It’s the burning question for non-meat eaters: what can I eat besides fruits, vegetables, grains and cheese?

Well, you’re in luck, because there are plenty of meat replacements on the market. In my last post I touched on some different brands that make meat substitutes, but in this post I’ll delve more into the topic.

Meat substitutes go beyond just a simple veggie burger. They look like meat, feel like meat, taste slightly different, and are just as nutrient-filled. They’re rich in protein and iron, but the best part is they contain virtually no cholesterol or saturated fat, and they’re low in regular fat. That goes for all burgers, forms of chicken, deli meats, you name it. And they’re also easy to cook–usually in the oven or on the stovetop. Tofu is also an excellent substitute for meat, as it’s quite versatile. Besides grilling it and eating it plain, it can also be used to make vegan “egg” salads, and it’s great in stir frys (it soaks up thin sauces like teriyaki really well). And then there’s tempeh, which is, to put it simply, deep-fried fermented soybeans.

But what are meat substitutes made of? The first ingredient (which is also the most abundant in the product) is water, followed by some version of soy protein. You couldn’t possibly feel bad about eating something that contains mostly water, could you?

These meat substitutes honestly taste really good. Of course there’s flavoring added, but that’s needed to give it the desired taste. To give you an idea of how you can utilize meat substitutes, here’s an example of a sandwich I usually have for lunch: a few slices of Tofurky (peppered, hickory-smoked…whatever I feel like buying for the week) on sprouted seven grain bread with a handful of organic greens and some kind of organic hummus (I usually change the flavor of the hummus to pair well with the flavor Tofurky I have). But that’s just what I eat–the possibilities are endless! You can make sandwiches of meatless chicken salad, grilled tempeh, you name it. It’s all about exploring your options and finding what works for you.

Here’s a recipe that’s quick, easy, and extremely delicious. Makes for a great lunch or dinner!

Southwest Chicken Salad

What you’ll need:

– Two or three Gardein Chipotle Lime Chicken Tenders
– Three cups organic spring mix (or you could use spinach, kale, mesclun…whatever you’d like!)
– 1/2 cup organic black beans
– 1/3 cup organic corn
– 3 tablespoons salsa (mild)
– 1/4 cup organic shredded cheddar (optional)

Put greens, black beans, corn (and cheddar for vegetarians) in a bowl–and make sure the beans and corn are cold (warm salads aren’t that tasty). Cook the tenders as directed, then cut them into strips and let them cool before adding them to the salad. Top with salsa (I like to use picante salsa that’s made in-house at Whole Foods…it’s really fresh) and mix well.

I just threw these ingredients together one day (sans cheddar) and kind of fell in love. These particular Gardein chicken tenders have a little kick to them, and the picante salsa from Whole Foods added more spiciness. The salsa also makes a great condiment–who needs creamy, fattening dressings anyway?!

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