Meat Alternatives – Reducing Meat in Your Diet

Going vegetarian, vegan or just eating a lot less meat is quite easy with today’s abundant variety of meatless options. Many of these options are packaged and billed like their meat counterparts. Since returning to America, my girlfriend and I have almost unwittingly found ourselves eating a lot less meat.

Part of this change in our diet is due to the fact that we are cooking at home a lot. Our meatless meals do start with a choice in the grocery store to buy the meatless alternatives of many products. When at home though, we often prepare our favorite dishes that traditionally call for meat with our meat substitute.

Most of the time, it is hard for us to tell that we are not eating meat. Of course, if we put our minds to it, we can tell that the traditional fatty flavor of say ground beef is missing. But this is not what eating is about. We make sure to use good seasoning on our dishes, and it often means that the dish really comes together well.

Let’s go over some of the meat substitutes, or meat analogues, that are available today. Soy is a popular substitute for meat. There are many soy based meat substitute products at your local grocery store. We happen to shop at Trader Joes a lot and there are two products that we like. The first is a soy based ground beef substitute. It cooks just like ground beef but with less fat. This means that you may have to use a bit more oil in your pan or whatever it is you use to keep your food from sticking. We have been cooking on cast iron lately and use olive oil.

The second product we are using a lot of is soy chorizo. Chorizo is a Mexican sausage product that is spiced in a distinct way. I can’t really explain it, but it is good flavor. Chorizo is kind of nasty as far as meat goes. It is a sausage, so it contains a large amount of fat and other mystery meat stuff. The soy version is great though. It goes especially well with eggs and Mexican stuff such as refried beans, rice, potatoes and guacamole.

If you do just little research through Google, you will find that soy is turned into a meat substitute for almost every kind of meat. You can even get yourself a soy turkey for Thanksgiving if you’d like (I think it is called a tofurkey). There are some other protein alternatives to soy that can be turned into meat like dishes.

Tempeh is another meat alternative that is made from soy but is different than tofu. Do not that the stuff I have been talking about as being soy is in fact tofu. Tempeh is a staple protein in Indonesia (especially Java) and it originates here. The process to make tempeh produces an end result that is different in texture and nutritional characteristics. It is often made into patties or cutlets and flavored with something to make it taste similar to meat.

Mushrooms are a popular choice for meat substitutes. The Portobello mushroom, if done right, can be a great substitute for steak. I first had this at a vegetarian restaurant in Thailand. I went back again and again because those mushrooms were so delicious.

Seitan is popular meat substitute in Asia where it originates. Seitan is wheat gluten (so much for a gluten-free diet). It is an alternative to soy based meat substitutes and tends to have chewy and stringy texture which is similar to meat. Seitan can still be difficult to find in a normal grocery store. You should be able to find it at Asian markets.