I have been a vegetarian for 17 years, and am often asked what I do for protein, or what meals can be prepared for the non meat lovers. I have prepared delicious meals for meat eating family and friends, and will share with you some tips that make for a hearty well balanced meat free meal.
- ‘Faux Meat’
There are a large number of vegetable based meat free meat alternatives on the market, most often found in the freezer section. You can find everything from hamburger crumbles, chicken patties, chicken and steak strips for fajitas, hotdogs, brats, bacon, stuffed chicken breasts, juicy hamburgers, sausage, sandwich meat, corn beef, and fish. Brands like Morning Star, Boca Quorn, Gardein, Light Life, and Tofurky, all have an impressive selection of tasty, and very convincing, plant based meat like foods. They are made with vegetable proteins or legumes, seasoned and shaped just right, and easily disguise-able as the real thing. Just add them, instead of real meat, in any recipe.
Members of the legume family are rich in protein and healthy benefits. Beans are an easy and delicious source of protein, and can be added to salads, Mexican and Italian dishes, breakfast, or side dishes. There are a variety of types of beans that can be used for different dishes, all adding a different taste or texture. Lentils are also protein rich additions to foods, commonly found in Indian foods, making great soups. Peas are considered legumes, and are common bases for vegan protein shakes, due to their high protein content. Chickpeas are used to make hummus, which is good on sandwiches, or eaten with vegetables, chips, or crackers.
Jackfruit is technically a fruit, and is not particularly high in protein, but is becoming a popular meat alternative. It can be eaten raw, or cooked, and when cut up and combined with BBQ sauce and seasoning, it looks alarmingly like pulled pork. I wouldn’t recommend tackling this giant fruit fresh, but you can find it in cans, bagged with seasonings, or in the refrigerator section. It can be added like shredded beef to tacos, or seasoned chicken to stir fry dishes. My favorite is eating it as a pulled pork sandwich.
Tofu is soybean based, making it protein rich. It isn’t much to eat on its own, but when fried, or mixed with other ingredients, makes for a delicious addition to stir fries, or a vegan friendly option for making egg or cheese dishes. You can buy it in the refrigerator section, or the Asian food section, and they now sell packages of it with seasoning included, for ease in adding to stir-fries. There is an art to making well fried tofu, but once you master it, it is an easy protein addition to stir fry.
Eggs have good protein, and are delicious on their own, or added to casseroles, quiches, or breakfast scramblers. Add some vegan sausage, for an added treat.
Cheese, and other dairy products, like yoghurt, are good sources of protein, and common staples to a vegetarian diet. Mexican food, Italian food, and American food, all commonly contain cheese, and have good amounts of protein. For those who can’t do dairy, like myself, there are many dairy free ‘dairy’ options. There are cheeses in all common forms, like American, mozzarella, cream cheese, and even ricotta, in sliced, shredded, or spreadable options. These ‘cheeses’ are typically nut based, go great on sandwiches, and even melt like real cheese. My mom made a vegan manicotti that had everyone fooled. Dairy free yoghurt comes in soy, almond, hemp, or coconut milk based. I find that soy still has the best flavor and protein content, and often use it in fruit salads. Not all of the non dairy alternatives taste like dairy, so test out different types.
Nuts and nut butters are excellent sources of protein. Nut butters come in a variety of nuts, and can be eaten with apples or bananas, or added to a sandwich with honey or jelly. Nuts are commonly found in granola bars and breads. You can even add nuts to stir frys or salads. Nut milk, like almond milk, is a great alternative to cows milk, and can be exchanged in recipes for baking, and cooking. If you use nut milk in exchange for dairy in cooking or baking, choose unsweetened options.