This post is sponsored by the Tri-Lamb Group.
Adhering to a plant-based diet has been associated with improved health and wellness and decreased risk of many diseases. A question I get a lot from clients is whether you can eat meat on a plant-based diet.
The short answer is: Yes!
Though a plant-based diet can be completely vegan, it doesn’t have to be—a diet that primarily consists of plant foods can still have room for some animal products if that feels like the right fit for your body. For example, using small amounts of flavorful meat or dairy products can be a great way to strike a healthy balance in your life. In other words, treat meat as an accent to a meal.
The Mediterranean diet is a pretty great example of how this works in real life. The 2015 Dietary Guidelines highlight the benefits of the diet, which is plant-based but includes small amounts of lean animal-based protein—or up to 12.5 ounces per week of red meat.
Adherence to this style of eating has been linked to:
- lower blood pressure
- a positive impact on HDL “good” cholesterol
- improved triglyceride levels
- reduced risk of developing type 2 diabetes
- a lower waist circumference
- maintaining a healthy body weight
- protection against cognitive decline
- a longer lifespan
Pretty cool, right? A lot of this has to do with the emphasis on fruits, veggies, fish, healthy fats like olive oil, nuts, and seeds, and whole grains and legumes, and smaller portions of meat, dairy, and added sugar. This diet also includes red wine and encourages making it a lifestyle approach by incorporating regular activity (walking counts!) and taking time out of your day to connect with loved ones over a meal.
I also love the flexibility the Mediterranean diet offers. When most of your day is fueled by those delicious plant foods, you can choose which indulgences and “in moderation” foods feel most worth it to you.
In my own life, that includes making an occasional place for red meat on the menu. Being part Greek, I grew up eating lamb on holidays and occasionally as part of a regular balanced dinner. It wasn’t until I was a adult living in NYC where I met people from all over that I realized that few people in the States actually were familiar with lamb, which is a traditional part of a Mediterranean diet.
When you have red meat, go for the cuts that you love the most and embrace the flavors that will most satisfy you. Going for something that you love (as opposed to just buying what’s on sale) will help you have an enjoyable experience. In my own life, I find that leg of lamb is one of those worth-it foods I like to savor.
One way to enjoy a balanced meal without overthinking it is to fill half your plate with non-starchy veggies, a quarter with some kind of carbohydrate, and the last quarter with a protein.
Aside from the taste, I’m also a fan of lamb’s nutrient profile. A 3-oz. serving of lamb provides nearly five times the amount of the essential omega-3 fatty acid, alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), compared to a 3-oz. serving of beef. It’s also an excellent source of protein, vitamin B12, niacin, zinc, and selenium and a good source of iron and riboflavin. Additionally, a single portion of lean lamb serves up a significant amount of nutrients essential for immune function such as zinc, selenium, protein, and iron. Also worth noting: Forty percent of the fat in lean lamb is heart healthy monounsaturated fat.
If you need a visual as to what 3 ounces looks like, quick cooking lamb loin and rib chops are actually right around that size, and the perfect small portion of flavorful meat that will satisfy your taste buds.
Just make sure to practice safety and cook to the proper temperature! Ground lamb should be cooked to a minimum internal temperature of 160°F, and roasts, steaks, and chops to 145°F (medium rare), 160°F (medium), or 170°F (well done).
This recipe is perfect for any late-summer cookouts—or any time of year, if you have a good grill pan or live someplace you can grill year-round.
Grilled Lamb Kabob And Herbed Cucumber Tomato Salad And Yogurt Dressing
For marinated lamb:
- 1 lb boneless leg of lamb, cut into cubes
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- Juice of 1 lemon
- 1 small bunch of fresh parsley, finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- Whisk together olive oil, lemon, parsley, oregano, and garlic powder.
- Pour marinade over lamb and toss well to coat in a resealable plastic bag or airtight container. Marinate lamb in the fridge for at least 4 hours.
- When ready to cook, thread lamb onto onto skewers.
- Preheat grill and place lamb skewers on the grill. Cook 4-5 minutes on each side or until lamb reaches an internal temperature of 145°F .
- 1 large cucumber, sliced into 1/2-inch pieces
- 10 ounces cherry tomatoes, halved
- 1 scallion (light green and white part only)
- Sea salt and pepper to taste
- 1 cup fresh parsley leaves, loosely packed
- 1 cup mint leaves, loosely packed
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- Juice of 1 lemon juice (about 2 tablespoons)
- Toss together cucumber, tomatoes, and scallion in a large bowl. Set aside.
- In a small food processor, pulse remaining ingredients until mint and parsley leaves are well chopped.
- Pour herb and oil mixture over cucumber-tomato mixture and toss well to coat.
For yogurt sauce:
- ¾ cup plain Greek yogurt
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 tablespoon fresh dill, chopped
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
- Whisk together all ingredients.
- Serve cold.
To assemble the final dish, fill half the plate with the salad and spread lamb pieces across the other half. Garnish with yogurt sauce and serve with your favorite crusty bread and olive oil.
Do you eat lamb? What’s your favorite way to enjoy it?
This post is sponsored by the Tri-Lamb Group.