Happy Meaty Monday! This recipe for spicy beef and black bean taco salad celebrates NOT creating fears around nutrient-rich foods. This entree uses a homemade taco seasoning mix for lower sodium and offers an abundance of phytochemical-rich veggies. You won’t miss the corn chips when you try this flavorful (but low-calorie!) lunch meal prep. The extra lean ground beef is AHA approved!
I’m a dietitian, and I’m not afraid to recommend this salad which contains (gasp!) beef as a healthy lunch option. I’m not even going against mainstream nutrition advice. Even the American Heart Association gives the green light to lean and extra lean ground beef.
There’s been a recent push for “Meatless Monday,” and one university in the U.K. has chosen to ban all beef from campus. But are these changes better for human health?
Why "limit meat" in public health messaging may not be optimal
Creating food fears around nutrient-rich foods such as beef may support disordered beliefs and eating behaviors. Eating disorders have the potential for far more immediate population harm than any environmental concerns that spurred the beef restriction.
Whenever a recommendation is made to limit a particular food, the intake of another food will likely increase. Females on average are barely meeting, and in some cases not meeting, the already low recommendations for protein foods:
Our population as a whole is not consuming enough dairy or calcium-fortified alternatives either:
There are some dietary components that we tend to get more than enough of. Unfortunately, I’ve yet to see the promotion of a refined grain-less Monday:
Most are already over-consuming foods containing refined grains. This is part of the reason that I will not be offering recipes using refined grains on this website. If a person substitutes refined grains and added sugars for meat, that is not a healthful switch.
The health benefits of lean beef
Iron deficiency is considered the most common nutritional deficiency in the world. In developed countries, this deficiency is often (not always) due to insufficient dietary intake of iron.
The beef in this recipe is one of the best natural food sources of bioavailable heme iron. It also offers a range of other nutrients that result in serious consequences when under-consumed, such as zinc:
Grain foods contain B vitamins as well, but the content tends to be lower than beef unless the grain was heavily fortified. (Think foods like Total breakfast cereal.)
Women, in particular, may be shamed about meat consumption. We (on average) are barely meeting our protein needs during the years that we are most likely to bear children. An unbalanced diet increases the risk of nutrient deficiencies that may put stress on both the mother and fetus.
Since my primary concern is human health, I will not be promoting meat restriction on this website. Meaty Monday celebrates these foods that are an important component of the protein group and rich in bioavailable nutrients.
Meaty Monday does not mean that meat is the only important food!
Other foods or food groups should not be demonized. (This includes whole grains, for the grain haters out there. Haha) There are whole foods that you may not do well with that may be beneficial for others.
Sometimes I see lettuce characterized as “crunchy water.” Yes, many vegetables are high in water content, but this helps to create a high-volume meal for few calories. That is not a bad thing!
The iceberg lettuce here tends to be called out as one of the leafy greens that are lowest in nutrients. However, the two cups of chopped iceberg in this salad is an excellent source of beta-carotene and vitamin K1. As maligned as iceberg is, eating this veggie is not completely nutritionally worthless:
But what about red meat and cancer risk?
There is a link between red meat consumption and colorectal cancer. As a result, the AICR recommends no more than 18 oz. of red meat per week, not eliminating red meat. This salad prep containing 16 oz. of beef total stays within that range.
Overweight and obesity are linked to far (far, far) more types of cancer than red meat consumption. If eating some satiating red meat helps you to maintain a healthy weight, that will decrease your risk for many cancers. “After not smoking, being at a healthy weight is the most important thing you can do to [help] prevent cancer.”
Human health needs to be prioritized over environmental concerns and messaging to limit meat. If our planet is unable to produce what we need to create the diets that support optimal human health, perhaps we do not have a world worth saving. Those who have never hit rock bottom in terms of health (as I have) may have more difficulty understanding this.
A small subset of our population may fare better on a diet that is heavier in animal-based foods. (Here is one well-known and pretty extreme example.) Long-term health risks may be less of a concern when current quality of life is extremely poor.
In order to be inclusive to all humans, we need to support regenerative agriculture practices, not meat bans. Based on published cases of deficiencies and higher risk for bone fracture in vegans, many cannot be healthy on plant foods alone. Personally, I have a far easier time maintaining a healthy weight, healthy BMD, and avoiding anemia with the inclusion of animal foods.
