AKRON, Ohio — The coronavirus pandemic has taken a toll on meat processing plants worldwide. Hundreds of workers have tested positive for COVID-19 and meat costs have surged in grocery stores.

What You Need To Know

  • The coronavirus pandemic stalled many meat processing plants across the globe

  • Akron dietician said protein doesn't have to be the star of the plate — experiment with adding non-starchy vegetables

  • Look at USDA's "My Plate" as a guide to a healthy nutritious diet

"You're seeing a lot of limits placed on the amount of meat you can purchase. Usually they will limit one to two packages at a time. Prices may even be a little bit higher as well," said Danielle Dimengo, a licensed registered dietitian at Akron Children's Hospital.

Dimengo said there are plenty of options for meat-loving families who may not be able to afford meat right now.

"Back in the 1950's, we always envisioned a big hunk of meat, some maybe potatoes and maybe a little side salad, but we really want to change our thinking and make sure that meat is not necessarily the star of the dish. Most of your plate should be made up of non-starchy vegetables."

Dimengo suggests incorporating nuts and beans into your diet since both options are great plant-based proteins with fiber.

"Replacing quinoa for rice in stir fry dishes is excellent. Also, utilizing it as the base for a grain bowl, you can do a Mexican grain bowl, you can do an Asian grain bowl and that's really your protein base and then adding a layer of chickpeas, or lentils, black beans—that adds another protein layer as well," said Dimengo.

Dimengo said beans and chickpeas will keep you full longer.

Fortunately, seafood production hasn't taken a hit during the pandemic. Families should strive to consume at least one to two servings of fish a week.

"And that is an excellent source of protein and not only protein, but omega-3 fatty acids as well. And it's awesome to just actually throw the fish on the grill with your vegetables, even doing kabobs on the grill. That's a great way to incorporate more color, more nutrition on the plate," said Dimengo.

Dimengo points to the U.S Department of Agriculture's "My Plate" for a guide to staying healthy.

Experts say half of your plate should include fruits and vegetables, a fourth should be lean protein, a fourth of whole grains and a couple servings of low-fat dairy.

"Take this meat shortage time as an opportunity to improve the nutrition of your family's diet and really take advantage of those plant-based proteins that pack in even more nutrition than just protein, and keeping in mind that protein does not need to be a star of the dish."