Guilty Pleasures and Their Vegetarian Substitutes
Ok, we’ve done it …ordered extra, extra cheese on the salad, opened the freezer for a late night snack or added ingredients to give our vegetarian dish more, “flavor” (mounds of sour cream? Guilty as charged.). Sometimes what we KNOW may not be the best choice for our overall diets CANNOT compete with our cravings or our taste buds.
Everyone has dietary guilty pleasures that they partake in, however the key is not to overindulge. Though some of these [healthier] options can’t replace the real thing, here are some great vegetarian friendly alternatives that do the trick when those guilty pleasure cravings hit!
Cheese is a favorite vegetarian food – unless you are Vegan or don’t eat dairy. Even for omnivores, cheese qualifies as a guilty pleasure because it is a decadent comfort food best consumed in moderation.
For vegetarians, it is easy to over indulge in cheese. Why? It is full of calcium, protein, and flavor. Is an easy answer for substituting meat. It is perfect any time of day and oh-so-versatile.
Keep in Mind
Cheese is qualified as a vegetarian guilty pleasure because it is incredibly rich – a.k.a. fattening. 1 little ounce of cheddar cheese (1 inch cube) contains 7 g of fat. Of course, other cheeses are even fattier. Cheeses such as triple cream brie, mascarpone, and goat cheese can be nearly as fattening as butter. So, just keep that in mind when you are indulging in a cheesy guilty pleasure.
A few alternatives to cheesy goodness:
- Nutritional yeast sauce: although nothing will taste like the real thing, this will make a great base in oven dishes as well as dipping sauces Nutritional yeast is rich with umami (the fifth taste), so it satisfies cheesy cravings. Nutritional yeast is versatile and gluten-free.
- Vegan cheese: they look, feel and sometimes taste like the real thing! Once upon a time vegan cheeses were nothing to get excited about, but some pretty incredible vegan cheeses have been introduced to grocery stores in the last several years. Be aware that some vegan cheeses contain soy (which you may want to take in moderation).
- Make your own: yes, you can make your own non-dairy cheese! Here is a popular recipe you can follow.
Though we may have either eliminated or reduced meat in our diet, many of us find ourselves with a meat craving every now and again. Maybe you got a whiff of bacon or fried chicken, and it smelled good. Or maybe you are not eating enough protein and your body is telling you this with a meat craving. It is okay, cravings happen – especially when you are just learning how to be a vegetarian.
The question is how do you satisfy that craving without eating meat?
Keep in Mind
Soy products such as tofu TVP, and tempeh, can be problematic for some budding vegetarians. Although soy is an excellent source of protein, a lot of people are allergic to it or have concerns about the processing and production of soy products.
Nuts can also be problematic because there are a lot of nut allergies out there. Also, nuts do not taste or look like meat (ever tried grilling an almond? LOL), so they may not help if you are working through a meat craving.
Fortunately, there is a multitude of meat-free foods to work with!
- Tofu: tofu is made from soybeans. It comes in a variety of firmness. Firm to extra firm tofu tends to make the best meat substitute because its texture is closest to meat. Tofu has little flavor on its own, so be sure to love it up with lots of seasonings. Try it breaded and fried, seared, or grilled.
- TVP: textured vegetable protein (TVP) is typically made from soy, but can also be made from cotton seed, wheat, oats, or other plants. It is a perfect substitute for ground meat; up to the task of starring in dishes like vegetarian lasagna, enchiladas, chili, and even burgers.
- Eggplant: eggplant is rich, meaty in texture, and versatile. Though it is not much of a source of protein, its texture is what makes it an appealing meat substitute. Eggplant can be fried, grilled, baked, or seared.
- Tempeh: with a firm texture and nutty flavor, this soybean-based food is a favorite in Indonesia. Like tofu, it has little flavor on its own and needs lots of love. Tempeh can be grilled, pan fried, or crumbled and used as a ground meat substitute..
- Nuts: nuts can be seasoned up with salt and spices and then added to foods and used as a ground meat substitute. Nut flours and nut butters add richness and protein to any dish, which can also go a long ways toward satisfying that meat craving.
Pastas is a classic vegetarian food because it is satisfying without meat. Many tasty pasta dishes are vegetarian or nearly vegetarian, so it is an obvious choice. Unfortunately, it is easy to overdo pasta. I know you know what I am talking about! Ever eaten a plate of pasta and felt like a balloon for hours?
Keep in Mind
Pastas are a good vegetarian food but advisable to consume in moderation. The fact that they are almost completely starchy white flour based carbohydrates make pastas a little difficult for many of us to digest, not to mention practically devoid of nutrition
Another thing to call out with pasta is that it is often egg-based, so it may not be an appropriate choice for all types of vegetarians.
Here are some alternatives to this common guilty vegetarian pleasure:
- Quinoa: quinoa is a healthy way of satisfying a pasta craving. Unlike pasta, quinoa is rich in nutrients, especially protein. It is gluten-free, cooks quickly, and is quite versatile.
- Spaghetti squash: spaghetti squash is inexpensive, gluten-free, and an excellent substitute for spaghetti. Simply steam or bake the squash, scoop out the flesh and use in place of spaghetti, linguine, or other pastas.
- Veggie Ribbons: use a vegetable peeler or mandolin to cut long, thin strips of non-starchy vegetables. Steam strips and then use in place of noodles. Or cut into wide, ribbon-like strips and roll around a delicious filling to emulate stuffed pastas. Zucchini, yellow squash, cabbage, and eggplant are well suited for veggie ribbons.
- Alternative pastas: whole-grain, egg free, gluten-free, wheat free and other alternative pastas are available at the store. Noodles come in familiar shapes like penne and farfalle and can satisfy a pasta craving – but with a bit more nutrition.
Ultimately, as with anything else, moderation is what’s important. Too much of a good thing, can eventually end up being just too much!
We would love to hear about your experiences with vegetarian guilty pleasures. What you crave? What guilty pleasures do you indulge? Do you have any tricks for indulging the craving? We would love to hear from you!
Leave a comment below or email us at info@BuddingVeg.com.