How Can My Family Get Enough Protein When Meat Shelves are Empty?

How can my family get enough protein when meat shelves are empty? If you have a vulnerable family member and are ordering groceries, you may experience shortages before those who are walking into stores. That means you may already have many items missing from your grocery orders. As meat processing plants reduce output, shortages may grow. Getting enough protein can require persistent and creative shopping as well as cooking. Luckily, there are many meatless sources of protein.


I’m a little too young to have fully experienced the hippie era, but I felt its influence. My first awareness of vegetarian protein choices came from odd people who wore headbands, tie-dye, barefoot sandals, and drove white vans you wouldn’t dare let your children near now. My parents, on the other hand, happily waved goodbye when a VW bus picked me up in front of their business. But that’s a different story.

Rice and Beans
The most popular protein choice of my antiestablishment friends was rice and beans. The combination of these two shelf-stable foods can provide 7 grams of protein per cup. Even rice and beans have sometimes been hard to obtain in the past month, but can be purchased in large quantities when available without worry that they will spoil before you use them.

My sister has vegetarian friends from the Middle East who introduced her to lentils. She loves to put them in curry and soup. And her favorite gluten-free pasta is made with red lentils.

One-half cup of cooked lentils contains 8.84 grams of protein. They are also a source of potassium, iron, and fiber. You can buy them dried to pad the pantry for times when meat is scarce. You can also buy lentil-based snack chips as an occasional crunchy treat and serve them with hummus for a high-protein treat.

Hummus is made from garbanzo beans and has been one grandson’s favorite since he was less than two. He loves it with pita or pretzels. It can also be used as a sandwich spread.

Garbanzo Beans (Chickpeas)
Garbanzo beans don’t have to be made into hummus. I like to put them in salads. They can also be roasted or added to soups and stews. One-half cup of cooked chickpeas has 7.25 grams of protein.

Like other beans, you can find them canned or dried. You can also buy them as a preground hummus base. All of those options can be stored without refrigeration for a long period of time.

One of my everyday foods is a handful of almonds. I like them raw rather than roasted or roasted and salted. They’re delicious paired with dried fruit and yogurt. They add a different sort of crunch to salads and one pot meals. And almond flour can lighten the crumb of gluten-free baked goods.

Almonds provide a whopping 16.5 grams of protein per one-half cup and are a good source of vitamin E. Some studies indicate the vitamin E content may improve memory. Almonds have a shorter shelf life than the foods mentioned above, but can be stored in the freezer to extend their use. Almond butter is also a pantry friendly choice.

Almonds are not the only nut that’s high in protein. Pistachios, walnuts, cashews, and the legumes that are called nuts, peanuts, are also high in protein.

My family loves breakfast for dinner and breakfast tacos any time of day. The staple of those favorites is eggs. Eggs have been easier to get than meat during lockdown. They can stay in the refrigerator longer and they’re often available at local farmers’ markets.

One egg has 6 grams of protein and all 9 essential amino acids that cannot be made by the body plus iron, vitamins A,D,E, & B12, folate, selenium, lutein, zeaxanthin, and choline. That makes them a near-perfect food.

If you’re allergic to eggs, quinoa is a versatile gluten-free high-protein option that is readily available dried for long shelf-life. I keep quinoa in my pantry most of the time. I also use quinoa/rice blends for variety.

One cup of cooked quinoa has 8 grams of protein. It also contains magnesium, iron, and manganese and is rich in fiber.

While they can’t sit on the shelf or in the refrigerator as long, milk and cheese are favorite protein supplements for those who aren’t allergic. Organic milk typically has a longer shelf life. Yogurt without sugar and flavorings is a healthy choice that serves up probiotic bacteria as well as protein. You may also want to consider soy products like tofu and edamame.

It is likely that we will face periodic shortages of many products for the next year or two. Keeping your pantry stocked with several meatless protein options will give you the best chance of ensuring that your family can get enough protein when the meat shelves are empty during the coming weeks and months.


There Could Be Something Fishy Going On

If you experience symptoms resembling an allergic reaction after eating, there could be something fishy going on. A recent advisory from the FDA reminds us that even fully cooked fish can harbor toxins if it has not been handled properly.

Fresh salmon on ice for sale at the fish market.

