Meat substitutes are more popular than ever. If you are considering eating less meat but aren’t sure where to start, we’ve put together information on what meat replacement options are out there, including their nutritional value.

Why meat replacement?

Why are so many people choosing meat replacements? For some, it might be an animal issue. For others, meat replacement is an environmental consideration. People may also be seeking meat substitutes for health reasons, possibly for a lower risk of heart disease.

Reducing meat consumption tends to have a positive impact on weight management and heart health, and may reduce the risk for a number of chronic diseases.

Whatever your reason for exploring the world of meat substitutes and imitation meat may be, it can be a delicious new adventure.

Meat replacement options

Let’s start by looking at meat replacement options, from the most natural to the most processed.

Natural plant proteins. Here are a few natural meat replacement options that vegetarians and vegans have long used to round out their diets. These whole food options include beans, lentils, mushrooms and jackfruit.

Maybe you’ve seen black bean or portobello tacos on the menu at your favorite restaurant. That’s because these natural foods are filling, are relatively high in protein and have a nice texture to substitute for meat.

Tofu, tempeh and seitan. Both tofu and tempeh are made from processed soybeans. Tofu is smooth and varies in texture — from firm cubes frequently used in stir-fries to a silken variety that makes a smooth base for mousse or smoothies.

The soybeans used to make tempeh are fermented, and the result is a firmer, chunkier texture with a slightly nutty flavor. Tempeh is suitable for recipes like “meatballs” and “ribs.”

On the other hand, seitan is made from vital wheat gluten, which means it’s packed with protein and has a chewy texture very similar to meat. You can use seitan to make “hot dogs,” “burgers” or even “pepperoni.”  

Imitation meats. You can find these meat replacements in your supermarket’s refrigerated and frozen sections. They’re designed to make an easy swap for meat in your favorite dishes, and though they don’t taste exactly like meat, many people find them tasty.

Here are a few popular imitation meat brands and the products they offer.

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Beyond Meat makes plant-based sausages, meatballs, burgers and ground crumbles.

Boca offers veggie burgers, chik’n patties and chik’n nuggets.

Gardein has a wide selection of chick’n, turk’y and beefless, porkless, fishless products.

MorningStar Farms produces veggie burgers, dogs, chik’n patties and nuggets, and chorizo.

Quorn products include veggie patties, meatless meatballs, roasts, fillets and nuggets.

Tofurky sells chick’n, deli slices, burgers, sausages and dogs, grounds, pockets and roasts.

As with most processed meat, these imitation meats tend to contain more sodium than natural plant proteins or unseasoned soybean products like tofu, so it may be a good idea to include them in your diet in moderation.

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Easy meat-replacement recipes to get you started

Now that you know your options, follow the links below for some quick, easy recipes to incorporate them into your daily meals. Each option takes 30 minutes or less to prepare.

Chipotle Portobello Tacos

Tofu Breakfast Scramble

Mediterranean Beyond Burger

Now you can kick-start your own Meatless Mondays — or maybe even give it a whole meatless month!

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