Five Delicious Meat Alternatives

Posted on by Neal Barnard, MD, FACC

vegan-burgerAccording to recent data from the USDA, Americans are expected to eat a record-high average of 222 pounds of meat per person in 2018. That’s devastating news for Americans’ health. To put it in perspective, studies show that eating just 2 ounces of processed meat per day – less than the amount on a typical ham sandwich – can up the risk for colon cancer by 21%. Another recent study found that just one third of an ounce of processed meat a day – the weight of a single poker chip! – can raise the risk for breast cancer. On top of that, meat can also up our risk for heart disease, type 2 diabetes and other health problems. So what can we do? The good news is that by moving away from meat and opting for a diet based on fruits, vegetables, grains and beans, we can reduce our risk for developing these lifestyle-related chronic diseases. Ready to give meat alternatives a try but not sure how to jump in? Check out my top 5 easy and healthy meat replacements! 1. Beans and lentils are low in fat, but packed with protein, fiber, vitamins and minerals that you won’t find in meat. Use beans and lentils to replace meat in chili, tacos, salads, and no-meat loafs. Recipes: Black Bean Chipotle Burgers and Sweet Potato Lentil Chili 2. Tofu is beneficial for cancer prevention, heart health and bone health. It’s versatile and can work like eggs or meat in scrambles, stir-fries, soups or sandwiches. Recipes: Tofu Zucchini Scramble, Vegetable Lo Mein, and BBQ Tofu Bites 3. Portobello mushrooms have a meaty flavor and texture that make them an ideal low-fat, cholesterol-free meat alternative. Grill them like steaks or burgers or add to fajitas or pasta. Recipes: Marinated Mushroom Burgers and Barbecue-Style Portobellos 4. Seitan, or wheat gluten, is a high-protein meat alternative that mimics meat in taste and texture. Grill, bake, shape into roasts, and add to stir-fries! Recipes: Seitan Piccata and Polenta with Hearty Barbecue Sauce 5. Meat replacements, like veggie burgers and veggie crumbles are available in most grocery stores. While whole foods are best, these can be great to use for transition foods or special occasions. Recommendations: Gardein Ultimate Beefless Ground and Beyond Beef crumbles are both low in fat and gluten free. Photo from here, with thanks.