It’s no secret that fish and seafood taste better when they’re extremely fresh. I live more than seven hours from the nearest ocean. While there are restaurants here that overnight fish in, it never compares to simply prepared red snapper or mahi-mahi caught and cooked within a couple of hours.

Not only do fish taste better when fresh, some require conscientious handling to prevent toxins from forming. Albacore, amberjack, anchovy, Australian salmon, bluefish, bonito, kahawai, herring, mackerel, mahi-mahi, needlefish, saury, sardine, skipjack, wahoo, and yellowfin tuna are all susceptible to the formation of scombroid toxins when not properly stored or preserved.

Simply buying vegetables and berries will show you that the cold chain is suspect in many grocery stores. It would take more than the fingers on both of my hands to count the number of times in the past year I’ve gotten spoiled greens, sugar snap peas, or berries purchased within the best by or sell by date and used immediately. Okay, not used, but opened and thrown away.

With vegetables and fruit, this is an annoyance. With fish, it can be dangerous. When bacteria grow in the dark meat of susceptible fish, they can form scombroid toxins. The bacteria are killed by cooking, but the toxins remain.

Scombroid toxins can cause allergic-like responses. The symptoms usually begin about an hour after consumption and include nausea, vomiting, flushed face, cramps, diarrhea, and headache. Other symptoms include itching, hives, fever, pounding heart, and a burning sensation in the mouth. Severe reactions can include dropping blood pressure, racing heart, and wheezing. Symptoms of scombroid poisoning are generally treated with diphenhydramine and ranitidine, but please consult your doctor if you believe you have been affected or have any severe or lingering symptoms.

There are no accurate tests to determine the presence of toxins in fish, but if it tastes metallic or peppery, it’s an indication that something fishy could be going on. If the chef indicates the preparation is not heavy on pepper, it may be best to discontinue eating and choose another option.

I hate throwing away food, especially food I just bought. Nonetheless, I’ve had to become increasingly vigilant in monitoring my purchases. In fact, I now limit what I buy from one large grocery brand because I am concerned about its cold chain.

Oily fish like salmon, sardines, mackerel, and tuna are a great source of Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids which have been shown to reduce inflammation. They are high in protein and are a source of vitamin D and riboflavin. The American Heart Association recommends eating at least two servings of fatty fish per week as party of a healthy diet.

The FDA’s recent advisory is a good reminder, but not an ominous warning to avoid all fish. You can lessen the risk of potential problems by carefully choosing the source when purchasing fresh fish and following storage recommendations afterward.

Writing this is making me hungry for some baked halibut encrusted with pistachios and parmesan or smoked salmon with dill sauce. Actually, I’d enjoy a sardine on a cracker about now. Maybe I’m just hungry! Or maybe, there could be something fish going on….


Made in Texas?

Can natural spring water be made in Texas? The other day, I picked up a bottle of Ozarka® water at an event. Under the name it says 100% Natural Spring Water. At the top left, it says Made in Texas. This perplexes me.
Unless you’re combining hydrogen and oxygen in a lab to produce water, I’m not sure you can say it was made in any specific location. If the water comes from a spring, its source may originate in a whole other state than Texas. But even if the spring begins in Texas, does Texas make the rain?

I know this may seem like much ado about nothing, but those of us who have allergies and sensitivities depend on accurate labels to stay safe. Playing this loose with label language feels disconcerting at best and at worst, dangerous.

Ozarka Spring Water was first bottled in Eureka Springs, Arkansas. When that spring ran dry, Ozarka sold drinking water and distilled water. At some point, probably the 1990s, Nestlé Waters acquired the rights to Ozarka Spring Water. The exact date and details of this transaction are unclear. Nestlé only lists the 1905 beginning of the Eureka Springs company in its timeline, but Nestlé Waters was not formed until 1992.

Nestlé Waters is part of the larger Swiss company Nestlé that owns many brands including Gerber®, Cheerios®, Stouffers®, Buitoni®, DiGirono®, Lean Cuisine®, and Hot Pockets®. Nestlé water brands include Acqua Panna, Arrowhead, Deer Park, Ice Mountain, Nestlé Pure Life, Perrier, Poland Spring, S.Pellegrino, and Zephyrhills.

