Choosing renewable energy, driving a electric vehicle, reducing single use plastics, composting & recycling are all obvious ways of helping the environment, and for many people some, if not all, of these are becoming second nature.
Utilities are switching to renewable energy, cities are legislating against single use plastic bags, drinking straws, packaging, cutlery and more. Our kids are taught in school how to separate waste into landfill, recycling & composting streams, as well as being taught why they should minimize what goes into the landfill one.
There is one major contributor to global climate change that is not as well known, and will perhaps be harder for people to reduce: eating meat. Those who have been on vegetarian or vegan diets for a long time know how to make delicious, and nutritious, meals without meat, but somebody learning about meat’s impact on the environment might then start to wonder how they could reduce their meat consumption and not be left disappointed.
The most obvious way to make the transition, even if just for a “Meatless Monday” single day of the week at first, is to use a meat substitute. You may hear some say this is not the way to do this, but feel free to ignore that advice. I have not eaten meat for over 30 years, and I still enjoy some of the meat substitutes in dishes, and often try new products in this category. I’m going to let you know which ones I like best in this article.
It is not hard to have a satisfying and meatless breakfast without any meat alternatives – many people do so every day anyway with cereals, toast or pastries. If you crave that cooked breakfast though, here’s a few options.
One of my favorites in the breakfast category is the MorningStar Farms original sausage patty. These taste better than I remember any sausage ever tasting, and if you’re tight on time can be microwaved in just 90 seconds and dropped between two slices of bread for a delicious sausage sandwich.
They also work really well in lots of other recipes that call for sausage meat; just heat them, chop them up as needed by the recipe and enjoy knowing you’re helping the environment and also eating less fat.
Other options: MorningStar Farms sausage links are great if you’re doing a more traditional cooked breakfast. I was not a fan of their alternative “bacon strips” however.
By this point, most people have probably seen at least one veggie burger, and wondered what they taste like. Honestly? Some are great, most are mediocre and some are downright awful. If you try one and do not like it, try a different one. In the meat world, burgers really only come in a few variants, though I’m sure most people will agree they can also taste anywhere from amazing to awful much like the veggie ones. The difference in the case of veggie burgers is the vast number of options.
Loosely speaking, they can be grouped into three categories: meat alternative, bean burgers and vegetable burgers. For this article, I’m only going to look at the meat alternative category.
When you’re eating out, the current market favorite is the Impossible Burger (shown above). An ever increasing number of restaurants and “gourmet” burger places are starting to offer this meat-like burger, frequently as just a patty substitution in their burger offerings. I have tried it a number of times, from several establishments, and been disappointed every time, but perhaps it is too close in taste to meat for my palette now
At home, I have been using the Beyond Meat “Beyond Burger” recently when I can get them (our local Safeway is now stocking them, in the meat aisle rather than with the other veggie burgers). These are similar to the Impossible Foods ones in concept, but I think they taste a little better. They’re also available for use at home.
There are many options for replacing ground beef with meatless alternatives, and most of them will work in just about any recipe. My personal favorite is the Quorn Meatless Grounds, though the MorningStar Farms ones are a very close second.
In pasta dishes, I have used these in classic Bolognese-style sauce, and vegetarian lasagnes which have proven successful with meat eaters & vegetarians alike. Even my kids will happily eat these dishes.
Many recipes call for something a little larger than ground meat. I have tried many of these, including some recent options based on jack fruit. My favorite remains the one I was used to using over 20 years ago in the UK before I left: Quorn. Specifically, what is now being called Meatless Pieces.
These are amazingly flexible cubes of Quorn that can be used in all kinds of recipes. I have added them to soups, used them in curries, pasta dishes, Chinese dishes and more. Recently, they have added a vegan version to the range as well, though the texture is a little different.
While the texture is not quite the same as chicken, it is sufficiently textured that it avoids some of the complaints frequently leveled at tofu.
Seitan, sometimes referred to as “textured vegetable protein,” is another good option for replacing meat without sacrificing the texture of meat in the dish. Most of the these alternatives are mild in flavor on their own, but will absorb flavor from the dish you are making very quickly, making marinading unnecessary in most cases.
Sausages, apart from breakfast links (see above), have traditionally been harder to find good alternatives for. Recently, Beyond Meat added three varieties of sausage to their product offerings making this a little easier. So far, I have only tried the hot Italian version, but I was pleasantly surprised both cooking them as sausages for a fairly traditional sausage dinner and also using them chopped up in a pasta dish.
For pasta dishes, I have also used the Field Roast sausages, but those are not really in the category of meat alternative.
Once again, Quorn has my favorite offering in the segment of roasts. If you’re looking for something to replace a roast chicken, or turkey, perhaps for a returning family member who has switched to a vegetarian diet, you will not go far wrong with this. As with chicken, any leftovers can be sliced cold and used in sandwiches or with salads.
The only alternative to this that I would recommend are the Tofurky roasts. The roast with gravy option is a great way to provide a vegetarian alternative to that holiday meal for any vegetarian guests.
Looking for something to put in a sandwich? Aside from leftover Quorn roast, Tofurky make some great sliced meat alternatives in a wide variety of styles/flavors that work well in sandwiches and salads in place of cold meats.