Vegetarians do not have the luxury of consuming any animal food products, including meat gotten from animal skin or flesh. This does not mean that their protein intake is impaired because there are a lot of plant products that still confer the same amount of proteins as animal products do. Over the years, there was improvement in food processing and this brought about the manufacturing of different meat alternatives for vegetarians. This was done to give them the feeling and taste of normal animal meat, irrespective of the fact that the products were produced from animal sources.
A vegetarian is someone who chooses to abstain from consuming meat, poultry, dairy and other products obtained from animals. Many people decide to be vegetarians based on ethical motivations that can be classified under various religious beliefs and animal rights advocacy. Other motivations can be related to health, politics, and environment, economic, cultural and personal preferences.
Meat alternatives offer several more advantages compared to normal meat. Vegan meats contain fewer calories, less fat and are free of cholesterol. Here are examples of meat alternatives for vegetarians:
Tofu is a classic meat alternative and is particularly appreciated as a low-calorie source of protein. Tofu is also versatile and available in countless variations, including aromatic, smoked and marinated types. They are usually flavoured with various herbs and spices.
Tofu is made using soaked soya beans which are mashed with water to form a puree which is smooth. The puree is then filtered to separate the firm fibrous constituents from the liquid content. The liquid is then heated to just below boiling point and curdled. This solidifies the liquid content similar to how cheese is made. The tofu is then pressed to slabs while the leftover solid mass commonly known as soya, is dehydrated and used as mince or chunks. The mince or chunks are then seasoned with herbs and spices, and then shallow fried in little oil to obtain the tofu.
- Soya Protein
Soya chunks and mince are very easy to prepare. They consist of dehydrated soya, which is mixed with water to produce a meat substitute that can be used in almost any dish. As with tofu, spice mixtures and marinades can be added to produce a mince with virtually any aroma or flavour. Vegetarians use soya mince for burgers, meat balls and Bolognese sauce.
Tempeh is a traditional Indonesian meat made from fermented soya beans. Tempeh is made from whole soybean and not soy milk, the soybean is then fermented. Tempeh has a drier texture and contains more fiber and protein than tofu. It also contains healthy prebiotics and probiotics as a result of the fermentation process. Tempeh may not be as versatile as tofu because it has a stronger flavour. Tempeh is stir-fried and added to salads or sandwiches. It is also suitable to use as a barbeque meat substitute.
It is also referred to as wheat protein. It is easy to season and prepare. It has a consistency which is very similar to meat. It is made by washing wheat flour dough with water until the starch granules have been removed, leaving only the wheat gluten. The raw dough can be boiled, baked or steamed to acquire the meaty texture. Seitan is ideal for making vegan sausages and cutlets. Sietan is not suitable for vegetarians that have celiac disease or those who are following a gluten-free diet.
- Textured Vegetable Protein (TVP)
Textured vegetable protein is a byproduct of soybean extraction. TVP is made by separating soybean protein from fat, using a high heat process which results in a curd-like product that is high in protein. TVP is dehydrated, so it is necessary to soak in hot water to cook it. Cooked TVP texture is similar to that of ground meat.
Some meat substitutes contain added vitamins and nutrients that are lacking in some vegetarian diet. Such nutrients like iron, zinc and vitamin B12. Choosing products that includes these nutrients can help people who do not eat meat, maintain a balanced diet.
Note that some store bought meat substitutes such as meatless chicken nuggets or veggie burger, could contain animal based ingredients, including eggs and cheese. Therefore, vegans should always check the labels to ensure that the food is free from animal products