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Vegetarian Substitutes for Red Meat

Given the abundance of recipes traditionally prepared with red meat, it's no wonder vegetarians are in need of meat-free substitutes. Vegetarians can use various red meat substitutes made from soy, gluten, beans and vegetables.

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Traditionally, there were only a few vegetarian red meat substitutes available. Most red meat substitutes were made of tofu and beans, and few of them resembled meat in taste or texture. Although some vegetarians still prefer tofu to less-traditional vegetarian substitutes, others enjoy the "meaty" texture of newer commercial substitutes. Best of all, vegetarian red meat substitutes are low in fat and calories but high in protein, vitamins and fiber.

Commercial Red Meat Substitutes

Many supermarkets carry commercial red meat substitutes, which consumers can usually find in the grocery's frozen section. Most red meat substitutes contain a mix of vegetables, soy, gluten, and flavorings. Companies make every kind of red meat substitute imaginable, including meatballs, burgers, ribs, steak, sausages, ground beef, hot dogs, bacon and even cold cuts. Because these substitutes are meat free, they are low in cholesterol and unhealthy saturated fats. Most commercial red meat substitutes taste remarkably similar to products made with actual meat, making them easy substitutes in any dish that calls for meat.

Traditional Red Meat Substitutes

Before commercial substitutes were on the market, vegetarians often substituted red meat with tofu. Tofu is a nutritious food made from soy that is coagulated (or thickened) to create a firm block. Soybeans are not only rich in protein and essential amino acids, but soy is also an excellent source of calcium, phosphorus, iron, magnesium, and zinc. Tofu's vast nutritional benefits make it an excellent alternative to red meat, but tofu's texture is often unappetizing because it is much softer and sponge-like than meat. If you can get past the texture, tofu will easily adapt to whatever sauces or marinades you put it in. Another soy-based red meat substitute is tempeh, which might be preferable due to its textured, toothsome bite. Crumbled and seasoned tempeh works particularly well as a substitute for sausage.

Vegetable Red Meat Substitutes

You can get a little creative when substituting for red meat. Instead of using something that tastes like or resembles red meat, you could use a vegetable that provides vitamins and nutrients. Which vegetable you use depends on the recipe. For example, thinly sliced eggplant or Portobello mushroom caps might work as burger or cutlet substitutes. Eggplant is a good choice because it's loaded with fiber, B vitamins, antioxidants and potassium. Mushrooms are a popular choice because they absorb flavors well and become plump and meaty when grilled. Beans are loaded with protein and fiber, and work well as a versatile option in soups, salads and entrees.

No matter which vegetarian substitute you choose, you will be sure to trim fat and calories from your dish compared to dishes prepared with red meat. Better yet, vegetarian substitutes for red meat provide similar nutritional value in terms of protein and vitamins without clogging your arteries.

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