that’s really important kind of context for this discussion around saturated fat. IYou want me to give you, throw you a few more stats? Because you’re the economic guy?
Clinton Monchuk: (18:10)
Yeah. I love stats.
Carol Harrison: (18:12)
Okay. Well, the WHO recommends that we get about, well, no more than 10% of our calories from saturated fat. Well, so we’re a Canadian sitting, the most recent data shows that we’re sitting right at about 10%. So even if you’re thinking that, oh, you know what, Carol, like, I don’t know, I’m kind of sitting on the other side of the fence. Maybe I’m, I’m thinking like, maybe saturated fat’s not a good thing. Well, we’re eating about the amount that’s recommended. And if you wanted to know where are the main sources of saturated fat in the Canadian diet, it’s actually 44% that are coming from what we call kind of other foods that, foods that wouldn’t have been part of say the four food groups. So this is like fast foods, processed, packaged foods, ready-to-eat baked goods that are typically not nutrient-rich. So even if you are thinking, yeah, well, you know, I’m thinking maybe I do want to limit my saturated fat regardless, I’ve heard it a bunch of places. I would say then focus on these foods. Focus on those highly processed foods that are not giving you anywhere near that nutrient-wonderful nutrition package that you’re getting from meat. And, you know, meats are not all saturated fat, like beef, for example, half of more than half, about 55% of the fat and beef is unsaturated. People just think it’s all, when they look at it, oh, it’s all saturated. It’s not, it’s a mix of fat. So it even gets more complicated. Yeah. And one of the fats that it has is the same type of fat in olive oil, oleic acid. A lot of people find that very surprising. So there’s nuances within this, but the premise is the science that was done to make this relationship was very weak. And more recently we’ve discovered that it’s probably, it’s probably not accurate. We need to focus on dietary patterns. Well, Clinton, I’ve been talking a lot about nutrition for humans, but what about nutrition for cattle? Like, is there a dietitian or a nutritionist for cattle?
Clinton Monchuk: (19:58)
I went to the University of Guelph too. So the, there’s numerous different agriculture universities here in Canada. Guelph is one of them. Saskatchewan has a good program, but it actually puts out quite a few different nutritionists for the livestock industry. So back when we had the cattle on our farm, and now we have poultry on our farm, we consult all the time with a nutritionist, a feed nutritionist, on making sure the diets are balanced, making sure they have the proper, you know, protein and fiber and all those different energy components to make sure they’re living optimally. We did have somebody on the podcast previously that actually made the comment that they felt their chickens actually have a better diet than we do as humans because everything is, is to the tee in terms of what they actually need. So yes, there are dietitians for cattle to make sure that balanced rations exist for their requirements really. So a lot of people don’t realize that, right? That there’d be dietitians for livestock.
Clinton Monchuk: (21:04)
This actually gets us to our fun farm fact of the segment. Did you know that two thirds of all agriculture land is not suitable for crops? In fact, it requires the grazing of livestock in order to produce proteins that are consumable for humans. And this was a fact from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, and, something that I don’t know that we all realize. I think sometimes we fall into a little bit of a trap that we feel, well, if we took all the land that livestock we’re grazing and we cropped it, then we could have numerous more plant-based proteins. But the fact of the matter is a lot of the land just can’t be farmed. And I just think of my own farm. There’s some land that we just, it’s not good. There’s a lot of trees, there’s a lot of swamp.
Clinton Monchuk: (21:54)
It’s not the greatest of land for growing crops. So as a result of that, we graze it with cattle. We have local ranchers that come in, put cattle on, and that’s how we utilize that to get the most benefit out of the land. And, and I think that’s something our listeners need to just recognize that there’s, there’s hilly land, there’s rocky land, there’s all this native prairie, especially in the western Canadian plains that we do need to utilize in some manner. Similar to how, you know, the grazing took place with a bison, you know, hundreds of years ago. The cattle do the same thing to try and make sure we get some protein out of that land. So we are going to get into now something that I think a lot of us have realized when we go into the grocery store, there’s obviously a higher cost associated with food. And especially when we look at some of the different choices we make in the grocery store, we’re seeing the sticker shock and the sticker price when we go through the till. How can we make the most out of our budget for consuming meat? We talked about the need to have some of the good protein in our diet, but how can we make the most out of our limited budgets?
Carol Harrison: (23:09)
Right. It’s top of mind for all of us. It’s in the news. The one thing that I want to preface my tips with is a comment that food insecurity is, it’s not a food skills issue, it’s an income issue. So even if you know Clinton, there’ll be a lot of people that are not looking for more tips. They’re looking for money to buy good nourishing foods for their family. Just this week there was a report that came out that said half of Canadians are prioritizing cost over nutrition. That really hurts my heart as a dietitian to think people shouldn’t have to make that choice for their children, for their parents, and people skipping meals. And so I certainly don’t want to make it sound like, you know, I’ll give you my tips. And if all you folks just you knew had to better manage your budget, it would be okay, because that is not, that’s not the case. So many people are struggling right now. But I will, I do know that people are interested in tips and I do know that it can help give a little bit of a leg up, but it’s not going to make up for not having enough money in the first place. So the three tips I can focus on, because I could go on for hours on this, is, the number one I think is really to curb food waste. So Clinton, are you, is your family working on trying to cut food waste in your house?
