Living in the modern society today especially in the city areas, we might forget what are real foods. Thinking back as children when we were raised to eat what our parents and families offered to us as healthy. Oftentimes we did not know what really is considered “healthy”.
The toughest part of the change to become a healthier person or a true vegan is our source of protein that most people question about.
Here I will be covering how to choose “the best vegan meat substitute products” for yourself and the people you care about.
Common mistakes when selecting vegan meat
Most of the time we do not know where to start. There are a huge variety of vegan meat products nowadays in supermarkets to online shops and carriers. Don’t try to jump into any type of brand just because it looks tasty or it has a great offer.
First, try looking at the front of the packaging and read all the large labels. Lots of them will advertise as: Non-Gmo, Organic Certified, low sodium, etc. These are great but they do not have much information about the content in the product itself.
Many products have lots of labels to advertise themselves as more healthy or more organic. But in the real world, organic does not mean pesticide-free or chemical free.
What to expect from buying pre-made vegan meat
Of course any prepackaged food has some kind of preservatives unless otherwise stated. When you find an interesting vegan meat product on the aisle that you want to try, pick it up and flip it over to the back, and read the nutrient content of the prepackaged vegan meat.
Remember reading the first ingredient on the ingredient list means that it is the majority of the ingredient in the food. As you read the list, the last ingredient would be the least amount in the food product.
As you read the ingredients focus on the ingredients that you can read, if you cannot pronounce it or understand what it means, then there’s a high possibility that it is a preservative or some kind of chemical that is not supposed to be in our food.
Sometimes we might assume that vegan meat is always better. Yes, you can put it that way when comparing to prepackaged real meat. They probably have the same amount of preservatives and chemicals, except real meat also contains animal protein and hormones which may affect the human body more so than plant protein.
So don’t get me wrong, vegan meat is a great alternative when starting out to be more plant-based versus our old diet, but whole foods are what we really want in our everyday life.
Watch out for your common allergens or intolerance!
Keep in mind this is the most important part of your decision. Many people may overlook this area because vegan meat alternatives are so popular these days. They all seem to be too healthy.
But what we need to focus on is the ingredients that come hidden inside our vegan pork sausages, vegan Italian meatballs, vegan tofu chicken, etc. I’m not saying that all vegan meat substitutes have harmful allergens. But just to understand better what it might look like.
Some common allergens could be:
Common mistake when most people think of protein, they don’t think of wheat would be inside their vegan sausages or vegan bacon.
Wheat is usually hidden in different forms inside meat substitutes such as:
seitan, wheat bran, all-purpose flour, bulgur, couscous, semolina, spelt, wheat berries, wheat gluten, malt, sprouted wheat, wheat germ, wheat protein isolates, cereal isolates, and while oats contain some wheat unless stated.
These are just a small list of what could be used inside the vegan meat.
Legumes (include soy, beans, and lentils):
You might have heard about allergies coming from beans and lentils. Although it is a staple food in some cultures, many people are not aware that they have intolerance towards these products.
Switching to a more plant-based diet in the beginning is a challenge. It’s hard to imagine the number of beans and legumes used in plant-based meats sold around the world.
What are legumes?:
Peanut, soy, Lupin, lentils, green peas, black-eyed peas, kidney beans, chickpeas, navy beans, Adzuki beans (the Japanese or Chinese kind of sweet red bean paste), fava beans, pinto beans, fenugreek (used in Indian curry cuisines), lima beans, hummus, and falafel.
Soy is a big thing in terms of vegan meat. It has been used for centuries especially in China. This is another ingredient used in most vegan meats.
Soy is usually easier to spot while reading the ingredient list on the back of the food packaging. But not everyone would recognize some popular names for certain soy products in vegan meats like “tempeh”.
Tempeh is a very popular vegan meat alternative. It is completely made of fermented soybean in a block form. Kind of look like a block of white cheese.
Other soy hidden in vegan meat could be: miso, natto, shoyu, tamari, textured vegetable protein (TVP), soy lecithin, soy protein isolates, isoflavone supplements, and concentrated isoflavones. This list can be endless, but these are some that could be more misleading.
Tofu of course is the most common type of soy product used in the vegan meat industry. It can be cooked in many ways from steaming, stir-fry, baking, grilled, oven-baked, or even deep-fried.
Tofu has been used for centuries. No matter where you go, there would be some sort of tofu related vegan meats out there.
There are so many other additives and food coloring that could be inside of our purchased vegan meat. Remember to always check the nutrition label in our vegan meat package.
Understanding all the items that we went through, now we can finally focus on our target: Which ones are the tastiest and free of harmful substances?
Selecting the tastiest vegan meat that I’ve tried
Claims to be Soy free, gluten free, GMO free.
It comes in different varieties some contains GMO free “soy” so watch out for those.
Comes in burger patties, sausages, meat crumbles, and chicken strips.
The last time I had a Beyond Burger, the taste is still very explosive. It is the tastiest burger patty in the vegan world. It does taste better than a regular beef patty in my opinion.
However, it’s not something you would always want to eat. It does contain quite a bit of salt and flavors makes me a bit dehydrated every time I eat it. But that’s just me. How do you like it?
Claims to be non GMO. It does contain gluten and soy.
Comes in various of selections: burger patties, meatball, crispy tenders, mandarin orange chicken, fishless fillets, porkless bites, pizza pockets, etc.
I like Gardein products, the sauces are packaged independently. You can choose the dose of your sauces. But I would have to say the meat itself without any sauces is quite bland. It is a better alternative if you were to implement it in your daily diet because the taste is not as strong as Beyond Burger.
Claims to be non GMO. However, it does contain gluten and soy. And their genetically engineered soy (Leghemoglobin – they call it the “heme”) for their taste in the vegan meat.
I kind of like them. I only tried the Impossible Burger once. It is a pretty good texture. But in terms of flavor I wasn’t really satisfied with it. It was quite bland and dry.
Claims to be GMO free. It contains soy and wheat.
Omnipork is a new brand released in Hong Kong recently in 2018. It is an Asian specific type of ground pork that is used in many Asian dishes from steamed pork meats, Asian stir-fry to dim sum dumplings and buns.
I personally like it when it’s made into certain dishes. But the pork itself is quite bland, I guess it’s an imitation of real ground pork. But it works great in seasoned Asian dishes.
Other vegan meats that are wheat free and soy free:
So far I haven’t had a chance to try these, but these are better alternatives when it comes to soy free and wheat free.
Amy’s, Sunflower Family, and Sunshine Burger:
These companies claim to be soy free, wheat free, GMO free, corn free, nut free, etc. But you would need to check the nutrition labels to find your needs because they have a variety of products each one is different.
Buying and eating what you need is the key
Understanding the different types of meat substitutes available to us is a great advantage whenever we plan to take the steps to become more plant-based. Our society is full of advertisement and commercials.
Sometimes it’s very difficult to choose what is better for ourselves. I like to keep things simple and real. Hope you find this article helpful to start your vegan journey. What do you do when you have so much advertisements around you and how do you select your protein?