30-Day Challenge: Going Vegan With Tara
It’s the last week and I am so happy that I decided to take on the 30-day challenge. It afforded me the opportunity to reflect on the vegan lifestyle, get creative in the kitchen and speak with the inspiring chef of the Cinnamon Snail. After nearly a month, I feel like I got this—I’m ready to make it permanent. I feel great and, though it is a big adjustment, this is a doable diet. With the right vegan cookbooks and blogs, there is plenty of inspiration to eat delicious, exciting and filling meals. I think it just takes the open-mindedness and motivation to leave anxieties behind and just go for it.
While I generally prefer to eat whole foods and lots of fresh vegetables, I’ve been curious about the many meat-replacement options out there. Though I missed cheese (sigh), ice cream and eggs during the challenge, I had been vegetarian for awhile before and don’t really see meat as food anymore. However, I know that plenty of people interested in trying a vegetarian or vegan diet might be concerned about how to deal with cravings for sausage, turkey sandwiches or pepperoni pizza. I decided to investigate. After tasting many faux meat choices, I found some that were excellent, some that were passable substitutes and one that was plain inedible. Here is my ultimate guide to meatless meat.
Gardein BBQ Skewers: B-
These were a little on the chewy side, but had decent flavor and didn’t taste too artificial. They left a little BBQ smokiness on the palate and would probably be fine wrapped in a pita with some veggies.
Tofurkey Deli Slices, Peppered: B
Tofurkey is a brand that many vegans love but skeptical non-vegans love to hate on. Maybe absorbing some of this carnivorous skepticism, I wasn’t thrilled about trying this one, but was pleasantly surprised. On its own it’s a bit bland, but with some nice bread, lettuce, tomato and a shmear of Veganaise, this was a totally acceptable “turkey” sandwich. I’d eat this again.
Tofurkey Beer Brats: A
Tofurkey surprised me yet again with how awesome these were. These looked just like normal sausages, had great taste and a lot of protein. I just pan-fried mine and ate it plain, but I can imagine grilling these in the summer with a hotdog bun and kraut, or maybe using them for baked sausage and peppers. I’m a fan.
Lightlife Smart Wings, Buffalo Flavor: NA
I didn’t have particularly high hopes for these, but never got the chance to confirm my suspicions. Upon closer examination at home, I realized that these contain egg whites and are NOT VEGAN. It seems to me that if you’re going to make a replacement meat, you may as well make it suitable for vegetarians and vegans. Oh well.
Yves Meatless Pepperoni: F
This was the first thing I tried and did not put me off to a good start. Though the flavor had some vague similarity to the real thing, it was so artificial and rubbery that I found them gross. I was actually reminded a little bit of play dough. I don’t care how much you think you’re craving pepperoni, trying this will only make it worse.
LightLife Organic Smoky Tempeh Strips, Fakin Bacon: A
In terms of texture and taste, these had very little resemblance to actual bacon, but I still thought they were amazing! And, also very opposed to the real thing, they are low fat with only 100 calories per serving. With a nice smoky taste, I can see this being awesome in a vegan BLT.
LightLife Smart Cutlets: C
These are meant to replace chicken cutlets and I’d put this in the just passable category. There wasn’t anything particularly bad about them, but also nothing very special about them either. Then again, I suppose a plain chicken breast isn’t too exciting and, with 18 grams of protein per serving, this could be a viable option.
West Soy Seitan Strips: B
These were bland and boring—both of the vegan stereotypes that I despise. Yet, like tofu, seitan is meant to be a blank canvas for you to dress up with whatever sauce or marinade you choose. Seitan is made from wheat gluten, so it’s obviously out for gluten-free vegans, but it contains up to three times as much protein as tofu! It is more caloric than its soy-based competitor, but is definitely an easy way to meet protein requirements.
Field Roast Celebration Roast: B-
This Field Roast option claims it’s made with butternut squash, apple and mushroom stuffing, although you don’t really get any of those flavors. It also didn’t particularly remind me of a roast beef, but somehow I still liked it. It was a bit salty, but had good flavor.
Field Roast Chipotle Sausage: B+
As an alternative to the terrible “pepperoni” above, I’d suggest slicing up a few of the chipotle sausages. I was expecting most of these options to be fairly bland, but this one was actually really spicy! It was almost too much for me, but I was happy to see that Field Roast was able to pack in some bold flavor.
Field Roast Classic Meatloaf: C
This Field Roast option wins the prize for being the most “meaty” but I didn’t really love this. The consistency and texture were pretty convincing and it was very filling! I think this would do the trick for anyone craving meatloaf, but with high saturated fat levels, this isn’t the healthiest option
I hope you enjoyed following along on my vegan challenge. If you have questions or comments about the lifestyle, feel free to email me at Tara@LadyLux.com or follow me @taracarberry.
Read more LadyLux 30-Day Challenge.