7 Delicious Meat Alternatives (and Not a Lick of Tofu in Sight)

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When you get hungry, and I mean hungry, it’s your body calling out for protein. While you don’t have to go full-time veg to green your lifestyle, many people are surprised to learn that simply cutting back on meat consumption is one of the most significant ways to help the planet. And it doesn’t require subsistence on tofu. (Personally, I find tofu delicious, but it’s one of those vegetarian protein sources people either really love or really don’t.)

There are so many delicious options available that slipping out of meat mode is breeze. Try one meat-free dinner a week, and build from there:

QUINOA

Your kitchen is not complete without highly nutritious quinoa. Known as the “Mother Grain” of the Andes, quinoa (pronounced KEE-nwah) comes complete with all necessary amino acids, high iron content, a delicious nutty flavor, and a faster cooking time than rice. Try it hot with steamed vegetables, cold in a salad, or in the ingenious form of quinoa pasta.

VEGGIE BURGER (YES)

Even carnivores love a veggie burger – they no longer resemble sorry imitations of meat that isn’t that choice to begin with. Amy’s Kitchen makes the tastiest organic ones, in my opinion, but there are dozens out there. Rare is the veggie burger that really tastes like meat, but I personally wouldn’t want that, anyway. You’ve got a variety of flavors to choose from, each typically made with protein-rich soy and organic vegetables.

ALMONDS

King of the nuts, the amazing almond is high in both protein and calcium (it’s a great low-carb snack with only a few grams of non-fiber carbohydrate per serving). Try almond milk or Living Tree’s naturally sweet organic almond butter, too. For a real splurge, go for raw.

YOGURT

With a 4,500 year history, organic yogurt is here to stay. Boasting protein, calcium and living cultures, organic yogurt with fruit slices makes for a healthy and filling breakfast or dessert. Buy plain, organic, full-fat yogurt – it’s the best for your body. Low-fat yogurt is highly processed and flavored yogurts are very high in sugar and/or high-fructose corn syrup.

TEMPEH

O.K., technically this is tofu. But wait! Organic and non-GMO tempeh, made from fermented soy beans and rice, is high in fiber and protein. It has a nutty flavor and tastes amazing in a stir-fry or on a kabob. I recommend Henry’s Gourmet. It’s much nuttier and chewier than tofu, which will satisfy a serious protein craving.

LEGUMES

Legumes, like lentils, black beans and chickpeas are filling and high in protein and fiber. A Middle Eastern staple, hummus is simple to make, making it one of my favorite foods!

CHEESE

Though it’s not a vegan option, you can find cheeses that come from animals raised humanely (look for artisan or organic choices). Cheddar and mozzarella top the list of organic cheeses for protein content. I recommend raw dairy if you’re comfortable with that. Here’s a cheddar cheese scone recipe – simply substitute whole-grain flour.

ENJOY!

It’s easy to get plenty of satisfying protein in your meals while still eating low on the food chain. While you’re here, don’t forget to check out my tips for making salads exciting again.

- with additional reporting by Sara Ost

Images: quinoa – Sashertootie, veggie burger – jslander, almonds – greencolander, yogurt – kim siciliano, tempeh – mache, cheddar scones – bloggyboulga, cheese plate – cwbuecheler, hummus – paul goyette,

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DISCUSSION

37 thoughts on “7 Delicious Meat Alternatives (and Not a Lick of Tofu in Sight)

  1. Pingback: 12 Creative, Simple and Easy Everyday Salad Recipes | EcoSalon | Conscious Culture and Fashion

  2. Craig, I second that falafel notion! Seriously, yum!

    And what about more nuts? Cashews, macadamias, peanuts… Well, peanuts aren’t actually nuts, they’re legumes. But that’s great when you consider that eating whole grains and legumes together creates a complete protein. That means a peanut butter and jelly sandwich (on bread made from wheat or any other whole grain) is a complete protein.

    There are lots of other complete protein combos, too. Anyone like milk (either dairy or non-dairy) and cereal in the morning? As long as the cereal is whole grain, then there you go. A complete protein! And just to be clear, it definitely doesn’t have to be wheat, so gluten-free folks can eat cereal made from amaranth, quinoa, corn, etc… Most people eat more than enough protein without even trying. Vegan and vegetarian protein sources aren’t the perilous dietary mine-field that meat eaters imagine them to be.

    I think this page here ( http://biology.clc.uc.edu/courses/bio104/compprot.htm ) is a great source of info on vegetarian complementary proteins. But if it’s too wordy for you, just Google a different page. This information is everywhere.

  3. great comments above on true healthy sources of protien. I also like to add to my busy day: spinach green smoothies. I add any fresh GREENS and any fruit and blend. Variety is good. Use one kind at a time if needed. I use this protien drink every morning and a great way to start the day. I have so much more energy.

