Vegetarian food is great.
Some persons who are not yet enlightened think that vegetarian meals are boring. They believe that all you can eat is lots and lots of raw vegetables….like a rabbit. But this is far from the truth. There are lots of delicious vegetarian recipes available using legumes, vegetables and nuts.
In addition, there are numerous meat analogues on the market some of which look and taste very much like meat. I must admit, some of them are quite delicious, but are they good for you?
Let’s examine the question.
The problems with Meat Analogues
The truth is that while these meat analogues can be quite tasty and may add variety to the vegetarian options, some are not the best choices for you to eat.
Here are some reasons why this is so.
- A lot of the meat substitutes are highly processed with very little real food. In other words, there is a small amount of real food and a lot of chemicals.
- They are usually high in salt.
- They are also high in fats. It wouldn’t be so bad if it was good fat but unfortunately it is usually partially hydrogenated fats
- Some even have animal products and by-products such as egg and milk. This is not so bad if you are a lacto-ovo vegetarian, but if you are a strict plant-based vegetarian these wouldn’t work for you at all.
- They usually have lots of additives most of which you can’t even pronounce. It puts stress on the body to have to deal with these foreign, non-food material.
- The meat analogues can be expensive. Many people use this excuse for why they are not vegetarians. If they understand becoming a vegetarian to mean that they will have to swap out all the meat in their diet for meat analogues, then they would be right to think that becoming a vegetarian is expensive. Even more so if they are buying the frozen ready to eat meat substitutes. They are even more expensive than the dry ones…..and less healthy too.
- They contain artificial flavours which has the potential for health risks.
They are not all bad.
All is not lost for the meat analogues. Some are actually better than others and you just need to be diligent when making your choices.
So what should you look for…
- The ingredients should be recognizable food or plants.
- Should not have a high salt content.
- Should not be high in fats. As a matter of fact, look out for the trans fats and stay away from them. The body does not know how to handle trans fat.
- No chemical additives or very small amount if any.
How to find healthy meat substitutes
You do this by checking the ingredients before you buy. This means you have to pick up the habit of reading the labels of the foods you are purchasing before you drop them in the shopping cart.
Take at look at the ingredients of these two meat analogues and see which one you would purchase.
Ingredients: Textured vegetable protein (wheat gluten, soy protein concentrate, water for hydration), water, soybean oil, high oleic sunflower oil, egg whites, hydrolyzed soy, wheat, and corn protein, modified corn starch, and calcium caseinate, contains 2% or less of dextrose, soy protein isolate, sodium caseinate, natural and artificial flavors from non-meat sources, chopped onion, autolyzed yeast extract, salt, wheat flour, soy lecithin, onion powder, guar gum, vitamins and minerals [niacinamide, iron (ferrous sulfate), vitamin b1 (thiamin mononitrate), vitamin b6 (pyridoxine hydrochloride), vitamin b2 (riboflavin), vitamin b12 (cyanocobalamin)], turmeric, monosodium glutamate, spice extractives, celery extract, carrageenan, caramel color, disodium inosinate, disodium guanylate.
Ingredients: Oats, Pinto Beans, Black Beans, Carrots, Bell Peppers, Celery, Potatoes, Organic Brown Rice, Tomatoes, Onions, Leeks, Salt.
Do you see what I am getting at? It’s not too hard to make this choice, is it?
DIY Meat Analogues
The best and healthiest meat substitutes are the ones you make yourself. After all, you know all the healthy stuff you have put in and all the unhealthy stuff you have left out.
Don’t worry. It is not difficult at all.
Do you feel for a burger? You can buy a pack from the grocery store with the chance of it containing ingredients like those listed in Number 1 above or you can just make veggie burgers yourself and store in the freezer for whenever you desire.
Here is a quick and easy recipe.
- 1 1/2 cups cooked black beans or chick peas
- 1/2 cup chopped onion
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 2 cups diced veggies (carrots, celery, mushrooms, and spinach)
- 1/2 cup cooked brown rice
- 1/2 cup oatmeal
- 1/2 cup bread crumbs
- 1 tbsp soy sauce
- 1 tbsp tomato ketchup
- 1 tsp chili powder
- 1 tsp turmeric
- 1 tsp marjoram
- 1/2 tsp cumin
- 1 tsp coriander
- 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
- 1/4 tsp sea salt (add to taste as needed)
- 2 1/2 tbsp coconut oil
Heat 1/2 tablespoon oil in a pan over medium heat. Fry the onion, veggies, and garlic until softened, about 5 minutes.
Transfer all the ingredients to a food processor and pulse until properly combined but still chunky
Take out a large spoonful and form into ball and then flatten.
Heat 2 tablespoons oil over medium-high heat. Fry 2-3 minutes per side until browned and heated through.
Makes about 10 patties.
Go ahead and have one immediately because you probably will not be able to resist it.
Store the rest in the freezer and it is ready for use whenever you are.
This is just one recipe. There are so many more delicious meat substitutes that you can do yourself which are just as tasty or even better tasting that the ones you buy in the store.
Where does that leave us?
There is no shortage of tasty vegetarian food.
The fruits, grains, vegetables, nuts and seeds go together to make delicious meals.
There are numerous meat analogues available that add to the variety of vegetarian meal options. However, you need to choose well to ensure that what you are eating is best for your body.
You have made the decision to embrace a healthier lifestyle by adopting a vegetarian diet. You must now be careful to ensure that you are substituting healthier food alternatives in place of meat.
Fruits, grains, vegetables, seeds and nuts are good substitutes.
Natural and artificial flavors from non-meat sources, monosodium glutamate, spice extractives, celery extract, carrageenan, caramel color, disodium inosinate, disodium guanylate……….not so good.
As far as possible, eat whole foods from the land/ground and not foods manufactured in a laboratory.
Go ahead and enjoy your delicious bean burgers, nut loaves, vegetable casseroles, mushroom mince and your many and varied soups and stews. Also, enjoy your meat analogues but remember to choose wisely. The choices are endless.
Has this article been helpful to you? Drop me a line in the comments section below.