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Many of us make New Year’s resolutions in an attempt to start fresh; eating healthy often makes the top 3. No surprise, eating less meat is usually one of the actionable goals. Whether your intention is for the sake of environment, animals, or your personal health, start right with smart planning this year so that you can stick to your goal for the long haul.
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Focus on Protein When Going Meatless
 
Meat provides an important nutrient: protein. Protein is essential in various body functions and responsible for repairing muscle from daily wear-and-tear. Also it provides satiety, making you feel full and satisfied. Therefore, on days you choose to go green and meatless, try adding quality plant-based protein to your meals.
 
Typically, a 100-gram serving of meat provides 22 to 27 grams of protein. Hence, aim to get close to this number when choosing plant-based options.
Plant-Based Protein You Don’t Want to Miss - Vegetarian Meat
 
The first line of products most beginners try are “vegetarian meats”; these are food products made with plant-based protein, such as soy protein, wheat gluten, etc with the intention of offering meat texture.  Various vegetarian meats are now available in the supermarket. You will notice two clear distinct categories: Chinese and western.
 
Chinese vegetarian meats focus on mimicking the taste and texture of real meat. The most known Chinese-style of vegetarian meats are “veggie goose” and “veggie ham”, but selections are not limited to these two. You may also find “veggie pork chop cutlets”, “veggie beef balls”, “veggie prawns” etc. The protein sources are usually soy protein and wheat gluten. Chinese-style vegetarian meats are mostly seasoned or come with sauce; many of them are deep-fried as well. Sometimes, they are quite heavily-processed with artificial additives and may contain high levels of sodium. Protein content is generally low compared to real meat, offering 5 to 15g of protein per 100-gram serving.
Western vegetarian meats, on the other hand, focus on mimicking the nutritional profile of real meat. Therefore, their protein level is quite comparable to meat; many of them hit 20g of protein. The protein sources are usually non-GMO soy, pea protein, wheat gluten, or mycoprotein. Their ingredients are often carefully selected, avoiding GMO ingredients or artificial additives. Western-style vegetarian meats are usually in the format of meatballs, burger patties, fillets, or bite-sized pieces.  Sometimes they are not pre-seasoned; sometimes sauces are packaged separately, letting you control the amount you need.  Therefore, they are generally “healthier” than the Chinese-style vegetarian meats.
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Most vegetarian meats can be cooked or pan-fried directly from frozen, usually fully cooked within 10 minutes.
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Other Plant-Based Protein You Should Use More In Your Cooking
 
Edamame and Tofu
Both edamame and tofu are products of soybean. As you know, tofu can be steamed, pan-fried, or boiled. On the other hand, edamame is virtually young soybean that has not yet matured. When in season, edamame is available fresh. Otherwise, it is mostly available frozen all-year-round. Less than 10 minutes of microwave-cooking will completely cook these high-protein snacks. Both edamame and tofu provide approximately 8 grams of protein per 100g serving.
Beans and lentils
Lentils are great in hearty soups, and beans are often added in broth soup, and desserts in Chinese cooking. If you are not interested in the long preparation time of beans, try canned beans or lentils. Lentils don’t require pre-soaking, and can be fully cooked between 10 minutes (split lentils) and 25 minutes (whole lentils). Beans and lentils provides 7 to 10 grams of protein per 100g serving.
 
With proper planning and stocking the right products at home, going green can be easy and your healthy eating New Year’s Resolutions will be off to a good start.
Written by Canadian Registered Dietitian Gloria Tsang Yan Yan

Source of Images:  margouillat photo, Nataliya Arzamasova & SOMMAI/ Shutterstock.com
 
 
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