Awesome Meat Substitutes to Try This Year is all about learning the best ways that you can substitute meat on those days where you just feel like giving your usual meat-eating habits a break or simply for those who follow a plant-based and/or vegan lifestyle. This list offers a few great alternatives to incorporate into your diet whenever you are looking for protein-based substitutes to meat.
As some of you may know, I don't subscribe to any specific diet, however, I have been on a healthy food journey that includes mostly plant-based meals with regular dishes/favorites in between. If you're like me, sometimes you may just want to take a short break from eating like a carnivore or perhaps you've decided to take the full plunge into an ALL no-meat, plant-based diet so you just want some great ideas to keep things interesting and fun.
Either way, I hope that this post will help you to learn more about plant proteins and great options.
OK, so there are a few current trends out there that aid the 'no-meat movement' and of course, there are other current trends: vegan desserts, vegan cheese, whole veggies, jackfruits, lab created meats, and so many others. However, the main trend that I'll be discussing throughout this post is that of Plant Proteins which makes for awesome meat substitutes.
For one, plant proteins consists of beans, peas, nuts, seeds, soys, and lentils-----all of which are awesome meat substitutes.
Plant proteins are a powerhouse of good nutrition and are loaded with disease fighting phytonutrients, cholesterol-lowering fiber and naturally low in cholesterol and sodium.
Nutritional research studies have found potential associations between a diet high in plant protein and the following beneficial effects:
And while I am in no way saying that you SHOULD eat a solely plant-based diet, I am saying that doing so, ever so often may have it's benefits. I can definitely attest to feeling great whenever I give meats and other sugary foods a break.
Overall, your body has more energy, digestion runs smoother, your skin is clearer, and everything else in between. Have you experienced any benefits?
When it comes to eating a plant-based diet, the best meat substitutes are beans! Anywhere from black beans to lima beans to pinto beans to red kidney beans to soybeans, and more. Most of these little beauties include high levels of protein, fiber, potassium, and other healthy nutrients that will keep you fueled and strong!
In addition, beans make for a great burger or topping for nachos and is super "meaty" so that you're left satisfied after every bite. For my latest bean incorporated recipes that include beans, check out these delicious options: Black Bean Sweet Potato Burgers and Vegan Black Bean Tacos with Avocado Dressing. Of course, for additional options, be sure to search "beans" on the site.
So, lentils may look like beans, but they are actually in their own category! Much like their counterparts (beans)--they make for amazing burgers and side dishes. Also, lentils offer high sources of protein and are low in calories, high in fiber, and are often linked to lowering cholesterol and reducing heart disease risks, as a benefit overall. Generally, I don't use lentils a ton, but these Spicy BBQ Lentil Quinoa Vegan Burgers are really delish!
Another really great meat alternative is chickpea a.k.a. Garbanzo beans. These are actually my top favorite ingredients to use when not eating meat and they can be transformed into so many dishes. But did you know that if you combined chickpeas and brown rice together, you'd have a complete protein? Yup. Both ingredients together provide you with all 9 amino acids.
Just a cup of chickpeas gives you about 35 grams of fiber and 39 grams of protein. A real win--win. Some of my favorite ways to use chickpeas in recipes: Healthy Loaded Kale Salad with Spicy Chickpeas, Jerk Vegetable Farro Bowl with Maple Herb Apples, Vegan Chickpea + Broccoli Mashed Potato Bowl, and Sheet Pan Buffalo Chickpea Nachos.
Yes, raw nuts and seeds these are the new popular favorites for many and they are often tossed in salads, sprinkled atop desserts, added in pastas------you name it! However, did you know that they are great solely as a meat substitute? For one, raw nuts and seeds are just as "filling" as meat. If you've ever tried eating nuts in any dish, then you'll realize just how full you became without even knowing it, right?
Secondly, raw nuts and seeds are high in protein and are super healthy, especially for the heart! Some great nuts and seeds to try: cashews, peanuts, walnuts, almonds, pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, hemp seeds, and many more.