Clinton Monchuk: (24:11)
To save money? Yes. Yes. We waste as Canadians, 58% of our food. And that’s disheartening to me.
Carol Harrison: (24:19)
You know, it adds up to about $1,300 on average per year for maybe a typical family in Canada. And the foods that we’re wasting the most, this is where I think it could be helpful for people that I would suggest you zero in on. 45% of the food that we waste is vegetables and fruits. So store them right. Look at the Canadian Food Focus website: lots of tips and ideas on how to store those foods properly. Be careful you’re not buying more than what you need. Even when it’s on sale, you’re not going to eat it. The grocery stores usually aren’t that far away. You’ll be able to go and get some more. And then the second product that we waste is leftovers. And I think that’s sitting around 13 or 17%. So it’s quite a, you know, quite a dropdown from the vegetables and fruits. But we can be focusing on leftovers. How can we be repurposing them? How can we put them maybe at the front of the fridge so that we don’t forget about them? And again, I know there’s some great articles in Canadian Food Focus to help people with that. Do you have a favorite tip for curbing food waste?
Clinton Monchuk: (25:13)
The big one with me is making sure that you make a list when you go grocery shopping, because the intent anyways is to try and draw your attention to different things. But if you stick to your list, I find you actually get what you need and you waste less.
Carol Harrison: (25:28)
Clinton Monchuk: (25:28)
I always have my wife and I go through the list before we go grocery shopping. And I’m always so proud when I come back and: sweetie, I put everything in the grocery cart that was on the list and nothing more.
Carol Harrison: (25:41)
Clinton Monchuk: (25:42)
If I’m with my kids, usually there’s some cookies or some cinnamon buns that find their way into the cart, but…
Carol Harrison: (25:48)
You know, it’s fine. It’s all part of the healthy balance. Oh yeah. I mean, I’m sure your cart is like three quarters whole naturally nutrient foods and then there’s some room for some other. The ice cream, why not? My fridge? I’ve got ice cream in my freezer too.
Clinton Monchuk: (26:01)
Oh yeah. Yeah.
Carol Harrison: (26:02)
A tip that I love to share that people seem to really resonate a lot with is: having a “use-it-up bin” in your fridge, or in your freezer. So it’s just like [a bin] you can get at the dollar store. It’s just a little something that, you put in, you know, last two wilty carrots, that half of the onion that needs to be cut up, you know, the last little bit of, you know, few little bits of cheese that maybe could go into frittata or something like that so that the family knows, hey, use this sooner rather than later. So it’s like an “eat me bin” , an “eat-me-first bin”. Yeah, so the foods don’t get lost. So that’s one tip. Another tip I think that’s really important and the Canadian Food Focus website is fabulous for helping folks with this is learn how to cook so you can be flexible with ingredients so that you can learn how to eat what you’ve got. As opposed to say like, eating out or buying pricey packaged prepared meals. So great recipes on Canadian food focus. Look for ones that have fewer ingredients because that’s going to keep your budget lower as well. So like, you know, five ingredient frittata or five ingredient like fried rice, flexible ingredients so that you can use what you’ve got and learn through cooking what swaps work and what swaps do not work. Right?
Carol Harrison: (27:05)
That’s another great tip. And then the last one I’ll leave you with is, and you kind of alluded to this with the cinnamon buns, is with 45% of our calories coming from ultra processed foods, and again, I’m not villainizing these foods. I like, you know, I eat ice cream and, and I have cookies and ice cream in my kitchen right now, but they’re not the best buys. And we’re, we have an over-reliance on these foods. So if we could shift some more of that budget to like barley and cabbage and potatoes and, you know, roasts when they’re on sale then, or steaks or canned beans… These are all good nourishing foods, better choices for our nutrition. To get more bang for your nutrition dollar, I guess.
Clinton Monchuk: (27:42)
How do you extend some of that purchasing that we’re doing to, you know, kind of live within our budget?
Carol Harrison: (27:47)
I love that question. You know, most of us have noticed that meats typically are one of the more expensive items in our grocery bill, but they’re also one of the more nutritious items too. And I’d love for people to keep that in mind. So what I do for my family, honestly Clinton, I’m always shopping the specials . So I’m looking for the specials and I’m stocking up. Like if there’s a sirloin tip roast on sale for say, you know, 4.99 or 5.99 a pound, I’m buying like three or four. Thankfully I’ve got enough freezer space for that. I’m also buying marked-down meat, so I will buy. And people need to know that those are absolutely safe and nutritious to eat. You want to cook them the same day that helps to preserve them. Or you can just pop them in the freezer. So put them in a, you know, airtight container, pop them in the freezer and use them for later.
