Healthy substitutes for processed meat

How to replace meat and processed meat in the diet

Complete meals without food of animal origin

Currently there is an exaggerated, unnecessary and harmful intake of processed meats, such as hamburgers, kebabs, sausages and cold meats, which has been shown to be harmful to health.

This increase in meat consumption has also been influenced by the fashion of eating a lot of meat, as many Atkins, Montignac or Dukan weight loss diets preached or are preaching , in which it is  recommended to eat meat in almost every meal of the day, with cold meats and sausages between meals daily.

Benefits of eating less meat

Alternatives to meat
Dry fruit, nuts, fresh fruit, breakfast options, or snacks, energetic and healthy. It is recommended to have these foods always in the pantry.

Beyond fashions, theories and miracle diets, it is totally unnecessary to eat so much meat and the consumption of processed meats should be avoided. This advice is especially important in children, who are more sensitive to the additives of processed meat and therefore should consume it in less quantity and frequency than adults.

Why should we eat less meat?

It is recommended to reduce the consumption of processed meats because eating them habitually increases the risk of cardiovascular diseases, obesity and cancer.

In addition, if we avoid the consumption of meat in a “recreational” way (such as fast food), we also avoid a lot of unnecessary animal suffering and serious environmental contamination problems that the meat industry produces, among which is the problem of transgenic soybeans and  water contamination.

See below healthy alternatives to replace meat of breakfast, snack, lunch and dinner, as well as the main questions that arise when reducing meat consumption.

If you do not eat protein, does your muscles decrease?

In addition to containing processed meats, animal fats, sugars and lots of salt, pastries cause liver congestion.

No, with any healthy food we make, the body will have energy and will not need to consume muscle mass. The musculature does not diminish by not eating proteins, since the body only activates the protein degradation in exceptional cases. Only the muscle is consumed to produce energy in fasting conditions (when we have not eaten for many hours and we are very active), or when there are serious nutrition problems.

Is it necessary to eat protein at every meal of the day?

It is not necessary to consume very high protein foods at all hours of the day if enough proteins are taken in the main meals.

  • Including meat at every meal is exaggerated, unnecessary and harmful to health.

This advice is especially important in children, because children are more sensitive to the additives of processed meat and should consume it in less quantity and frequency than adults.

Do children need a lot of protein?

Children do not need many proteins, but nutrients that provide them with energy to grow, mainly from carbohydrates and , in less amount,  healthy fats found in foods such as legumes, rice, oatmeal, bread, fruits, nuts and oil.

The consumption of ultra-processed industrial products such as pastries, chocolates, bars, soft drinks, cereals and other sugary products is discouraged because it predisposes to childhood obesity, which is related to a multitude of diseases such as diabetes, cholesterol, hypertension, fatty liver in children,  less quality of life and cancer. For this reason it is recommended to remove these products from the usual diet and consume natural foods, that is, those not processed by the industry.

Can you live with less meat?

Fortunately, the enormous availability of current nutritious foods means that daily consumption of meat is not necessary and would even allow us to take a vegetarian diet without totally healthy meat (with vitamin B12 supplements). Some studies have observed that in populations where meat consumption decreases, life expectancy increases.

Food for breakfast and snacks for children and adults

Among the vegetarian food options that can be eaten between meals, such as mid-morning breakfast or snack, are:

Fresh fruits full of antioxidants

Fresh fruits for breakfast
Fruits are ideal between meals. They are not very rich in sugars, it is a false myth. In addition, they provide essential nutrients.

Fruits do not contain much sugar and are one of the healthiest and lightest foods that exist, despite the many myths that always accompany them. One tangerine contains 30

calories (kcal), 6 grams of sugar and  zero fat.

Industrial juices or nectars are not recommended because they have lost vitamins and contain four times more sugar than whole fruit. Occasionally, an orange juice can be a good option, provided that whole fruits are also eaten in the diet.

Fruits are also healthy in diabetes, and all the myths about fermenting in the stomach, which are indigestible, etc. are false.

Nuts with healthy fats

Nuts are an energizing  and very nutritious food, rich in omega essential fatty acids, vegetable proteins, magnesium, folic acid and fiber.

Photo of nuts
Some nuts with very healthy fats

Nuts do not hinder the loss of weight and are recommended in diets to lose weight due to its satiating effect. A handful of hazelnuts provides 120 calories, 10 grams of fat and 2 grams of protein. They are the perfect companion for fruits and perfect to provide the energy to grow that children need.

