Monday, September 9, 2013

9 Meat Replacement Options for Vegetarians

Vegetarians must be proactive in getting protein and other nutrients into their diets.
Vegetarians must be proactive in getting protein and other nutrients into their diets.
Image: Shutterstock
One of the biggest challenges to becoming a vegetarian is making sure that you still get the protein and other nutrients like omega 3 fatty acid that are so prominent in meat. Missing out on those nutrients can be hugely detrimental to your health, and so if you’re planning on saying goodbye to meat, be sure you have a plan in place for how you’ll make up for it.

If you’re new to the vegetarian scene, you might also find that there are some dining experiences that seem hard to replicate without meat. An incredible amount of non-vegetarian meals center around meat, and it can be a hard transition to make if you’re not prepared.

So what’s a non-meat-eater to do? Try out some of these meat substitutes to make sure you have a way to get all the protein, omega 3, and other nutrients you’ll still need.
  1. Nuts—Lots of nuts have high concentrations of omega 3, protein, and fiber in them. Try mixing raw walnuts, peanuts, almonds, and other nuts in with salads, stir-fry, and more. Just don’t overdo it—nuts are also high in calorie content.
  2. Tofu—Made from coagulated soymilk, tofu is a bean curd that’s very high in protein. It doesn’t have much taste on its own, but can be great mixed in with sauce, in a stir-fry, or grilled with some spices. Scramble it up in the morning like eggs, or make some veggie kebobs.
  3. Soy—This is one of the most popular substitutes for meat; it’s very versatile, has lots of protein, is low in fat and cholesterol, and can even help fight cancer.
  4. Eggplant—It’s like eggplant was made to replace meat. It’s got a meaty texture and is chock full of fiber, antioxidants, B vitamins, and potassium. I find it best in lasagna, pasta, and other tomato-y Italian dishes.
  5. Portobello Mushrooms—Like eggplant, Portobellos have a meaty texture that makes them an ideal substitute for meat. You can slice them up and make steaks, stuff them with your favorite veggies and cheeses, roast them, and so much more. Plus, you’ll get lots of protein in the deal.
  6. Legumes—AKA beans, peas, and lentils. Members of the legume family are loaded with protein, folate, iron, magnesium, and potassium. Throw them in a stew, stir-fry, or salad.
  7. Tempeh—Made from soy, tempeh is full of iron, calcium, protein, and vitamin B12. It comes molded into patties and can be baked, steamed, deep-fried, sautéed, and everything else under the moon.
  8. Bulgur Wheat—This whole grain is a form of whole wheat that can be used as rice, meatloaf, and even sausages. It’s got you covered for fiver content, protein, potassium, iron, and more.
  9. Seitan—A wheat gluten, seitan has a similar texture to some meats. Its protein content is comparable to actual meat, making it a perfect substitute in many meat dishes.