Studies have shown that meatless diets are healthy for everyone, young and old, and have a bountiful amount of health benefits.
Vegetarians also have less of an impact on the environment by choosing plant-based foods over meat-based ones, with one university study determining that vegetarian diets require 13 times less fertilizer, 1.4 times fewer pesticides, and over 2.5 times less water and energy.
With all the benefits associated with vegetarianism, it's a wonder why some people still cringe at the thought of a meatless diet.
The fact is people don't have to surrender to a meatless lifestyle in order to decrease their carbon footprint and lead a healthier life. Anyone can have a positive effect on their health, and that of the environment, by decreasing their meat intake by one or two meals a week.
Soy-based products like tofu may look a little strange with their pale coloring and soft texture, but with the right cooking ideas and a list of recommended products, the switch to a pseudo-vegetarian diet isn't as dramatic. Some may even like it so much they decide to become full-fledged lacto-ovo-vegetarians, who don't eat any meat, period.
Below is a list of some soy-based meat substitutes recommended for a variety of international cuisine. Try them out once, you may be surprised.
- Smart Ground by LightLife, $3.99: This ground-beef substitute is great for taco salads, burritos, and pasta dishes such as spaghetti and lasagna. It has 10 grams of protein per serving and comes in original or Mexican-style varieties.
- Sausage links and patties from MorningStar Farms, $3-5: MorningStar's sausage links and patties are some of the best around. They're full of Italian seasoning and are great in pasta dishes. The sausage patties crumble into the perfect biscuit and gravy accompaniment, while the sausage links are great sliced and served atop homemade pizzas. Morning Star even makes meatless chicken nuggets, available in buffalo style or original, and are a great snack for kids and adults alike.
These items can be purchased at most Safeway grocery stores, including and .
- Tofu Yu, $2.59-4.50: This company out of Berkeley produces great firm tofu in an assortment of flavors, such as garlic pepper and hickory smoked. It's great served in Asian stirfries and Indian curries and Tofu Yu also has a chipotle-flavored tofu that's perfect for spice lovers.
- WildWood Organics, $3-5: Another brand of firm tofu available in an abundance of flavors, from garlic teriyaki to hickory barbecue. WildWood's tofu complements salads and sandwiches perfectly because it's baked and isn't as strong-flavored as Tofu Yu's.
- Seitan from Sweet Earth Natural Foods, $3.99: These vegetarian cutlets are great served with Mediterranean food. They hold seasoning well, so less is more, and are tasty paired with lettuce wraps or pita bread with a tzatziki yogurt and fresh, grilled vegetables.
- Sausage from Field Roast Grain Meat Co., $6: These sausages are great paired with just about anything, from a simple breakfast to baked dishes. They come in an assortment of flavors, such as smoked apply sausage, Mexican chipotle and Italian herbs.
These items are available at most health-food stores, such as and .