Hail Seitan: 4 Protein-Packed Alternatives to Red Meat

Source: iStock

Source: iStock

A healthy lifestyle is built upon a foundation of two elements: sleep and diet. Exercise is also in the mix, but getting enough rest, and fueling your body with the proper dosage and blend of nutrients are even more essential than physical activity. When it comes to actually sitting down and formulating a healthy, sustainable diet, there are a lot of things to take into consideration. If you’re willing to make some even bigger changes, like giving up meat, it can throw yet another ball in the air.

But why give up meat? There are plenty of reasons to consider it — red meat, in particular. While poultry and seafood are typically lean, and contain many healthy fats and oils, red meats are finding their way onto more and more lists of things to avoid. For example, beef, which is a dietary staple for a good portion of people, is loaded with fat, cholesterol, and calories; there’s a big difference between a hamburger and a piece of salmon.

Red meat consumption is a major component in America’s obesity epidemic, leading to spiking rates of heart disease and diabetes, and has even been found to be carcinogenic. If you eat it in moderation, of course, you’ll probably be fine — but for a lot of people, it’s eaten two or three times a day. With study after study showing that red meat is fairly unhealthy, you can’t be blamed for wanting to cut it out of your diet.

“But where will I get protein, iron, and fats?” you may ask yourself. Well, there are plenty of alternative sources out there — and making the switch isn’t as painful as you might think.

Whether you’re a vegan, vegetarian, pescetarian, or just someone who wants to lay off the steak and cheeseburgers for a few months, your local grocer has tons of options. While you may miss the sizzle and grizzle of a sirloin, your arteries will thank you for going with another option — but it’ll take discipline. These alternatives should help with the transition.

Try these four foods in lieu of red meat, to help you get the protein and nutrients you need to live a healthy lifestyle.

1. Legumes

Source: iStock

Source: iStock

Legumes are a rather broad food group, but to make things easier, it includes things like beans, seeds, and lentils. All of these are technically dried fruits of certain plants, that grow with certain structures that differentiate them from other vegetables or common fruits. But that’s all relatively unimportant. What is important is that these foods — beans, in particular — can deliver a good amount of protein to help you kick red meat.

For example, try a black bean burger instead of a hamburger at your next cookout. Or instead of beef on your nachos or chili, throw some beans on there. If you love to snack on beef jerky, try substituting seeds in. Certain legumes will have more nutrients, but you’ll definitely hit your protein and fiber goals with a hearty helping.

2. Seitan

Seitan, vegetarian

Source: iStock

Hail seitan? Damn right — if you’re looking for an alternative to red meat.

Seitan is simply another word for wheat gluten. It’s basically just a food comprised of gluten. So, if you’re subscribing to a gluten-free lifestyle, you’ll have to look elsewhere. Seitan can be an excellent alternative to red meat in many dishes, and when used in conjunction with the right spices and seasonings, can taste very similar. It’s also loaded with protein — that’s what it is, after all. Wheat protein.

It may take some getting used to, but if you’re looking for a protein-loaded meat substitute, seitan is it.

3. Tofu

Raw Soy Tofu in a bowl

Source: iStock

Tofu is as versatile a food as there is. Yes, it’s basically a cube of soy — but that’s not how it’s meant to be eaten. It can be seasoned and cooked in seemingly infinite ways, and thus used as an alternative to things like chicken. Tofu is what you make of it. So don’t let your preconceived notions taint it.

With that said, tofu also has a good amount of protein. Typically, you can count on 10 grams or so per half cup. No, it’s not the same as a steak, but it’s much healthier and, as mentioned, is incredibly versatile. Experiment with tofu, and let it become a new key source of protein in your diet.

4. Quinoa

Source: iStock

Source: iStock

There’s that funny word that hippies toss around: quinoa. No, you won’t find it on most menus, but it’s growing in popularity, and for good reason. Quinoa is hard to describe. It’s almost like a pasta, in some ways, and like cereal in others. Or it may seem like you’re just eating a bowl of seeds. Either way, it originates from South America, where indigenous peoples have been eating it for thousands of years.

And you should take note, because it’s very healthy, and loaded with protein. There are around eight grams of protein per cup — which isn’t the same as a scoop of whey, but is still pretty good. And like tofu or seitan, you can use it in a myriad of different ways. Let your inner hippie rejoice.

Follow Sam on Twitter @Sliceofginger

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