Aside from healthy weight management, what are the best ways to prevent colon cancer?
It’s a little weird (and gross) to get into a colon discussion in a recipe post, so I am going to keep this brief. Colorectal cancer screening is one of the most important things that you can do to prevent this form of cancer. Regular physical activity, restricting alcohol, and not smoking are other ways to reduce colorectal cancer risk.
The American Cancer Society (ACS) states that there is (on average) a 10-15-year period from the time it takes for the first abnormal cells to progress from polyps to cancer. If you get regular screenings, you can get the polyps removed before they turn cancerous. The early diagnosis of certain colorectal malignancies is still a challenge, but detection is the best chance to catch cancer early.
If you are not at high-risk for colorectal cancer, the American Cancer Society recommends that screenings begin at age 45. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends screenings start at age 50. Some insurances will not cover screening before age 50.
Who is at higher risk for colorectal cancer?
So glad you asked. The following groups of people are at higher risk for colorectal cancer. If any of these describe you, consult with your physician to determine the appropriate age to begin screening (from ACS):
- Personal history of colorectal cancer, IBD, or certain types of polyps
- Family history of colorectal cancer
- Genetic condition related to a higher risk of colorectal cancer (such as Lynch syndrome)
- History of radiation to pelvis or abdomen
Please get regular cancer screenings regardless of what your diet and lifestyle may look like. Colon cancer rates have actually been rising in young adults. Meanwhile, U.S. beef consumption has been declining since the 1970s.
Enjoy this filling low-cal meal prep packed with protein from beef, beans, and cheese. Let’s celebrate supporting our wellness with a varied diet of nutrient-rich whole foods. Down with food fear-mongering!
And now for the disclaimer…
All recipes on this website may or may not be appropriate for you, depending on your medical needs and personal preferences. Consult with a registered dietitian or your physician if you need help determining the dietary pattern that may be best for you.
The calorie information is an estimate provided as a courtesy. It will differ depending on the specific brands and ingredients that you use. Calorie information on food labels may be wildly inaccurate, so please don’t sweat the numbers too much.
For more information on how the three recipe levels may help with a weight management goal, refer to this post. Let’s get cooking!
Spicy Beef and Black Bean Taco Salad Recipe
with this delicious beefy taco salad meal prep.
- 1 lb. ground beef, extra lean (96/4)
- 2 t chili powder
- 1 t cumin
- 1 t paprika
- ¼ t salt
- ¼ t garlic powder
- ¼ t onion powder
- ¼ t black pepper
- 1 avocado, chopped
- 1 lime, juiced
- 3 ounces cheddar, grated (about ¾ cup)
- 8 c iceberg lettuce, chopped
- 15.5 ounces canned black beans, drained
- 1 tomato, chopped
- 1 c frozen roasted corn, thawed (I used Trader Joe's brand)
- ⅓ c sliced pickled jalapeno
- 2 scallions, sliced
- 8 T salsa
- cooking oil spray of choice
- Brown the beef in a skillet that has been lightly misted with cooking spray.
- As it cooks, add the chili powder, cumin, paprika, salt, garlic powder, onion powder, and black pepper. Break the beef up with the spatula to form crumbles and fully incorporate the spices.
- As the beef begins to dry out, add ½ cup water. Keep cooking until the water has mostly evaporated. Take pan off of heat.
- Sprinkle the chopped avocado with lime juice to help prevent browning.
- Distribute the salsa evenly between four dressing cups.
- Distribute the lettuce evenly between four salad bowls. Top each salad with ¼ of the beef, cheddar, avocado, corn, black beans, and tomatoes.
- Garnish each salad with ¼ of the scallions and pickled jalapenos.
- Put the lids on the dressing cups and the salad containers, and you have the next four days of lunches set and ready to go. You rock!
This is a level 1 recipe (may help support fat loss). If you have higher energy needs, add some whole grain crackers or croutons to your meal. You’ll add some additional B vitamins, fiber, and have all of your food groups covered. As with all of the salad recipes, don’t be afraid to substitute ingredients to fit your taste preferences. I bet some roasted red peppers would be fabulous here. Enjoy!
Weak food-cancer correlations are often blown out of proportion in the media. Have you ever decided to restrict