Posted: Friday - March 8, 2024 8:59 am     

As the region’s largest surplus food redistributor, FareShare Midlands is always working hard to make sure the range of food we redistribute offers a nutritional balance. Key to this are fresh fruits and vegetables, starchy foods and wholegrains, healthier fats and – of course - protein.  


But what is protein? Protein is a macronutrient that is essential as part of a healthy, balanced diet. Protein is used throughout the body to help it function, grow and repair itself.  


Arguably the most common food type that comes to mind when people think of protein is meat. However, we can actually get plenty of protein from many different food sources, and incorporating a mix of these foods into our diet is highly recommended for a well-balanced and nourishing diet. 

 

The Challenges with Meat 

According to research from the United Nations, animal farming is responsible for up to 18% of global greenhouse gas emissions. This is higher than the total emissions from all forms of transport combined, and the negative impacts on our environment do not stop there. This is having a devastating effect on our planet and is simply not sustainable… so we think it’s vital to learn about alternative sources of protein and all the delicious ways we can incorporate these into our diets! 

Alternative protein sources are not only better for our environment, they are also relatively easy to produce, are more sustainable and in most cases, more affordable! Plant-based products, such as lentils, beans, seeds and cereals are versatile, healthy and tasty. 

On top of this, the Cost-of-Living Crisis has seen supermarkets reducing their product lines and re-thinking the amount of food they order. This is directly impacting FareShare, as supermarkets are having less surplus food to send our way. Meat being an expensive item has already been greatly affected by this, which means our supplies have already reduced and will most likely stay this way for some time. However, we’re likely to receive lower-cost protein rich items, such as lentils and Quorn. 

You can read the other ways our environment is impacting our food supply here

 

The Solution 

To combat this, our Food Supply team are busy trying to source alternative sources of protein for our Community Food Members. The team are regularly coming across large, catering size packs of meat alternatives, such as Quorn, so we have pulled together some useful tips and recipes that demonstrate the variety of ways we can use alternative protein.  

Take a look below, but be sure to let us know your favourite ways to use these ingredients too! Sharing ideas and recipes is a great way to gain knowledge, and learn from one another… 

 

Lentils 
Relatively cheap and accessible, lentils are a great source of protein, fibre, vitamins, iron – the list goes on! Dahl, a popular dish in Indian cuisine, is an easy, flavourful and versatile recipe that revolves around lentils. Try out a couple of dishes - Spinach, sweet potato & lentil dhal recipe from BBC Good Food and Ocado's 'Cheat’s Black Dal' recipe.  

 



Beans 
Nicknamed ‘nature’s perfect food’ by Eating Well, beans contain little to no saturated fats, and an impressive amount of protein and fibre. From kidney, cannellini and fava to lima, chickpea and pinto, these little pods of goodness can help reduce the risk of heart disease whilst improving gut health and are packed with nutrients.  

Make some crispy chickpeas using your favourite spices as a quick snack or to bulk-up any salad. Try cooking up a delicious, warming chilli for those cold, wintery nights, or why not spice up your regular beans on toast with this smokey-twist on a well-loved classic. 

 
Soy (Tofu) 
Tofu, like chicken, is often referred to as ‘bland’, and yet it takes on whatever seasonings and sauces you pair it with beautifully! There are different types of tofu that can be cooked in a whole range of ways. 

You can blend silken tofu into your pasta sauces to add a protein boost to an ordinary meal, fry up some firm tofu and to add to a simple stir fry, along with your favourite veggies, or let it take in the spicy aromas of this warming broth

 

Meat Alternatives  
Brands such as ‘Quorn’, ‘This’, ‘Beyond Meat’ and ‘Vivera’ are producing tasty, plant-based meat alternatives that are designed to help directly replace meat products in recipes, and make cooking with alternative proteins super easy! 

For example, replace the ground beef in this spaghetti bolognese recipe with Quorn mince, and you instantly have a delicious, healthier and more eco-friendly meal: Easy spaghetti bolognese recipe - BBC Food

You can also find lots of lovely recipes that utilise Quorn products here

 
Eggs 
With around 6g of protein per egg, enjoying a couple of eggs for breakfast is a great way to kick off the day and keep you satisfied until lunch. This could be as simple as scrambled eggs on toast or warm up some pre-made egg muffins if you’re pushed for time in the morning!  

 



Nuts & Seeds 
Contributing to a well-balanced diet through providing healthy fats, nutrients and helping to protect against diabetes and heart disease, eating nuts and seeds throughout the week is highly recommended.  

A great way to get a mix of the two, is through making your own granola! Homemade granola is one of the easiest recipes, and can be adjusted to include your favourite seeds, nuts and flavourings: Nuts & seeds granola recipe | BBC Good Food.

You can also use nuts and seeds to add flavour, texture and a pinch of extra goodness to your favourite meals. Cashews are a classic to add to a curry, pine nuts pair perfectly with your pesto pasta and sesame seeds complete your rice bowls sensationally. Don’t be afraid to mix it up and try new combinations! Or use the internet as endless inspiration: Nuts & seeds recipe ideas | BBC Good Food | BBC Good Food

 

If you are a food organisation with surplus food you would like to donate to frontline charities, please get in touch: www.faresharemidlands.org.uk/food-donation 
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