I have a question for you. I cut out red meat from my diet about 12 years ago and I haven’t touched it since. I’m not a vegetarian (I eat fish and poultry), but I do enjoy Morning Star veggie products. Unfortunately, the sodium is really high.
Is there anything else that I can substitute for red meat?
It’s no secret that most Americans eat far too much red meat. As I recently shared, a Harvard study concluded that 9% of male deaths and 7% of female deaths would be prevented if people lowered red meat consumption to 1.5 ounces (or less) per day. Studies like these are part of the reason why I’ve lowered my red meat consumption to twice weekly.
Because you eat other types of meat, you have no shortage of leaner alternatives. There are a million great chicken, turkey or fish dishes that you can enjoy. But if you want to look beyond the butcher block, I do have a few meatless suggestions:
- Seitan. Also know as wheat gluten, seitan was popularized by vegetarian monks in China. It’s frequently used in place of red meat, chicken or pork – and, with a whopping 30+ grams of protein per 4 ounce serving, it’s certainly worth trying.
- Tofu. Because tofu has become increasingly popular, you can find it in most grocery stores. It doesn’t have much flavor in and of itself, but it tends to pick up the flavors of the foods and sauces around it. Made from soy, 4 ounces of tofu contains about 17 grams of complete proteins.
- Tempeh. I really enjoy tempeh – and, in fact, you can use it to make homemade veggie burgers. The taste is quite earthy and nutty, but very delicious. It can also be marinated before you grill, fry or bake it. It also has 20 grams of muscle-building protein per each 4 ounce serving.
- Mushrooms. Portobello mushrooms, in particular, are a popular alternative to meat. Because of their large size, the mushroom can be used in place of a whole piece of meat (i.e., in a sandwich or on a burger bun).
- Eggplant. Though it’s one of the few foods that I don’t enjoy, eggplant is a very versatile meat substitute. Eggplant also works well on sandwiches or in other dishes like meatless meatballs or veggie lasagna.
- Beans. As I’ve mentioned before, beans are an often-overlooked nutritional powerhouse. As a meat substitute, beans work well. And, much like seitan, tofu and tempeh, they contain a good amount of protein. They’re also incredibly versatile and can be used in soups, stews, salads, veggie burgers and more.
I’m not a vegetarian. But that doesn’t mean that I can’t enjoy the above alternatives. In fact, many of these options are so delicious that the label “alternative” doesn’t do justice.
If you are interested in trying a tempeh burger, give this recipe a try:
Grilled Tempeh Burger: Serves 2 – 4
- 1 (8 ounce) package of tempeh
- 1/4 cup low-sodium tamari
- 2 tablespoons mirin (also known as Japanese rice cooking wine)
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- 2 whole grain buns
Cut tempeh in half, lengthwise. Then cut across into 4 pieces.
Steam over simmering water for 20 minutes. Remove from heat and poke holes in tempeh (both sides) with a fork.
Mix tamari, mirin, garlic powder and onion into a dish for a marinade. Add the tempeh and turn to coat. Set aside for at least a half hour – but overnight is best.
Heat a grill to medium heat. For 4 to 5 minutes per side, grill tempeh until browned with grill marks. If you don’t have access to a grill, heat a dab of canola oil in a skillet over medium heat and cook tempeh for 3 to 4 minutes per side – or until browned.
Top with whatever your heart desires. Avocado, peppers, tomatoes, lettuce, sprouts, pickles, onions, ketchup, etc. all make for great choices!