Maybe this goes against the grain, but to us, there is nothing more manly than a guy who takes good care of himself and is around for his family. That’s why in this edition of Eat This, Not That, we focus on manly foods that aren’t made of steak.

Instead of: Beef stew

Nothing says manly like a bowl full of heart disease. That’s right, beef-lovers: carnivores have higher rates of heart disease and diabetes than vegetarians. Just between us, you can lower that risk and still eat beef by making sure it’s eaten in moderation and that it is organic, grass-fed, and pasture-raised. But we are here to offer manly alternatives, so back away from the crock of soup.

Try: White bean chicken chili

If stew is on your mind, lighten up and make your life easier (and heart healthier) with white bean chicken chili. This recipe can be followed to the letter, with chicken breasts browned in a pan before added to the crockpot, or you can skip that step, using frozen chicken breasts and adding everything to the crockpot to cook while you are outside building something. Choose organic, free-range chicken for the best flavor, and use low-sodium chicken stock to control the salt. You could also eliminate the chicken entirely and substitute a solid Yukon gold potato if it’s a Manly Meatless Monday around your house.

Instead of: Lasagna

With its gooey layers of melting cheese and seasoned ground beef, lasagna is a tempting comfort meal. But all of that fat and salt and cheese are heavy and bad for your health (and your waistline).

Try: Linguine with tomatoes, mozzarella, fresh basil and olive oil

For a fresh summer pasta that is bursting with nutrition yet hardly classified as a wimpy summer pasta salad, try an easy alternative that combines the flavors of lasagna but uses fresh tomatoes and herbs for the main punch of flavor. Start this in the morning and add hot pasta when you are ready to eat. In a large bowl combine the following: two large, very ripe tomatoes, cut into one-inch chunks, four cloves of minced garlic, ½ cup olive oil, ½ pound brie, rind removed, torn into chunks (you can skip the brie if you are eliminating dairy), ½ cup fresh basil cut into ribbons (chiffonade). Cover with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature all day. When you are ready to eat, cook a one-pound package of linguine (gluten-free pasta works just as well here), drain, and add the hot pasta to the bowl of tomatoes and basil. Season with salt and pepper to taste and pass parmesan cheese when serving. Summer in a bowl, with heart-healthy olive oil and tomatoes and anti-inflammatory fresh basil.

Instead of: Steak on the grill

And here we are, with the piece de resistance, the Achilles heel of manly men everywhere: steak, the manliest food of all. But a moment on the lips, forever (or a good long while) transformed into fat that encases your internal organs and increases your chances of Type 2 diabetes. But what to do when the urge for a grill-flavored bit of beef?

Try: Kabobs

You can still have a grilling experience while bumping up the nutrition. Kabobs are a great way to focus on grilled, marinated vegetables while leaving room for the carnivore in you. For the best kabobs, here are a few tips.

  1. Start with a flavorful marinade. Don’t wimp out and use a store-bought marinade. Those are filed with salt, sugar, and artificial ingredients. Put together the following marinades in a large, zip-top plastic baggie, add your cubed meat and vegetables, and let the food soak up the flavor overnight (or at least two hours) before grilling.
  • Basic: One cup olive oil, ¾ cup low-sodium soy sauce, ¼ cup Worcestershire sauce, two teaspoons mustard, ½ cup vinegar (any kind will do), two cloves minced garlic, two tablespoons chopped parsley, two teaspoons pepper.
  • Tandoori: One cup yogurt, one tablespoon lemon juice, one tablespoon finely minced garlic, two teaspoons ground cumin, and one teaspoon of each of the following: allspice, black pepper, cayenne, cinnamon, ground ginger, smoked paprika.
  • Salty-sweet: ½ cup low-sodium soy sauce, ¼ cup vegetable oil (substitute a light olive oil for healthy omega 3s), two tablespoons molasses (honey will work also), two tablespoons dried mustard (or four tablespoons Dijon mustard), one teaspoon ground ginger, four cloves garlic, minced.

The marinade possibilities are endless. Basically you need an oil, an acid (e.g., vinegar or citrus), and seasonings.

  1. Separate veggies from meat. When assembling kabobs, it may be an old habit to add meat and veggies together on the same bamboo skewer. Resist the urge. Vegetables and meat have different cooking times, and putting them together can mean overcooked vegetables or undercooked meat. Instead, keep like vegetables together, and cook all of the meat on a separate skewer.
  2. Use meaty veg like Portobello mushrooms for umami. In an effort to keep meat consumption reasonable but still have a satisfying kabob experience, add Portobello mushrooms to your marinade. Portobellos are big, beefy mushrooms with a texture that is similar to steak when cooked. This can help give you the steak experience without so much of the steak.
  3. Choose your meat wisely. There is new research that suggests that beef has health benefits, but only certain types of beef. Grass-fed, organic beef that is raised without added hormones and antibiotics has more healthy omega-3s and conjugated linoleic acid, which is thought to reduce heart disease. Free-range organic chicken is also a healthier choice and is much more humane (and flavorful) than factory-farmed chicken.
  4. Grill but don’t char. Grill carefully to avoid burning or charring your meat. Many say this adds to the flavor, but the burnt bits are known carcinogens and are best avoided.
  5. Dig in. Use meat as an accent instead of the main dish, grilling twice as many vegetables as proteins. Add grilled corn on the cob (shuck, wrap in foil, then throw on the grill for ten minutes) and juicy watermelon for a sweet and satisfying grilled meal.

While the tone of these suggestions has been lighthearted, taking care of your health is serious business. What changes do you need to make to your diet and lifestyle for optimum health and longevity? Take a look at 20 manly superfoods that your diet should include and let us know how you’re doing!

Image by Taryn via Flickr

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