According to its website, Ozarka is currently bottled from three springs in Texas. Why not say Bottled in Texas or, God forbid because I hate this use of the word even though it’s popular, Sourced in Texas? My guess is that there’s a marketing reason for this labeling although I’m not sure what it is.

The Texas Department of Agriculture has a certification program that allows for use of the Go Texan mark to promote Texas products, but I am not aware of a Made in Texas program. Maybe it’s a way to appeal to a certain demographic that might not choose Arrowhead or Acqua Panna. Or perhaps it’s a way to remind Arkansans drawn to the Ozarka name that they can no longer lay claim to this water—it’s made in Texas.

Whatever the reason, I hope it was well considered. I hope all labeling decisions are carefully considered with priority given to the safety of the public. I certainly prefer for label information to be complete and accurate. The problem with statements like Made in Texas on water is that it raises a question.

A labeling question makes me uncomfortable and puts me on alert in regard to all products that company produces. In my head, I start asking whether the marketing department is allowed to write or change the nutrition labels and does that information have good oversight by qualified individuals? Is the company committed to accuracy and transparency? Does management consider labeling a safety matter?

I know many of you may be less skeptical and more trusting than I. You may trust that there are well-thought, specific procedures with adequate oversight in place to ensure that most label information that could affect health is correct. I hope so, but I know it’s not guaranteed.

I have personally witnessed an advertising agency determine all of the label information for a variety of products made by a hot sauce company. I am also aware that on a given week this fall, six of fifteen USDA recalls were due to misbranding and/or undeclared allergens. That’s more than a third of recalls at that particular moment and not every label issue results in a recall.

An undeclared allergen can lead to very serious consequences. The rate at which label errors result in recalls can be disconcerting. Even so, labels are a valuable source of information. I choose to read them and make many decisions based on their content. I also reserve the right to be skeptical about a company’s labeling when I experience an adverse reaction or observe something alarming.

Whether or not Ozarka is Made in Texas is of no material consequence, but it does raise a red flag. It’s unfortunate that many companies seem lax in oversight of labeling practices. It’s also an easy area in which they can improve.

Knowing I can trust the accuracy of a label inspires me to brand loyalty above and beyond marketing and advertising language. I am sure I’m not alone in this. Food production companies, please take note!

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Learn the Rules Before You Break the Rules

“Learn the rules like a pro so you can break them like an artist.” – Pablo Picasso

Learn the rules before you begin to deviate from them. A version of this quote was often heard throughout the graphic design community, the art community, and the print community when I began my previous career. My colleagues and I took it to heart. We recognized the wisdom in thoroughly understanding how and why things were done a certain way before we began to innovate. Without that understanding as a foundation, we simply could not know how to maximize the capacity of available equipment to deliver a superior product. When it comes to improving our health through diet, a solid foundation of knowledge is equally important for achieving optimal results.

This knowledge is also much more difficult to amass. Watch a few documentaries regarding diet, read a few NIH studies, or even watch TV news for a week and you’ll hear a plethora of conflicting information. So what rules should you pay attention to?
Begin with things you know or regularly experience. If you break out in a rash when you eat corn chips. Eliminate corn chips. Experiment with other corn products. If you have the same reaction, eliminate corn entirely. If you have intestinal spasms after drinking milk or eating cheese, eliminate milk and cheese. You can try A2 milk and yogurt to determine whether you can tolerate those. Eliminate any offender.

Expect this process to take time. You will need to avoid a food for at least a week before trying it again. If you are eliminating gluten, you will need to eliminate it for a year in order to allow your body to heal from all possible prior damage.

Sometimes an adverse response comes from a preservative or other food additive rather than the food itself. Keeping a journal will help you piece together meaningful results over time.

If you happen to discover that you are sensitive to fermentable oligo-, di-, mono-saccharides and polyols (FODMAPs), you will need to know more about foods containing these sugars. There are many resources for this information. I prefer the ease of using the downloadable PDF list comprised by

No matter what list you choose, your individual experience may differ slightly. I can eat black beans in large amounts with no ill effects, but if I eat even a few black-eyed peas I am miserable.