Tofu as we know, is made from soy milk, while Tempeh is made from fermented soybeans. In the world of vegetarianism and veganism, these two are often a staple when it comes to substitutions for meat. Personally, I don't eat soy due to intolerance, however, I've seen recipes that included either alternative and they look great!
Both tofu and tempeh can be cooked in a variety of ways (pan-fried, sautéed, baked, etc.) and both contain high levels of protein that would leave you not missing meat at all.
One of the latest crazes in recent years has been the use of Jackfruit as a meat alternative, especially in sandwiches because it mimics that of pulled pork in texture. The greatest thing about Jackfruit is that it is fairly low in carbs, but is a great source of magnesium, fiber, Vitamin B6, and antioxidants.
Since they aren't as high in protein as some of the other alternatives on this list, experts say that it's best to pair Jackfruit with plant-based protein such as ancient grains and legumes for a more balanced meal.
Now, the best kept secret for many is an avocado. Avocados have become the new "IT" ingredient for many popular staples such as hummus, guacamole, avocado toast, avocado salad, avocado burger buns (Yes, that's a thing!), avocado + eggs, avocado fries, avocado popsicles, and the list goes on.
However, don't take this fruit lightly--it's fully packed with proteins and fatty acids that are great for you! All the better reason to eat a few of these when you don't want to devour any meat. Check out these tacos that include a good Avocado Dressing or this Avocado Hummus with Peppers.
I feel like cauliflower has really taken the reigns in recent years and with the total transformation of this vegetable, I'm a big believer that it deserves to be on this list. Despite the controversy around cauliflower and whether or not it's an extremely healthy vegetable, I think that adding it to your diet once in a while definitely creates for a great alternative to meat.
I recently made these Vegan Nashville Hot Chicken Sandwiches which are incredible! Also, one of my favorite ways to use cauliflower is in the form of cauliflower bites like these BBQ Cauliflower Wings, Lemon Pepper Cauliflower Bites, and Crispy Buffalo Cauliflower Bites.
While some people aren't able to consume whole grains due to needing to eat a gluten-free diet because of conditions such Celiac Disease, or for any other reason; those of us who are able to eat these grains, should----although there are a few whole grains that are gluten-free.
Whole grains not only provide an amazing amount of protein (especially once paired with the previous foods mentioned above), but they also provide a lot of fiber, help with digestion, lowers cholesterol and blood pressure, reduce asthma risks, maintain blood sugar levels, protect your teeth and gums, and can help control your weight.
To top things off--whole grains also aide in your fullness quicker from a meal, therefore, you won't miss the "filling" feeling that meat gives you once you incorporate meatless options in your diet.
Great whole grains to try: bulgur, rice, oats, corn, buckwheat, quinoa, and more.
NOTE: For those on a gluten-free diet, the main whole grains to avoid are those that contain "wheat" (such as wheat berries, spelt, kamut, farro, and bulgur), rye, barley, and triticale. The rest are usually safe to consume.
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Overall, substituting meats don't have to be a detrimental task or even lack in nutritional value when it's done. Simply out-----it's all about eating the right high-quality ingredients and choosing the right substitutes, especially when trying to keeping your meatless meals "interesting".
While there are many frozen or pre-made "meat substitutes" such as veggie patties, plant-based meats, and a host of other things, I am a big believer in keeping things healthy by using whole food ingredients in their natural form and transforming them into the best "meaty", satisfying results.
Yes, it may require a bit more effort and time, BUT at least you'll know exactly what's being consumed!
The Best Milk Alternatives for Your Entire Household—–Today, I want to talk about plant-based alternatives to cow’s milk. One of my favorite things that I’ve seen over the last couple of years is the accessibility of plant-based milk alternatives in local coffee shops and large coffee franchises like Starbucks. Now, more than ever, it’s so much easier to find a dairy-free option that fits your lifestyle and taste preferences.
Do you have any other Awesome Meat Substitutes that you've tried this year or in recent years?