Photo: Getty Images

Meat substitutes are more popular now than ever. You might even be considering eating less meat yourself but don’t know how to get started. We’re here to help! We’ve put together all the details on what meat replacement options are out there, whether they’re good for you, and what you might want to try.

Why Meat Replacement?

First off, why are so many people choosing meat replacements? For some, it might be an animal issue. For others, meat replacement is an environmental consideration. And, there are people who may be seeking meat substitutes for health reasons, particularly for a lower risk of heart disease. Reducing meat consumption tends to have a positive impact on weight management and heart health and reduces the risk for a number of chronic diseases.

Whatever your reason for exploring the world of meat substitutes and imitation meat may be, it can be a delicious new adventure, and we’re here to give you some pointers on what to try!

Meat Replacement Options

Let’s start by looking at meat replacement options from the most natural to the most processed.

  • Natural Plant Proteins

Here are a few natural meat replacement options that vegetarians and vegans have long used to round out their diets. These whole food options include:

  • Beans
  • Lentils
  • Mushrooms
  • Jackfruit

Maybe you’ve seen black bean or portobello tacos on the menu at your favorite restaurant. That’s because these natural foods are filling, are relatively high in protein, and have a nice texture to substitute for meat.

  • Tofu, Tempeh, & Seitan

Both tofu and tempeh are made from processed soybeans. Tofu is smooth and varies in texture – from firm cubes that you may have seen in a stir fry to a silken variety that makes a smooth base for mousse or smoothies.

The soybeans used to make tempeh are fermented, and the result is a firmer, chunkier texture with a slightly nutty flavor. Tempeh is perfect for recipes like “meatballs” and “ribs.”

On the other hand, seitan is made from vital wheat gluten, which means it’s packed with protein and has a chewy texture very similar to meat. You can use seitan to make “hot dogs,” “burgers,” or even “pepperoni.”

  • Imitation Meats

You can find these meat replacements in the refrigerated or frozen sections of your local supermarkets. They’re designed to make an easy sub-in for your usual meat dishes, and most people find them tasty even if they don’t taste exactly like meat.

Popular imitation meat brands and the products they offer:

  • Beyond Meat – plant-based sausages, meatballs, burgers, and ground crumbles
  • Boca – veggie burgers, chik’n patties, and chik’n nuggets
  • Gardein – a huge selection of chick’n, turk’y, and beefless, porkless, fishless products
  • MorningStar Farms – veggie burgers, dogs, chik’n patties and nuggets, and chorizo
  • Quorn – veggie patties, meatless meatballs, roasts, fillets, and nuggets
  • Tofurky – chick’n, deli slices, burgers, sausages & dogs, grounds, pockets, and roasts

As with any processed meat, these imitation meats contain more sodium than natural plant proteins or unseasoned soybean products like tofu – so it may be a good idea to include them in your diet in moderation.

Photo: Getty Images

Easy Meat-Replacement Recipes to Get You Started

Now that you know your options let’s explore some easy ways to incorporate them into your daily meals! Take a look at these quick, easy recipes for inspiration (all of them take 30 minutes or less to prepare):

Hopefully, this introduction has taken some of the mystery out of meat substitutes and imitation meat. Now you can kickstart your own Meatless Mondays, or maybe even give it a whole Meatless Month!

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