Once you eliminate foods to which you are sensitive or allergic, you’ll be left with a pool of food in which to find those that provide a wide variety of nutrients and that you enjoy. Begin with learning about foods you like since you’re most likely to choose them on a regular basis.

You don’t necessarily need to research each and every specific food. If you make balance the overall goal, you can just familiarize yourself with categories. My grandmother used to insist that your plate have a variety of colors. Simply following that rule of thumb will result in a more balanced diet than many of us currently consume.

A healthy diet will contain a mix of protein (75 – 100 grams per day, 300 – 400 calories), carbohydrates (60 – 80 grams + per day, 240 – 320 calories minimum), fat (63 – 97 grams per day, 567 – 873 calories), vitamins, minerals and water. Water needs are affected by weight, age, temperature, electrolyte balance, intake of caffeine, intake of sugar, physical activity, the surrounding environment, health conditions, and pregnancy or breast-feeding.

Average adequate water intake per day for a woman living in a temperate climate is 9 cups. Average adequate intake per day for a man living in a temperate climate is 13 cups. Toddlers ages one to three need about 44 ounces or 1.52 ounces of water per pound of body weight. Boys and girls aged 4-8 years need 1.1 to 1.3 liters per day. Girls ages 9-13 years need 1.3 to 1.5 liters per day. Boys ages 9-13 years need 1.5 to 1.7 liters per day.

Common sources of protein are meat, poultry, eggs, fish, seafood, nuts, beans, milk, and some grains. Carbohydrates are found in fruits, vegetables, grains, and legumes. Fat is found in meat, some fish and seafood, poultry, eggs, bacon, cheese, lard, shortening, nuts & nut butters, avocados, whole milk, butter, cod liver oil, coconut oil and vegetable oils. Fresh food as free from chemicals as possible is ideal. That’s really all the rules you need for a healthy diet.

The problem is that many of us get caught up in a calorie focussed regimen or a diet that favors protein over carbs, plants over meat, or seeks to eliminate fats without really knowing what our body needs and what will help it function best. In other words, we break the rules before we ever learn them.

When knowledge is lacking, we are more easily swayed by marketing. Some diet plans perpetuate misinformation that sounds good on the surface and other ideas seem to take on a life of their own. Here are a few misconceptions that have taken hold:
All plant-based food is healthy.
No, processed food that is “plant-based” is still processed food and therefore not as healthy as fresh food.

Food is healthier if it’s gluten-free.
No, gluten-free food can be extremely healthy as in the case of fresh spinach or extremely unhealthy as in the case of a bowl full of sugar. There is nothing inherently healthy about gluten-free food.

All carbohydrates should be severely limited.
No, vegetables are full of carbohydrates. Some diets eliminate carrots along with cupcakes. You may lose weight faster if you limit all carbs, but if you don’t understand the nutritional difference, you may opt for cupcakes by reasoning carbs are carbs (calories are calories) when you decide to choose carbs.

Whole milk should be avoided because of the saturated fat content.
Science says no. Studies show that consumption of high-fat dairy products is associated with a lower risk for obesity. There are no studies supporting the assumption that saturated fat increases the risk of heart disease.

Bread is good for you because it has vitamins & minerals.
Well, there are better sources. The flour used in commercial breads is processed to the degree that it has virtually no nutrients, then specific nutrients are replaced to restore the nutrition that was lost. This is called enriching. It is not necessarily the most effective way to consume those nutrients.

Salads are always a low-calorie choice.
Not automatically. A salad can be low in calories or high in calories depending on the toppings, as well as type and amount of dressing used.

If you have specific health issues other than allergies or sensitivities that you’d like to address through diet, it’s best to begin with overall balance over a long enough period of time to let your body adjust before making changes. Then it’s good to be sure of your goals and approach. In other words, learn the rules for a plan that will help you meet those goals before you break any rules that may risk tipping the overall balance.

Not every metabolism is the same. Some people require more protein than others. Some people need more carbohydrates. Some people require a precise balance of protein, carbohydrates, and fat at each meal to function at optimum level. It is okay to create an eating plan that allows for your individual lifestyle, needs, and taste preferences. Before you begin, it’s important to recognize that learning the rules before breaking them can help you reach your health goals more quickly.

Lunch, Dinner, and Snack Foods that Support a Healthy Lifestyle