These Foods Are Healthy Protein Alternatives to Meat

The World Health Organization released a study a few years back that pretty much squashed our hopes and dreams to say the least. And by that I mean that bacon (and other less-enticing-but-still-very-desirable meats) may increase your risk for cancer. This WHO report said that eating processed meats like bacon, hot dogs, and ham raises the risk of colon cancer and consuming other meats “probably” raises that risk, so protein alternatives are looking like a better bet.

Protein is an important part of a balanced diet, and many rely on red meat sources to get it. If you have to eat your meats, choosing unprocessed, grass-fed, organic meat is your best option. Eating organic tends to be a safe bet. Regardless of this disappointing news, there are plenty of foods you can swap for meat to decrease your chances of getting cancer.

1. Lentils and beans

black beans in a bowl

Add some black beans into your diet. | iStock.com

Super cheap and easy to find, lentils and beans can replace just about any meat. Both are extremely hearty and are easy as a replacement food. Lentils are typically a replacement for ground beef, and beans can be made into burgers, sausages, soups, or faux-tuna salad. Beans are also very filling and come in a number of varieties such as kidney, pinto, black, northern, and garbanzo.

2. Mushrooms

mushrooms

Mushrooms have a meaty texture. | iStock.com

Umami is a specific flavor, sometimes described as an “earthy” taste, often found in various meats and some vegetables, like tomatoes. Mushrooms are full of umami and are often used to replace burgers because they have a rich flavor and a similar consistency. Mushrooms are surprisingly filling and go with just about anything. Try portobello or cremini mushrooms for a meaty, umami taste.

3. Potatoes

potatoes

Potatoes are filling and full of nutrients. | iStock.com

Forget side dishes — you can also use potatoes as the main part of your entree. Toss a potato on a burger with cheese, or make a hearty potato soup. You can even make healthy desserts with potatoes.

4. Tempeh and tofu

baked tofu with spices

Tofu and tempeh can be delicious when cooked well. | iStock.com

People who love meat may look down on tempeh and tofu, but they are very versatile plant-based protein sources. Tempeh and tofu are made from soybeans and often have the same consistency as some meats, depending on how you cook them. Tempeh is firmer than tofu and is often used as a vegan swap for bacon. Tempeh is fermented and has a nutty taste that goes well with just about anything. Use tempeh on a breakfast sandwich, a burger, or on its own. Tofu is great because you can use it in a stir-fry, pasta dish, by itself, in a salad, or on a wrap. The options are endless. Don’t knock these two foods until you try them. Tempeh also has 21 grams of protein compared to tofu’s 9 grams per 4 ounces.

5. Eggs

eggs

You can’t go wrong with eggs. | iStock.com

Eggs are a fantastic source of protein and are virtually limitless in terms of what you can make with them. Make a hearty egg burger by loading up a fried egg with cheese and all your normal burger fixings, and you’ll have a great meatless meal. If you love your breakfast sandwiches with bacon, just use an extra egg to add protein. The yolk contains lutein, carotenoids, and vitamins A, D, E, and K. How’s that for a power-packed food?

6. Coconut flakes

coconut truffles

Coconut flakes go great with sweet or savory flavors. | iStock.com

OK, hear us out. Coconut flakes are an excellent substitute for bacon bits. So, next time you’re craving that unhealthy bacon of yours, make coconut flakes instead. They are salty, share the same texture as bacon, and will fill you up. Check out this recipe from The Kitchn. Coconut flakes may have a bit of a different taste, but if you prepare them the right way, you won’t even notice.

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