  4. Seitan is soy-free, dairy-free, egg-free, and bean-free! It’s wheat gluten and higher in protein than any other veggie source.

  5. I wish there were more soy-free, dairy free, egg-free, protein choices. Given that I also cant eat legumes, my vegetarian/vegan choices are pretty limited to nuts and seeds if I tried to go vegan again…

  6. Great list. I’d add textured vegetable protein (TVP), which is defatted soy flour, mixed with water and cooked. Also, the Daiya products fall under the category of true vegan “cheeses”.

  7. Meat! Meat! Meat! Meat! Meat! Meat! Meat! Meat! Meat! Meat! Meat! Meat! Meat! Meat! Meat! Meat! Meat! Meat! Meat! Meat! Meat! Meat! Meat! Meat! Meat! Meat! Meat! Meat! Meat! Meat! Meat! Meat! Meat! Meat! Meat! Meat! Meat! Meat! Meat! Meat! Meat! Meat! Meat! Meat! Meat! Meat! Meat! Meat! Meat! Meat! Meat! Meat! Meat! Meat! Meat! Meat! Meat! Meat! Meat! Meat! Meat! Meat! Meat! Meat! Meat! Meat! Meat! Meat! Meat! Meat! Meat! Meat! Meat! Meat! Meat! Meat! Meat! Meat! Meat! Meat! Meat! Meat! Meat! Meat! Meat! Meat! Meat! Meat! Meat! Meat! Meat! Meat! Meat! Meat! Meat! Meat! Meat! Meat! Meat! Meat! Meat! Meat! Meat! Meat! Meat! Meat! Meat! Meat! Meat! Meat! Meat! Meat! Meat! Meat! Meat! Meat! Meat! Meat! Meat! Meat! Meat! Meat! Meat! Meat! Meat! Meat! Meat! Meat! Meat! Meat! Meat! Meat! Meat! Tofu…

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  9. Pingback: Vegetarian Foods That Build Muscle: Tips for Protein and More | EcoSalon - The Green Gathering

  10. Hello! I just wanted to add my two cents here since I am a fan of eating more veggie rather than animal-based protein sources. I am constantly on the prowl for good-for-you but still enjoyable-to-eat alternatives and would like to steer everyone clear of a product called Quorn. Once you find out what it’s made of, you’ll thank me for warning you. You can read all about the gory details here: http://tinyurl.com/orhguu (just paste that address into your browser). Anyway, if you want a fantastic veggie burger that will never leave you missing meat, then I highly recommend Morningstar Farms Spicy Black Bean Veggie Burgers — I practically LIVED on them while I was dieting, and I’d eat two on a plate for dinner with a ton of veggies on the side and I’d be totally satisfied for the rest of the evening. That diet helped me to lose 25 pounds!!!

    Elizah Leigh’s last blog post..Luke Harris joined Greenwala.

  11. Yesterday I made swiss chard lasagna. Our local supermarket now sells fresh pasta sheets which are great. You don’t have to boil them first. Easy, easy, easy! I layered ricotta cheese beaten with eggs, a tsp of grated jarred garlic (from Trader Joe’s), grated Italian cheese (a mix of pecorino and parmesan) ( My helpful husband had already steamed the chard after cutting off the tough ends. I squeezed as much liquid as I could from the chard and chopped it up. Then layered the ricotta mix, chard, a generous sprinkling of mixed Italian cheese in a bag (from Trader Joe’s) and repeated the process for each layer. I made a quick “light” bechamel from butter and 1% milk. It was very thin which is what I wanted. I poured that all over the top, added a little more grated parm & baked it for about 30 minutes. I took it out, added a little more of the shredded cheese and finished it off for an additional 15 minutes. It kind of had a souffle feeling to it. It’s very rich. I only ate a very small square, but that was plenty. Round it off with a nice salad and you have a vegetarian meal that you could serve to company.

    Larraine’s last blog post..Language – A "Sunday Scribblings" Prompt

  12. Not to be picky but tempeh is NOT technically tofu. It is technically made from soybeans. But they are produced by very different processes. Saying tempeh is technically tofu is like saying bread is technically gravy, because they are both made from flour.

  13. I loved this post! I keep trying to convince my hubby that we don’t have to have meat at every meal. Thanks for some more proof! ;-)

  14. Okay, calm yourselves Vegans! There is a Vegan gelatin. In fact, if you check out this URL….there is an easy recipe for it!

    http://allrecipes.com/Recipe/Vegan-Gelatin/Detail.aspx

    While I haven’t tried it myself, I have tried many other recipes from the site and have yet to be disappointed.

    Hope this will help some of you….

