For vegetarians and vegans, finding healthy meat alternatives is important for keeping a balanced diet, especially one incorporating high-protein, non-dairy foods. Vegetarianism has been associated with a wide range of positive effects on health, particularly lowering cholesterol levels, regulating blood pressure and balancing overall body mass index (BMI).
You need to ensure you’re consuming a well-balanced diet and obtaining essential vitamins and minerals like vitamin B12, iron and omega-3 fatty acids, which vegans and vegetarians can sometimes miss.
Also keep in mind that just because something is meatless doesn’t automatically make it healthy for your body. Cutting back on the intake of red meat is a great beginning to sustaining a healthy diet, although you need to pay attention to what you’re replacing it with. Some plant-based meat alternatives are overly processed and high in saturated fat and sodium.
If you’ve just transitioned to a plant-based diet or are looking to try out different meal plans and consume mostly plant-based foods, you’ll likely be searching for new recipes. We’ve compiled a list of some of our favorite vegetarian and vegan healthy meat alternatives that you can add to your meal plan in addition to the usual vegetables, fruits and whole grains.
It might sound odd to use a fruit as a meat replacement, but jackfruit has a texture that is similar to shredded chicken (and it also works well as a substitute of pulled pork). Despite its daunting appearance, this tropical fruit can be purchased whole, although it is often more convenient to purchase it in cans and or from the refrigerated section alongside many other meat alternatives. It matches well with whatever spices or sauces you’re preparing it with because of its delicate taste.
Tofu, which is made from curdled soybeans and comes in extra-firm, firm and soft varieties, is one of the most popular healthy meat alternatives. This soy-based vegetarian protein, much like chicken, absorbs the qualities of whatever it is flavored with. As a result, tofu is an excellent choice for adding a variety of flavors and mixing with just about any sauces, grains and vegetables you can think of. Tofu can also be sauteed, grilled or fried for a diverse arrangement of preparations. Tofu also contains 9 grams of protein per 3-ounce serving, so this is one of the best high-protein, non-dairy healthy meat alternatives.
Eggplant has a meaty texture, and the taste is earthy and savory (think umami flavor). Grilling, baking, stir-frying and even stuffing eggplant are some of the many ways to cook this nutritious vegetable. Stuffed eggplant, grilled eggplant and baba ghanoush, and eggplant-shallot stew are a couple of ideas you can try out.
Using portobello mushrooms as a burger patty replacement has become widespread, but mushrooms can do so much more when it comes to subbing as a plant-based meat alternative. Mushrooms, whether minced, diced or sliced, have a meaty texture and earthy, smoky taste that works well in lieu of meat. Consider substituting mushrooms for beef in recipes such as Portobello Philly Cheesesteak Sandwich, Wild Mushroom and Polenta Casserole and mushroom risotto.
This protein made from wheat gluten is often referred to as “vegetarian white meat," and it has a similar texture to chicken (as a matter of fact, many imitation chicken products in the market are composed of seitan). It is comparable to mushrooms in terms of its earthy taste. Seitan can be found in most major grocery stores near the tofu section. It comes in strips or ground, and it tastes best in stir-fries, salads and curries. It’s also perfect on the grill; skewer it on a kebab skewer and dinner is ready in no time.
Tempeh, like tofu, is a soybean-based product; however, tempeh’s soybeans are fermented and assorted grains and beans are added to give it a heartier texture and nuttier flavor. It has a firmer feel and a darker brown colour in comparison to tofu. You can cook it in a variety of ways, including grilling it like meat. Tempeh is a perfect vegetarian protein source since it includes all of the necessary amino acids, and since it’s fermented, it also incorporates probiotics (good bacteria essential for gut health). Try making a grilled tempeh salad, incorporating in lettuce wraps or grain bowls.
Thanks to their versatility, lentils are a favorite of vegetarians; they are available in a multitude of colors including green, purple, red, yellow and brown. At 9 grams of protein in every half a cup, these legumes are surprisingly rich in protein (cooked). They can be purchased dried or canned. They’re usually found in the dry goods department, but they may even be in the bulk aisle if your grocery store has one. Rinse the lentils and cook them until they are tender but not mushy. You can use them in many dishes like curries, stews, stir fry, salads and meatless patties, as their hearty texture and peppery taste make them one of the best healthy meat alternatives for ground beef.
What can’t a chickpea do? Chickpeas, also known as garbanzo beans, can be bought dry or canned; all are delicious, but the prepackaged alternative may save you time in the kitchen. This versatile bean is a perfect meat-free choice which will bring a boost of flavor and protein to every dish, from falafel and hummus to creamy soups and crispy snacks.
Beans, like lentils and chickpeas, can be used to replace beef in a variety of dishes. Beans contain approximately 8 grams of protein and 8 grams of fiber per half cup portion, but this differs somewhat based on the kind of bean. If you buy canned beans, you can remove the processing liquid and use it in other dishes, or you can cook the beans in that liquid for a rich, saucy dish. For example, black beans are wonderful in tacos and mexican dishes, but you should also try mixing them and including them in baked veggie burgers, creamy dips or vegetarian chili.
Plant-based meat alternatives
These store-bought plant-based products are usually composed of a mixture of beans, grains, vegetables and spices, making it a fast meal choice. Remember to scan the packaging of pre-manufactured items for secret harmful chemicals such as high saturated fat levels and sodium. A couple of popular plant-based meat companies are Omnipork, Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat.
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