When you think of a heart-healthy eating plan, what kinds of foods come to mind?
If you’d asked me this question before I joined the team at Pritikin ICR, I would have thought that all animal proteins – including wild game meat – would be off-limits when trying to be in line with the Pritikin Eating Plan (PEP). I was happy to learn that my initial assumption wasn’t completely correct.
How Wild Game Fits into the Pritikin Eating Plan
The PEP recommended daily intake of animal protein is one or fewer servings per day. A serving is about 3 ½ to 4 ounces cooked or about the size of a deck of cards. PEP limits most animal protein as it often contains LDL cholesterol or “bad” cholesterol which we try to reduce for overall cardiovascular health.
As an avid hunter, you can imagine my surprise when I learned that wild game wasn’t completely off the table! Though there are better options than game meat (omega-3-rich fish), the PEP does consider lean game meats like venison, bison, and elk as satisfactory choices. These lean game meats are lower in fat and cholesterol and high in vitamin E. The PEP recommends limiting satisfactory choices for animal protein to one serving per week.
Preparing Wild Game – The Pritikin Way
There is something special about packaging and processing your own meal. The fact that you know exactly where it came from and how it was handled is oddly comforting. The same can be said for growing your own fruits and vegetables. Some people place great importance on self-sufficiency. That often translates into harvesting their own food – either in their gardens, raising their own animals and/or hunting for their animal protein.
For those who see hunting as a way of life, it’s good to know that this way of life can co-exist with a heart-healthy lifestyle. To prepare these lean meats, I might suggest one of Pritikin’s many sodium-free seasoning blends. To keep your meal as Pritikin perfect as possible, keep the other aspects of the Pritikin Eating Plan in mind such as using a minimal amount of oil in your cooking. It’s helpful to keep the guidelines top-of-mind, especially when making popular cold-weather recipes.
The last game dish that I prepared was a venison steak served with asparagus. I prepared the steaks by breaking them down into 4-ounce portions, seasoned them with a sodium-free Cajun blend, and pan-seared them in a small amount of canola oil. I tend to enjoy a bit of heat in my meals, but you can feel free to use any sodium-free blend. I kept the asparagus simple, sprinkling it with lemon and black pepper and roasting it in the oven. The meal was a hit in my household, especially with my son who now looks forward to meals like this. Pritikin has a few recipes already created for wild game like the Bison Meatball recipe listed below. Elk or venison can be used in place of bison in this recipe. I have made a venison version of these meatballs and was very happy with the result.
Additional Benefits of Harvesting Wild Game: Mindfulness and Exercise
Beyond the lean protein, I appreciate a few other added benefits when hunting.
While maintaining a heart-healthy diet is key to the Pritikin lifestyle, it’s equally as important to foster a healthy mind-set. My optimal mind-set is achieved when I am deep in the woods, surrounded by nature, sitting 15 feet in a tree stand watching the sunrise. It’s irrelevant whether the hunt was successful or not. Watching nature like this without any distractions leaves me feeling grounded and rejuvenated. I have experienced ultimate peace and tranquility while hunting.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the physical benefits associated with hunting! Hiking through the woods with a 40lb tree stand on your back isn’t for the faint of heart! It may be what comes to mind when you think of cardio exercise but it certainly gets your heart rate up.
Getting deep into the woods before the sun comes up may not be for everyone and that’s certainly OK. Whether or not it's something you enjoy, I hope you come away from this article inspired to re-evaluate your current lifestyle and habits through a Pritikin lens. While adopting a heart-healthy lifestyle necessitates change and adjustment, it doesn’t require a complete rehaul of everything you enjoy. The fact that even wild game can fit into a heart-healthy regimen with some modifications truly shows the adaptability of the PEP. Small modifications to existing habits can be the kickstart needed to start changing habits and living the lifestyle desired.
After all, as we like to say, it’s all about progress, not perfection!
- 1-pound 90% lean ground bison
- ¼ cup minced mushrooms
- 2 tablespoons minced yellow onion
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- 1 tablespoon minced parsley
- 1 tablespoon dried oregano
- ½ teaspoon granulated garlic
- ¼ teaspoon granulated onion
- 1 Pinch crushed red pepper, optional
- ½ cup whole wheat panko breadcrumbs
- ¼ cup liquid egg whites
- ¼ cup fat-free ricotta cheese
- 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast, optional
- Thoroughly combine all ingredients in a large mixing bowl. The mixture should be quite moist.
- Carefully form approximately 16 meatballs into golf ball-sized meatballs and place them on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.
- Bake for roughly 20 minutes or air-fry for 10 minutes at 375°F, or until meatballs have reached an internal temperature of 160°F.
- The uncooked mushrooms, onions, and garlic in these Bison Meatballs provide excellent texture and flavor. If preferred, saute these three ingredients for 3 to 5 minutes, or until just soft before combining them with the ground bison and other ingredients.
- An easy way to finely mince the mushrooms and yellow onion is with a box grater.
- Serve these lean Bison Meatballs over Pritikin’s Spaghetti Squash & Fresh Heirloom Tomato Marinara, or with your favorite whole grain pasta with a low sodium marinara sauce.