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Instead of Meat

by Jasmine McNenny on Jul 22, 2013

Whether it’s a health choice or a life choice, many people are looking for more veggies and less meat.  Across the board, meatless and vegan options are popping up in restaurants and supermarkets in the form of soy-based “faux-meat,” hearty vegetables like eggplant and mushrooms, and the unconventional tofu-like products of seitan and tempeh.  Studies have shown that substituting a few of these options for meat can healthy consequences. 

Compared to their traditional meat counterparts, most meatless products are lower in saturated fat and salt.  They are also high in fiber and depending on the product, can supply the many of the same important nutrients as meat.

Healthy, meatless options include:

Soy meat is a common alternative because it’s based off of the texture and flavor of meat itself.  There’s all kinds of “meatless meat” products - burgers, sausages, bacon, hot dogs, chicken, ground ”beef,”- all of which are low in fat and full of protein. 

Vegetables like eggplant are the perfect texture for replacing meat.  This sturdy vegetable soaks up flavor like a sponge and is used in dishes like veggie parmesan, lasagna, stir fry, or simply grilled and served as the main attraction.  Mushrooms, especially portabella, are another great meaty vegetable.  Because of their thick texture and rich, earthy flavor they take to most meat marinades very well and are popular served in place of burgers.  Both eggplants and mushrooms are low in fat and full of vitamins and other nutrients. 

Tofu is the classic vegetarian staple, a white bean curd made from soy milk.  There are many different varieties of tofu but it is usually seen in supermarkets as a white block with little to no flavor.  Tofu is used in many Asian stir fry dishes and can be fried, grilled, marinated, or pureed.  Silken tofu is even used in some dessert recipes as a healthier alternative to other thickeners such as whipped cream.  Regardless, tofu is known for being very high in protein and because it’s essentially a blank slate for flavor, it works well in almost any dish. 

Tempeh is another soy product that can be used much in the same way as tofu.  It has a thicker texture than tofu and is packed with protein, calcium, and vitamins. 

Seitan is made from wheat gluten and is similar to tofu in its lack of flavor.  However it does offer more texture and could be passable as chicken.  It is also a great source of protein. 

In today’s world, eating less meat is easier than ever.  With numerous meatless alternatives you can shave off a good deal of saturated fat and sodium from your daily diet without losing any of the protein and nutrients.  Meat substitutes aren’t just for vegans and PETA members.  With thousands of recipes and ever-expanding grocery stores, it’s just as easy to serve tempeh at the next family dinner as it would be to grill up a steak.  And in case you’re wondering, yes, most of them do taste like chicken.

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