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Healthy Eating: Meat Vs. Vegetables

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author image Chris Blank
Chris Blank is an independent writer and research consultant with more than 20 years' experience. Blank specializes in social policy analysis, current events, popular culture and travel. His work has appeared both online and in print publications. He holds a Master of Arts in sociology and a Juris Doctor.
Healthy Eating: Meat Vs. Vegetables
Cooked vegetables in a green bowl. Photo Credit Medioimages/Photodisc/Photodisc/Getty Images

The Atkins diet advocates consuming large amounts of meat and fat, while the Ornish diet bans nearly all meats and fats and is practically vegetarian. However, most experts advise including a balance of meats and vegetables, along with grains, fruits and modest amounts of unsaturated fats in your daily diet. Unless you are a vegetarian or have a health condition that requires dietary restrictions, you don't have to eliminate either meat or vegetables to maintain a healthy eating regime.

Food Pyramids

A food pyramid is a visual representation of how foods from various categories fit in a healthy diet, according to MayoClinic.com. Foods you should consume more often or in larger quantities appear toward the base of the pyramid, while foods for which you should limit your intake either in frequency, amount or both appear toward the top of the pyramid. Food pyramids exist for the general population as well as for different ethnic groups, vegetarians and people with diabetes. Except for vegetarians, both meat and vegetables have a place on a food pyramid. However, vegetables tend to appear toward the bottom of nearly all food pyramids, while meats are placed higher, indicating that your diet should favor vegetables over meats.

Meat and Nutrition

Meat is an excellent source of complete protein, that is, protein that supplies all the amino acids your body needs. Amino acids are essential to prevent loss of body mass, preserve respiratory health and maintain a healthy immune system. The average adult should consume approximately 0.8 grams of protein for every kilogram of body weight, which translates to about 64 grams for an adult weighing 160 lbs., according to the Harvard University School of Public Health website. Lean red meats, fish and poultry are preferable sources of protein in a healthy diet.

Vegetables and Nutrition

Any vegetable or serving of 100 percent vegetable juice counts as a vegetable serving, according to the United States Department of Agriculture. However, even with this generous categorization, most American adults do not include enough vegetables in their diets. Your diet should include five servings of vegetables each day, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. Most Americans manage to eat no more than three servings of fruits and vegetables combined, according to the Harvard University School of Public Health. Vegetables provide numerous health benefits, including lowering your risk of cardiovascular disease, maintaining gastrointestinal health, preserving good vision and reducing your risk for certain cancers.

Portions and Servings

An important consideration in developing a healthy eating plan is knowing recommended serving sizes and understanding the difference between servings and portions. Serving sizes are defined by measurements such as teaspoons or ounces, while portions are what you actually put on your plate as part of a meal or snack. The recommended serving size for most meats is approximately the same size as a deck of cards, according to Help Guide. Each serving of vegetables should measure about 2 1/2 cups. In many instances, portion sizes far exceed recommended servings, especially when you eat out.

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