The Best “Meaty” Plant-Based Alternatives for All of Your Favorite Dishes

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If you’re looking for a healthy challenge this year (that will benefit you and the planet), try incorporating a meatless day into your weekly routine.

Plant-Based Tempeh Skewers with Dairy-Free Dipping Sauce | Vitacost.com/Blog

As people focus more and more on weight loss, reversal of chronic diseases and reducing cholesterol and saturated fat in their diets, meat alternatives are growing in popularity.

Meat alternatives have been on the market for several years now but have just recently gained more attention. However, just because a product is a meat alternative doesn’t always make it a healthy option. Some companies may add a great deal of oils such as coconut or palm oil. Reading the ingredients and nutrition facts label is the best way to ensure its low in saturated fat and sodium.

Meat alternatives that are rich in fiber, vitamins and minerals, and are lower in saturated fat can add a lot of healthy variety to your diet. Meat alternatives aren’t just great for our personal health, they’re significantly more sustainable and excellent for the environment.

A lot of meat alternative bases are in the form of soy, nuts, seeds, mushrooms, lentils, beans, peas and wheat gluten. Nowadays, you can find almost anything that’s meat-based in a plant-based substitute, including hot dogs, sausage, bacon, ground beef, meatballs, chicken, fish and even pulled pork. For those who prefer a healthier whole-food option, here’s a list of some of our favorite picks: 

1. Jackfruit

Vegan Tacos with Chipotle Jackfruit, Avocado & Lime | Vitacost.com/blog

Jackfruit is a great alternative to pulled pork and shredded chicken. This ingredient is specifically ideal for southern dishes and Mexican-inspired meals. Try spicy chipotle jackfruit tacos or warming jackfruit chili. Remember, even though jackfruit is a great meat alternative, it is lower in protein than other alternatives. Be sure to serve with beans or tofu for a protein-rich dish.

2. Carrots

Vegan Carrot Dogs

Believe it or not, carrots make a great alternative for hot dogs with the right marinade, and with a bit of knife skill can even be curved at their ends to resemble the same shape. Also, plant-based fish meals that have tuna or salmon can also be recreated with this veggie, making them great for lox and sushi dishes. Not to mention, this is one of the most cost effective produce options.

3. Tofu & Tempeh

Vegan Grilled Tempeh Sliders | Vitacost.com/Blog

You can easily add tofu, which is made from soybean curds, to any stir fry. It’s easy to work with and takes on any flavor it’s cooked in. Marinate tofu in the same sauces and seasonings you use to flavor steak and fish to recreate recipes you love. Tofu can even be used as an alternative to chicken Parmesan by coating it with breadcrumbs.

From the same family, tempeh is made from whole soybeans. It’s fermented, which makes it a bit richer in fiber, containing more prebiotics and probiotics from the fermentation process. Tempeh is an excellent source of protein for sandwiches or wraps. Marinate with your favorite barbecue or teriyaki sauce and enjoy.

4. Seitan 

Homemade Meatless Vegan Brisket | Vitacost.com/Blog

Derived from wheat gluten, the starch is removed from the wheat, giving seitan more of a meaty texture. Seitan is rich in vitamin B-6, niacin and riboflavin and is a fantastic option for dishes made to resemble chunks or strips of meat such as stews, Philly cheesesteak sandwiches and stroganoff!

Those are just a few of the many meat alternatives out there. When possible, it’s a great idea to make some of these at home, such as a black bean sweet potato burger or carrot hot dogs. This way you’re controlling what you put into your food!