If you’re thinking about becoming a vegetarian, but are worried about missing meat, don’t worry! There are plenty of substitutes you can use for cooking instead, so you won’t miss it too much. Here’s my top ten list for a tasty meat-free diet.
1. Quorn/Branded substitutes. Lots of effort has been put into making these taste like meat, so they are a good way to wean yourself off eating meat. They’re also healthier than meat, because they don’t have the same amount of fat! Granted, you’ll notice the difference at the beginning, but some products are particularly similar to meat – their cocktail sausages and chicken nuggets, for instance. They also offer ready meals and ready-made snacks, so even if you’re not a great cook, you can still enjoy hearty snacks.
2. Tofu. Probably the most famous meat alternative, it’s soy-based and really flexible. You can use it in almost anything! If you cook it in a sauce, casserole or curry, it absorbs the flavour of whatever it’s in, so you can make it taste of anything you want! Tofu can also be bought with different flavours, for example mildly spiced or olive flavoured.
3. Paneer is a type of Indian cheese. Any cheese makes a good meat substitute in terms of protein (and fat!) content, but paneer is particularly great for cooking. Its texture is a little bit stronger than tofu, but like tofu, it absorbs the flavour of whatever it’s cooked in – whilst retaining a creamy taste.
4. Halloumi is probably more popular than paneer, and you can get it in lots of restaurants as the veggie option. It’s quite salty, and it’s really chewy! It’s so chewy that it sometimes makes a squeaking noise when you eat it – weird, huh?
5. Eggs are usually said to have lots of protein, and this time, conventional wisdom is correct! If you like eggs, then they’re a great alternative. They can be eaten on their own, or as part of a dish - for instance, it can be eaten as part of pizza or pasta dishes!
6. Mushrooms have a fair amount of protein in, and are also low fat. They can be used in almost everything, too. They come in lots of different varieties, and each has a slightly different flavour, so it’s worth doing a bit of research!
7. Beans. Even your staple baked beans are a good source of healthy protein. However, don’t just limit yourself to cans of beans! Beans like kidney beans, black beans and broad beans can be added to salads, stews and hundreds more dishes. They’re good at bulking up your meal, so you don’t feel hungry after you’ve eaten.
8. Chickpeas are used in hummus, but they are pretty filling and tasty and can be used in pretty much any meal. They’ve also got a high protein content, so it makes a great alternative to meat.
9. Lentils are pretty similar, and they also make great soup! They are almost fat-free, so they’re very healthy. Their small size and cooked texture means they are also pretty good for replacing minced meat with, so if you want to make tasty veggie Bolognese, lentils should be your first port of call!
10. Nuts. If you’re allergic, then obviously, stay away. If you’re not, then great! Nuts are a good way to get protein and healthy fat, so they make good snacks. Don’t eat too much though – some nuts like walnuts and pecan nuts have about a quarter of your fat GDA in one serving!
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