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Getting Your Protein When You Don't Eat Meat

Getting Your Protein When You Don't Eat Meat

What is seitan?
How do you cook with seitan?
What is tofu?
How do you cook with tofu?
What about other meat alternatives?

Meat packs a powerful protein punch. But some plant foods supply this important nutrient too. And foods made from plants like soybeans are lower in saturated fat and cholesterol than foods from animal sources. Whether you choose to eat a vegetarian diet or you just want to cut down on the amount of meat you eat, you have options. Get the protein your body needs by adding seitan or tofu instead of ground beef, chicken, or fish to your favorite dishes. back to top

What is seitan?
Seitan is made from wheat protein, also called gluten. It is a thick, brown paste with a chewy, meatlike texture. Some supermarkets carry seitan. You can also find it in health food stores. Look for seitan at your supermarket in the refrigerated case in the produce section or near the prepackaged meats like hot dogs and bacon. back to top

How do you cook with seitan?
You can use seitan in any dish that calls for chopped or ground meat. For example, it makes a "meaty" spaghetti sauce when cooked with canned tomatoes and some herbs and spices like basil. Try seitan in casseroles, soups, and chili too. Or add a layer of seitan to your lasagna. back to top

What is tofu?
Tofu is one of many meat substitutes made from soybeans. It tastes pretty bland on its own, but it absorbs the flavor from other ingredients, herbs, and spices. That means you can use it in many different dishes, from Asian cooking to Italian fare. Tofu blends in, soaks up the seasonings, and adds texture to the meal. And it is a good source of nutrients you can use like protein. Some brands of tofu have added calcium, so check the food label. Some stores sell tofu that has been flavored with Asian five-spice powder or teriyaki sauce. Look for tofu in the refrigerated case in the produce section of the market. back to top

How do you cook with tofu?
Tofu may be the most flexible nonmeat protein source. It comes in a variety of prepared foods like tofu hot dogs. You'll find that there are three types of tofu:
  • Soft, or silken, tofu. This creamy tofu is good for dressings, dips, soups, sauces, and shakes. You can whip it up in the blender until it has the texture of cream cheese and then add herbs and spices to make a dip. Or add maple syrup and a few drops of vanilla extract to silken tofu and whip it in the blender. This makes a tasty topping for any dessert. You can also blend silken tofu with fruit, soy milk, or juice to make a nondairy shake. Add silken tofu to chowders and soups to make them thick and creamy.
  • Medium-firm tofu. This type of tofu can be cut up and tossed into vegetable and pasta salads. You can mash it and use it to replace all or part of the ricotta cheese or cottage cheese in most recipes. Or stir it into chopped vegetables and herbs like basil, and scramble it up in a frying pan. If you eat eggs, you may want to toss an egg into the tofu mixture for added flavor. You can also use medium-firm tofu to replace some or all of the tuna in a tuna salad sandwich. Tofu can also replace all or some of the mayonnaise in any salad.
  • Firm tofu. Firm tofu can be used like beef, chicken, or fish. Perhaps the most common way to prepare firm tofu is to cut it into cubes and then stir-fry it with vegetables and seasonings like ginger and soy sauce. Or cook tofu cubes in a noodle soup with vegetable broth or miso, a mild Asian soup made with soybean paste. For a more western approach to tofu, prepare a marinade you like and soak a slice of tofu in it for a few hours. Then grill the tofu along with vegetables like red bell peppers and zucchini slices for a summer salad or sandwich. back to top
What about other meat alternatives?
There are several other meat substitutes made with soybeans. These include tempeh and textured soy protein. You can also find veggie burgers in the frozen food aisle of most markets. Or make your own veggie burger from scratch using a thick paste of cooked lentils or chickpeas. Add a few herbs and spices for flavor and then broil your homemade burger. If soybeans and lentils aren't your cup of tea, portobello mushrooms make a good meat substitute. Look for those big mushroom caps in the produce aisle and grill or broil them for fajitas. Or use one portobello mushroom cap to make a great burger. Add your favorite condiments and enjoy! back to top

Last Modified Date: 4/2/2001
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