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Meatless Father’s Day Meals to Honor Dad’s Health

If your dad is a big meat eater but open to trying something new, here are some ideas for a healthy family celebration that’s more poultry-, seafood-, or plant- focused to show you care about his health AND his taste buds too

As seen in Metro Style, June 15, 2023


A quick search of “Father’s Day meal ideas in the Philippines” suggests treating dad to steaks, ribs, burgers, and crispy pork belly on his special day. There definitely are cultural norms and stereotypes that associate men with meat consumption, and similarly, meat foods are thought of as more “masculine” than other foods.


Thinking of my own dad, a steak place definitely used to be the go-to for someone who will tell you he hates vegetables. I can’t recall watching my dad eat anything green at family dinners in my childhood, or ever order veggies at a restaurant. But as a dietitian and a daughter, I enjoy seeing he has learned some of my ways and makes a conscious effort to live an enjoyable, active lifestyle, eat for health, and yes, even eat veggies.


On Father's Day, we typically celebrate, honor, and appreciate our dads and dad figures in the best way we know how: through food. Food is a vital part of our culture, togetherness, and a way to express our love and gratitude. As children, our parents teach us how and what to eat, and model it as we learn by imitation. So, what and how your dad eats probably has a big influence on your eating habits and your health today. (Fortunately for me, my mom ate veggies and made sure to serve us a big variety of them! Thanks mom!)


Red meat in particular has gotten a bad rap in recent years. Studies link red meat to health risks, particularly chronic diseases like heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and cancer. Fatty cuts of meat and processed meat in particular are high in heart-unhealthy saturated fat, while high amounts of heme iron, found in animal products and particularly high in red meat, are linked to some types of cancer, inflammation, insulin resistance, and metabolic syndrome. Also depending on the cooking method used, charred foods contain potentially harmful compounds too. Styles of eating like the Mediterranean diet and plant-based eating that are linked to better health are notably lower in red meats.



As we have learned more about nutrition and health has become more important, eating norms have started to shift. I do see this as a big opportunity to improve, and even many athletes, celebrities, and public figures regardless of gender have publicly advocated for plant-based diets and active lifestyles. So, if your dad is a big meat eater but open to trying something new, here are some ideas for a healthy family celebration that’s more poultry-, seafood-, or plant- focused to show you care about his health AND his taste buds too. And if he’s really a steak person, maybe meatless won’t work, but less meat slowly can be a healthy change too!


Roasted chicken with veggies

Poultry is often considered a healthier choice than red meat because in general they have less heart-unhealthy saturated fat, and less heme iron, linked to health risks with high intake. If you’re roasting a chicken, place herbs like rosemary and garlic under the skin, and it's easy to throw in some veggies too like carrots, potatoes, and broccoli.



Teriyaki salmon steak

This might not be your traditional steak, but fatty fish like salmon are nutritious options because they contain unsaturated fats. Omega-3 fats in particular are touted for their role in lowering inflammation and cholesterol, promoting brain and heart health, and even improving mood. Pair with some grilled veggie skewers and a bowl of whole grains.



Bangus sisig

Sisig is a popular celebratory food traditionally made with pork and can be modified into a just-as-delicious bangus sisig. Serve with an egg on a sizzling platter, with a side of rice and steamed vegetables, ensaladang talong, or atchara for a touch of probiotics for gut health.



Pan-seared garlic shrimp

Seafood like shrimp are also a healthy protein alternative to red meat as they are also lower in saturated fat. Shrimp also contains selenium, an antioxidant that helps repair damage to cells. Serve over whole wheat pasta with a side of sautéed veggies too.



Fish or portobello burgers

If your dad loves burgers, a fish burger might be something to get on the menu. You can use fish filets, or turn ground fish into a patty, just as you would with meat. Or take it a step further by making a portobello burger! Mushrooms have a “meaty,” savory, umami flavor that can be just as satisfying, plus all the benefits of eating more plants. Load up the burger with veggies like tomatoes and lettuce too.



Eggplant or zucchini lasagna

Even a big, warm slice of lasagna can be made more nutritious by adding layers of veggies. Slice your eggplant or zucchini into long strips and alternate with the layers of pasta.


Photo by Parnis Azimi on Unsplash


Spinach-tofu ricotta ravioli

Instead of another meat-filled pasta, make a plant-based ravioli filled with tofu, cashews, garlic and nutritional yeast, a seasoning similar to vegan parmesan. Blend these ingredients together with spinach and stuff your ravioli to make a hearty plant-based pasta. Serve with a marinara tomato sauce to add another veggie in and a pop of brightness.

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