Dry fruit, ideal for energy and sweetness

Dried fruit concentrates the nutrients of the fruits, mainly they are rich in sugar (natural candies) and very rich in fiber, calcium and magnesium. Approximately 6 dried apricots contain 160 calories, 30 grams of sugar and 3 grams of protein. Like nuts, they provide the energy to grow that children need: raisins, dried apricots, dates, plums, etc. In addition, with all these ingredients, oatmeal, some seeds and a little honey, you can prepare homemade bars that are kept for 3-4 days and can be brought to school.

To make a comparison, a 45g chocolate bar contains 220 calories, a 300 croissant, 3 slices of fried 600 bacon, some fries 300, and a fast-food burger, 800 calories.

Mixtures of fruit and nuts

Photo of orange with a little chocolate 85%
Photo of orange with a little chocolate 85%

At home you can prepare all kinds of mixtures with nuts, fruits, and some milk, such as yogurt, cheese, cottage cheese or milk. Versions are always better without sugar (for example, natural sugars, without added sugars).

Sandwich without meat, alternatives to cold cuts

It is very practical to use cold meats and sausages for sandwich because they are tasty and quick to prepare. However, it is recommended to remove them from the daily diet and replace them with more nutritious foods and with fewer additives, which are also easy to prepare, such as the following:

  • A vegetarian sandwich:  can be prepared with a multitude of ingredients, mainly vegetable patés are recommended, to which you can add energy ingredients such as nuts, avocado, cashew or sesame paste (tahini), all of them, very calcium-rich options. These options provide a lot of magnesium, calcium and folic acid. If prepared with legumes, as is the case with chickpea or hummus pate, it contains a non-negligible amount of vegetable protein (about 8 grams of protein, depending on the amount of tahini and chickpeas used).
Bread spread on vegetable pate of chickpeas (hummus).
Bread spread on vegetable pate of chickpeas (hummus).

It can also be prepared with lentil burgers or other ingredients (beets, etc.). In the case of vegetable patés you can spread some toasted guacamole, which contains many antioxidants such as vitamin E, ideal in summer, it is also a very energetic sauce.

Other options to substitute meat

  • Toast or crepes of homemade cocoa cream: It is a breakfast or snack very energetic and healthy, ideal for children. Without added sugar. Instead of chocolate you can also prepare it with carob cream.
  • Cheese sandwich: You can also prepare it with animal foods ranging from egg, cheese or oily fish. A cheese sandwich brings about 230 calories, are the richest options in protein (20g) and calcium. Eating 4 eggs a week does not increase cholesterol in healthy people, in a balanced diet (more information).
A cheese sandwich with fruit
A cheese sandwich with fruit is a full breakfast or full snack.

Oatmeal porridge for breakfast

Oatmeal and apple porridge
Delicious porridge of oatmeal and apple

A porridge of oatmeal is a very healthy option as breakfast or snack, both in children and adults. It can be prepared with milk, vegetable drink, or only with water, cinnamon, fruit, coconut, raisins or a little honey.

Oatmeal is a cereal with a non-negligible amount of protein. It provides between 5 and 7 grams of protein per bowl or ration. To compare, a serving of sweetened breakfast cereals provides 1.5 gr of protein.

As mentioned above, it is not necessary to eat many proteins in each meal of the day, it is sufficient that in the main meals enough is consumed. The most important thing is that the organism has energy to work, study or grow, and in that sense, the porridge of oats provides a lot of energy.

Replace meat in main meals with legumes

Chickpea dish with seitan
Chickpea dish with seitan

It is not necessary to consume animal proteins daily. In addition to not being recommended for health, it also harms the health of the environment.

Soy, chickpeas, quinoa, amaranth and buckwheat are vegetable foods with complete proteins, that is, it is not necessary to combine them with other foods to have good quality proteins. For this reason they have great importance in strict vegetarian diets.

Some examples of main dishes without meat are: Chickpeas with couscous, vegetarian lentils, quinoa with pumpkin, buckwheat with vegetables, corn and chickpea salad, chickpeas with seitan, etc. They all provide energy and a good amount of protein

punto rojoMore  information on meat

This article was endorsed by Elisenda Carballido - Dietitian nutritionist. Postgraduate in Phytotherapy and master in Nutrition and Metabolism.
Written by Editorial Botanical-online team in charge of content writing

2 May, 2019

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