Carol Harrison: (28:28)
You can save quite a bit, especially on meats that have been marked down for 50%. The other thing that I’ll do is when they are on sale, say those roasts or marinating steaks, I will even chop them up myself into my own kind of stewing beef. I do that work and it ends up saving a little bit of money as well. Another thing people maybe need to keep in mind is that because meat is so naturally nutrient rich, you do not need a big portion. Like the palm of your hand: a deck of cards is going to give you enough protein to keep you satisfied until the next meal. Typically not for everybody, maybe not for you Clinton, you’re quite a bit bigger than I , but the point is, it’s got a lot of good nutrition, so you don’t need to have like half your plate being steak.
Carol Harrison: (29:07)
Right? Like a quarter of your plate is just fine. Learn to cook those various cuts of meat that are less expensive and use the Canadian Food Focus website as a resource for that. So how do you prepare an oven roast? How do you prepare a marinating steak so it tastes delicious and you’re getting the most value from it? And again, using those cuts like this, doing beef, the ground beef, the marinating steaks, the inside roast, a whole chicken so you can get two meals out of it. Right? Like I always get two meals out of a whole chicken and of course, blend and extend recipes. That’s the last tip I’ll leave you with. Do you ever add any like mushrooms to your ground beef?
Clinton Monchuk: (29:44)
100%. You bet.
Carol Harrison: (29:45)
Yeah. So that’s exactly what I’m talking about. You can stretch it and make it go a little bit farther. And I know again, the Canadian Food Focus has got recipes, for I think meatballs, meatloaf and burgers even, where you combine ground beef and then other plant proteins. Just a few ideas there. And remember, meat is a good naturally nutrient rich food. And so it’s an important part of a healthy diet.
Clinton Monchuk: (30:05)
So you wrote an article on Canadian Food Focus, talking about food synergy. So this was a little bit new to me and I read the article, but could you explain to all the listeners what food synergy is?
Carol Harrison: (30:18)
Yeah. It’s a very exciting concept. I’d love to talk about it. So some foods are just better together. So a great example is when you combine meat with plant proteins. So meat is going to provide, especially beef, a rich source of well-absorbed iron. When you eat that with a plant source of iron, so that could be say some pumpkin seeds or some dried fruit, or maybe even some tofu that’s got iron in it, you are going to increase the iron that you absorb from the plant-based foods by a whopping–another number for you Clinton—150%.
Clinton Monchuk: (30:51)
Holy crow. Wow.
Carol Harrison: (30:51)
It’s a lot. So it’ll really help to boost that. Non-heme iron, which we get from plant foods, which is not as well-absorbed or used by the body. And so that’s a great example of food synergy. Another example with the same nutrient would be vitamin C. So when you add vitamin C-rich foods, and that’s not just the citrus fruits–there’s lots of Canadian-grown sources here. So let’s think of broccoli and the strawberries in the summer and cabbage and even potatoes. These have got vitamin C in them as well. Combine those with your plant-based foods that have got iron. And again, you’re going to boost the iron that comes from that entire meal. So some foods are better together. It comes back to my main point of how ideally what we want to do is have a mix of plant and animal-based foods on our plate. And some people might say, well, that’s just so basic, this healthy plate, half your plate vegetables and fruits a quarter, you know, grains, preferably whole grains in tactile grains, and then a quarter protein. But when you consider we’re getting 45% of our calories from ultra-processed foods, it shows us we need to get back to these basics. It doesn’t need to be over-complicated.
Clinton Monchuk: (31:51)
Yeah. I like that. And I like the idea that we don’t have to make things over complicated when it comes to our food. Just some simple kind of guidelines that we can follow and live healthy lifestyles and, and we’re going to be more healthy as individuals, right?
Carol Harrison: (32:06)
And all our meals don’t have to be epic fancy meals. Like the other day I just took canned salmon, a little mayonnaise in it, and had a baguette that I had bought marked down at the grocery store. So that’s another way to save, is to not be afraid to buy markdown foods. So a markdown baguette, toasted it up, and a handful of great tomatoes, glass of milk, and I called it lunch. So very simple. Doesn’t need to be complicated. And I enjoyed it.
Clinton Monchuk: (32:31)
I know. My wife does it lots and she really enjoys it. So thank you very much for taking your time to be a part of the program today. It was really great to just get more information around meat, protein and try to understand the dietary needs of us in our different stages too. So thank you very much, Carol, for being a part of the program. I want to thank you for taking the time to listen to our Ask A Farmer podcast. We at Canadian Food Focus value the input from our listeners and ask that you share this podcast with your friends and family. Remember, this is a two-way street, so we seek your input for future segments that are of interest to you about food and farming. To do this, please click on the ‘Ask Us’ icon at the top of our website, canadianfoodfocus.org. While you’re there, feel free to follow our numerous social media links and sign up for our newsletter. This segment was produced and edited by Angela Larson, research and writing by Dorothy Long and Penny Eaton. Music by Andy Elson. I’m your host Clinton Monchuk. And from all of us here at Canadian Food Focus, we wish you good health and great eats.
- Focus on Iron
- Stay Strong for Life
- Iron Deficiency
- Ask a Dietitian: What are the health benefits of eating barley?
- Your Money Saving Guide to Storing Sweet Potatoes