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Last Updated on July 8, 2021
We all want to lead a healthy life. Yet in our consumerist society many of us find this to be an eternal struggle between two competing sides. One bombards you with a constant stream of advertising filled with aggressive commercials for junk food, from fast food chains, confectionary suppliers and meat producers. The other keeps prodding us with constant warnings about heart disease, high cholesterol and diabetes, often attempting to flog us medication but without offering advice on how to lead a healthier life. For many people, this can cause anxiety, and being confronted with this mixed messaging can certainly feel overwhelming.
We all know the basics of how to improve our physical health: a combination of exercise and diet. Both are equally important but getting the ball rolling is always a challenge. While going walking, running or cycling every week can be doable and very enjoyable, often just a case of finding the time in your weekly routine, altering your diet can be deceptively more difficult. After all, humans are creatures of habit so shaking up what can be deeply entrenched meal routines and branching out is a tough undertaking.
With more and more of us attempting to cut down on our meat consumption (for environmental and/or health reasons), meat ‘substitutes’ have been touted as a way forward if, like me, you are wedded to your home comforts. Whether you are going vegan or vegetarian, there are a range of products out there that can seamlessly fill the meat shaped hole left in your new diet.
But what factors should you consider when shopping around for your meat alternatives?
Go green or go home
Whether this was your intention when you looked to cut down your meat eating or not, it is nevertheless important that we make ethical choices with what ingredients we buy for our new menus. The majority of meat alternatives contain soy, as it is high in protein, gluten free and can be manufactured in a way that it emulates the texture of chicken or beef. Yet much of the world’s cheapest soy comes from Brazil and is linked to heavy deforestation in the Amazon, more so than most meats! As such, it is vital that we buy products which use sustainable soy from verified providers to ensure our new meals are as healthy for us as they are for the planet.
Make sure they are actually healthy
Now this might sound like an obvious point but it is important to make sure that your new meat alternatives are actually healthy. Many producers in the meat alternative industry put a lot of effort into marketing themselves as health foods yet certain substitutes have a very high salt content, particularly those bought in pre-made, pre-packaged meals or from vegan fast food vendors. At the end of the day, a vegan kebab might be healthier than its meaty counterpart but it is still a kebab so do not expect it to help cut down the pounds.
Don’t be shy with the seasoning
Owing to the above point, it is certainly advisable from a nutritional perspective to buy undressed, raw meat alternatives such as tofu or mycoprotein (commonly found in Quorn). But without ample seasoning, these foods can be bland enough to put you off, so you should always use significantly larger quantities of herbs and spices than you would when cooking with real meat. With enough paprika and cumin, you won’t notice the difference even if you cooked it yourself!
There has never been a better time to ditch meat but if you choose to go down this road, bare these things in mind to live a healthier, greener and tastier life.