  15. Great list!

    Being vegan doesn’t mean you won’t be able to meet your protein requirements as most people believe. But what they don’t know (or most likely, ignore) is that there are other protein sources other than meat. Cutting down on meat for ethical, medical, or whatever reason will just result to one thing – better health.

    Can’t wait to try some of the recipes here!

    Rhizophora’s last blog post..Costs And Benefits With Health Insurance

  16. A few thoughts:
    Certainly, there are huge problems with the meat industry in our country. The bottom line though is that we do need some animal products in our diet. There are NO vegan native societies and only a few vegetarian ones, but even they make liberal use of milk, cheese, and eggs. I reconcile this conflict by purchasing the most humane and best quality meat I can afford.
    Also, BE SURE TO CHEW YOUR VEGETABLE PROTEIN! Our body’s enzymes aren’t so good at breaking it down internally so mastication is key.


    bodaweightloss

  17. Great list-thanks for leaving out tofu and soy milk as those are so hard for many of us to process. I also would like to mention that as far as protein goes, beans and rice make a complete protein and there are so many ways to prepare them that it is worth making a meal out of them once or twice a week to supplement protein–red beans and rice, burritos, chile, salads, indian chickpea curry–the key to being vegetarian is to be creative. As far as the dairy products go, I think that it is alright if you must have them but be very careful which you buy. I drink milk but I get it raw from a share and I know that the cow is treated humanely. I have met her for goodness sake. I make my own yogurt which is extremely easy and I also stick to goat cheese, which is easier to digest.

    jh
    bodaweightloss

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  19. There are dairy and animal free cheeses out there for vegans such as Tofutti brand. Let’s not forget either that nutritional yeast can be used to simulate a cheddar fairly well!

  20. That’s really depressing that dairy products are listed twice here. Most of the problems with beef farming are still present with dairy farming, from an environmental standpoint. As for the animals themselves. Dairy cows and their babies (veal calves) have it much worse that those raised for beef. This also goes also for the organic so-called humane versions. It is just silly and pointless to recommend milk as an alternative to meat. Same goes for eggs for all you commentators so excited about them.

  21. Tempeh (we write it ‘tempe’ in our language) – an original product of mycountry (I believe) is a very cheap but nutritious meal served with home-made chili sauce (made from the maid ingredients of shrimp- taste herb, onion, and fresh tomato). Yummy.. The ways of preparing tempeh for meal: fried with flour-coated, baked, mixed with special herbs then baked in banana-leaf, and many others.

  22. Good post Sara. You’re right about needing the protein when hungry and these are all great back-ups. Personally I love tempeh – gives your meal a chewiness and texture that’s often missing from vegetarian meals.

  23. this is one of the major issues in food and eating today!
    it is so very important to introduce the public to meat alternatives in healthy , viable ways. especailly conerning items often touted as “meat alternatives”. it is necessary to really inspect these options and to assess the actual nutritional products given through the products on the maket. For me, the key to this has involved finding a comprehensive solution—with meat replacements, learning what actual nutrition to look forward to!

  24. This is helpful info for me and these are nice options. I guess things that are good for you can look good and taste good at the same time. I’d like to reduce meat intake, but have a life, too, so to not be consigned to tofu is welcome. I also feel eggs could be on this list.

  25. Bas: Being vegetarain is likely less expensive than eating meat, at least if you want to eat healthfully. Good on ya for making the switch.

    a couple of other low-cost protein options: milk, eggs, cottage cheese, and tofu (purposefully left off the list, but inexpensive and healthy nonetheless). There’s also a lot of variety within legumes: chick peas, black beans, kidney beans, red, French and brown lentils, mung beans, etc. Check out recipes for Mexican or South American food, Indian, and Middle Eastern food. You’ll have to buy a few spices in the beginning, but once you have them the other ingredients are inexpensive and there’s a lot of variety.

  26. @Negdub: mushrooms contain many nutrients, but, being a fairly low-calorie food, they’re not particularly rich in protein. Still, they’re flavorful and healthy – certainly worth adding to your recipes!

  27. What about mushrooms? You can make great patties for burgers with chopped mushrooms, onion, eggs, breadcrumbs, parsley, salt, pepper

  28. Remember that protein is WAY over hyped. The average person needs about 60g/day, but gets 120g/day.

    That said, don’t forget seitan, as an awesome addition.

  29. Thanks for this list. I’ve been a vegetarian for 6 months and sometimes it can get a bit monotonous. Especially since I’m a student with very little money to spend. Organic stores are a no-go area for me, because I’d be broke by the second week of the month ^_^ Nice list.

  30. I recently started eating a product called “Match” and it is a soy product. Very flexible in recipes and great texture.

  31. Excellent reminder, Bree. Gelatin is not vegetarian!

  32. you should state, that while yogurt is great for you, most contain gelatin. So check your labels!

  33. I think eggs should be on this list!

 

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