Ever hear of Smart Bacon? Or Smart Deli Bologna, Turkey or Pepperoni? If not, please know that this is the veggie’s “answer” to meat—FAKE meat. While my intention is not to product bash (bad karma), it is necessary to mention these packaged prizes to make my point.
Many years ago, an animal eating family turned vegetarian came to me. The Mrs. wanted to make sure that her family was getting enough nutrition through their vegetarian choices—a super smart move I might add. This is the gist of what a typical day looked like for this crew:
Breakfast Eggs and Smart Bacon (or toast with melted cheese, pancakes, waffles…)
Lunch Smart Deli turkey sandwich with lettuce and tomato (or pizza, cheese nachos…)
Family Dinner Pizza (or cheese lasagna, macaroni and cheese, cheese quesadillas, “veggie” burgers…)
So, what’s wrong with this picture? For starters, the fake meat! But in their defense, they were a meat loving family at heart so when they chose to make the transition to vegetarian it seemed natural to turn to the oxymoronic “vegetarian meats” as their newfound protein source. Marry that with a little cheese on top of your cheese as well as lots of pasta and bread and you have one handful of unhealthy vegetarians.
Lunchmeats, whether real or fake, are highly processed and laced with lots of salt. In addition, most of the phonies are made with chewed up soy (much better, less processed options include edamame, tempeh or tofu). When it comes to cheese, too much is no good due to saturated fat content and salt. And as far as carbohydrates, whole grains like rice or quinoa are better options than breads and pasta.
While this case was pretty extreme, I see versions of this more often than not. And I have come to the sad conclusion that people’s inability to indulge in a healthy plant-based diet boils down to two words—protein and cooking.
Let me explain. Peeps who eat meat typically believe that animal foods are the best source of protein. So when they remove the flesh they up the ante on the dairy and eggs. And then of course turn to replacement “flesh” as in fake meats. Let’s get something straight—legumes (from whole beans to tempeh and tofu) are a great source of protein. So are nuts and seeds.
But the other “ish” here is cooking. It’s all well and good that a healthy vegetarian diet is comprised of the following whole foods:
- Fresh vegetables and fruits
- Legumes (from beans to tofu)
- Nuts, seeds
- Moderate dairy
If you don’t know how to cook with them and get creative then the easy out is cheesy, bready, pasta. But, I have another suggestion—how about checking out some of my favorite vegetarian (and some vegan) cookbooks:
- The Cabbagetown Cafe Cookbookby Julie Jordan
- The New Enchanted Broccoli Forestby Mollie Katzen
- The Book of Whole Mealsby Annemarie Colbin
- Food for the Vegetarian: Traditional Lebanese Recipesby Aida Karaoglan
- The Common Ground Dessert Cookbookby The Common Ground
- The Art of Indian Vegetarian Cookingby Yamuna Devi
- The Voluptuous Vegan by Myra Kornfeld
- The Millennium Cookbookby Eric Tucker & John Westerdahl
By the way, the occasional fake meat is no big deal (if ya gotta have it that is). Even the cheese, bread and pasta are fine—but not as the foundation of a vegetarian way of life.
Let’s keep this conversation going. Please feel free to share your thoughts and opinions. I would love to hear from you!