People who decide to become vegetarians, or who at least want to limit the amount of meat in their diets, often find it difficult to give up certain foods they've been long accustomed to. The idea of maybe never eating another hamburger is a daunting one for anyone who has grown up eating them.
Working in a health-food store, I encounter a lot of newer vegetarians, and also people who've been living without meat for years, who are looking for more options to add to their diets. Many vegetarians eventually just start making most of their meals from scratch, but for those who desire convenience or don't possess the kitchen skills to get beyond mixing a salad, there are plenty of choices that are either ready out of the box or just need to be warmed up.
I asked a couple of good friends who have lived for decades without meat in their diets for good suggestions to seek out at the grocery store. Here are some vegetarian foods to check out:
8. Amy's Kitchen Quarter Pound Veggie Burger
My pal Tommy Thunders (Yes, that's his name) swears by these large veggie burgers. Amy's Kitchen seems to be a major player in the vegetarian convenience food market, and everything I've ever had from them has been tasty, particularly their enchiladas and Indian dishes. The Quarter Pound Veggie Burger is described this way on Amy's Kitchen's website:
"Amy's Quarter Pound Veggie Burger combines fresh organic grains and vegetables with protein-rich soybeans and a hint of barbeque sauce to create a firm, great tasting burger that's perfect for barbecuing or grilling." That, combined with Tommy's endorsement, is enough to steer me towards this burger the next time I'm at the store.
7. Field Roast Brand Sausages
Tommy also suggested these, and I sell them at the store where I work. They really are exceptional vegetarian alternatives to meat sausages. The flavors are great, and they have a texture similar to that of meat sausages, something that can be difficult to achieve. The sausages come in three flavors, and the description from the company's website is mouthwatering:
Italian - made with fresh eggplant and packed with fennel, red wine, garlic and sweet peppers.
Mexican Chipotle - a spicy-hot blend of smoked Chipotle peppers, Chili de Arbol peppers, fresh chopped garlic, sweet onions seasoned with cumin seed and oregano.
Smoked Apple Sage - a savory combination of apples and sage anchored with Yukon gold potatoes with a subtle hint of hickory smoke.
Pro tip from Tommy: These sausages are awesome eaten like hot dogs, on a bun with barbecue sauce and cheddar.
6. Lightlife Organic Smoky Tempeh Strips Described as tasting like a smoky bacon, these tempeh strips are great on top of veggie burgers or other dishes such as salads. Tempeh is made from soybeans, and is very versatile. Lightlife also makes good veggie hot dogs and other foods.
5. Beyond Meat Grilled Strips
The Beyond Meat line makes convincing meat alternatives, and the grilled "chicken style" strips are outstanding as a stand-in on wraps or tacos, or really anything that grilled chicken would be used on.
4. Quorn Products
Quorn's line of meat substitutes is made from mycoprotein, a high-quality meat-free protein, and they have a vast number of products including "chicken" tenders, ground-"beef"-style crumbles and veggie burgers. They are soy-free, and some of the best chicken-style substitutes on the market. Well worth checking out.
3. Daiya Cheddar Style Shreds This is one of the most convincing vegan stand-ins for cheese that I have found. Daiya makes several different types of shreds, and all of them stretch and melt convincingly, but the cheddar is the best tasting of the bunch in my opinion.
2. Eden Foods Organic Edensoy Original This soy milk was suggested by my friend and vegan coworker Melody Anderson, who claims that it's the only "pre-packed un-milk worth buying." It's the only one without fillers or sugars of any kind, and a yummy alternative to milk.
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1. South River Miso
Melody also suggested this brand of miso -- a fermented combination of soybeans, cultured grain and sea salt that can be pungent or mild depending on how dark it is. Light-colored miso can be used as a dairy substitute. Miso can be made into soup or added to salad dressings, it can be used as a topping on pizzas, or put to any number of other uses. It's an extremely versatile food that's been a staple of Japanese cuisine for thousands of years. Yummy stuff.
A vegetarian or vegan diet can be delicious and as varied as that of carnivores, and despite ridiculous stereotypes that portray all vegetarians as skinny, unhealthy hippies (trust me, that's a stupid misconception; my friend Tommy is a research scientist and bodybuilder who hasn't touched meat in years, and he's one of the smartest and biggest dudes I know), more and more people are leaving meat behind, or are at least trying to limit how much they consume for one reason or another.
For those vegetarians who still wish to eat a burger or sausage, or for vegans who want to eat something similar to cheese, there are more options out there than ever, and these are just a few of them.