Whether you’re considering the transition to a plant based diet, new to being vegan, or been vegan for a while, chances are you’ve seen or heard of faux (pronounced: foh) meat, or meat replacements. There are tons of them! From very common veggie burgers to “beefy crumbles”, “hot dogs”, and even imitation fish, there are many meat substitutes and they are only going to become more common as plant based lifestyles are increasing in popularity.
For some people these substitutes seem weird, and for some, they are viable substitutes as they figure out what to eat as they change their eating habits. Personally, I don’t think all these new meat substitutes are any more weird than eating our lovely fallen animal friends. However, I have read ingredient labels on some of these faux meats before and been
grossed out less than impressed.
Most people adopt plant based diets on a quest to become healthier; I adopted this diet for that reason. And with that reasoning, I have not been able to embrace many faux meats because many are heavily processed with ingredients that are foreign to me just like the ingredients in many other processed foods that I don’t eat. Knowing that vegan doesn’t always equal healthy, I look at these products with curiosity, and I leave them on the shelf.
Most meat substitutes are made from soy, which has plenty of research to support both its healthfulness and harmfulness; from my research I agree more with the latter and tend not to eat much soy. However, I’ve found a few meat substitutes made from beans or pea protein that I have enjoyed. From my experiences with faux meat, usually something is not quite right (except for Sofritas at Chipotle and Vegetarian Lettuce wraps at P.F. Chang’s, those are always right/delicious). Having had very few positive experiences with faux meats, I eat them very sparingly.
Nutritionally speaking, of course faux meat is way healthier than meat. Meat substitutes have no cholesterol, contain fiber, rival the protein content of meat, and they are much lower in fat than meat. And of course they reduce the reliance on animal farming which is great for the animals and the environment. All of that is great, but not all meat substitutes are created equally. Some will have easily recognizable ingredients, and some will have multiple unrecognizable ingredients causing you to google them in the store.
Therefore, my advice is this: read the label. If you see a meat substitute that you’d like to try, investigate it, become familiar with the ingredients, and make sure it isn’t just junk food. And to make this veggieness experience even more lovely (see what I did there? lol!), use a coupon or make sure it’s on sale because faux meats can be expensive.
Furthermore, in most dishes that you’d like to use faux meat, you could use a vegetable instead. Lentils make a nice chunky spaghetti sauce instead of faux meat, and mushrooms, eggplants, artichoke hearts, and hearts of palm all have meaty textures that can be used to veganize some of your favorite non-vegan dishes. I always encourage people to do their research in deciding which foods to incorporate in their diets. Whether you’re faux meat or against it (ha!), experimentation with meat substitutes can broaden your plant based horizons.
Wishing you much love and veggieness,