Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Healthy Living; meat substitutes.

Like most Americans, I fall into the "needs to make healthier choices" category. I need to exercise more, lose weight, stop smoking, and eat healthier. Sounds easy, but when you make those comittments, it really can be an uphill battle. Luckily, there are companies that are committed to healthy lifestyles, who's products are easy to use while still offering health benefits.

I've often tried to change my unhealthy habits, and every time I seem to fail miserably. Healthy eating seems to be my biggest downfall. Finding healthy foods that taste great can be a challenge. Honestly, no one wants to eat food that isn't satisfying, and thats why so many people are stuck in an unhealthy eating pattern. However, there are finally healthy choices available that not only taste great, but offer vegan & vegetarian benefits too!

A few weeks ago, I was introduced to Lightlife, through Green Mom's Meet. After learning that Lightlife produced vegan & vegetarian "meats", I was definitely skeptical. Not just because the words vegan & vegetarian don't really belong in the same sentence as the word meat, but more so because I had it in my mind that healthy foods taste bad. After trying Lightlife's many food options, I discovered how wrong my preconceived ideals were!

Lightlife offers unique vegan & vegetarian meat alternatives. Including a variety of tempeh, chicken, pork, and beef substitutes. They even have a line of lunch meats! Hotdogs? Ground meat? Chicken tenders? Sausage? Bacon? Yep!!! Lightlife carries meat alternatives in all of these forms, and more! I decided to challenge my friends and family, by substituting meat in every day dishes with LightLife alternatives. I wanted to see if they could tell the difference, and to get feedback on taste. I didn't just throw them to the wolves though--- I joined them on this food exploration, and challenged myself in the process!

Over the course of 3 weeks, we experimented with ground sausage, beef crumbles, chicken tenders, hot dogs, Italian sausage, black bean burgers, and bacon alternatives. Most of the foods fared much better than I expected. The chicken tenders were declared the over all winner, and the least favorite was the bacon.

Ground Sausage
The ground sausage was served as a breakfast burrito, prepared with scrambled eggs, diced green pepper, & onion. You could barely tell it wasn't pork sausage! The spices were spot on, and the texture was almost identical to ground breakfast sausage. The kids loved it!

Black Bean Burgers
For the black bean burgers, we went true burger style. They were served with standard burger fixin's, on seeded buns. I thought they were absolutely delicious, but the over all consensus was 50/50. They have a meaty bite, but the flavor isn't quite what you'd expect in a burger.

Beef Crumbles
We also went traditional with the beef crumbles, serving them with pasta and tomato sauce. These weren't well received. They taste great, but have a very grainy texture. The younger children didn't mind them, but the over 5 crowd wasn't impressed.

Chicken Tenders
For the chicken strips, we prepared them 2 ways. First, sauteed with vegetables, and served over Israeli pearl couscous. Second, grilled and served on chopped salad. The chicken tenders have a more dense consistency than chicken, and the texture is not spot on, but they taste amazing! These were a favorite across the board!

Hot Dogs
What kid doesn't love hot dogs? When served on a bun with ketchup and mustard, these vegetarian hot dogs taste almost identical to the real deal! We served the Smart Dogs. The flavor is great, and they have a nice consistency. The kids had no clue they weren't eating meat!

Italian Sausage
The Italian sausages have a very unique flavor and texture. Also, they look nothing like Italian sausage (aside from shape). They're white and green... I served these in a marinara sauce, over pasta with chopped zucchini and squash. The kids liked them, but the adults weren't quite sure what to think. The over all texture is appealing, but the flavor is quite unique.

Left: bacon
Right: LightLife Smart Bacon
Ok, since everyone loves bacon, we had to see if there was a healthy alternative (other than Turkey bacon) that actually tasted good. We kept things simple, and served the vegetarian bacon BLT style (we compared it to standard pork BLT's). Toasted wheat bread with romaine and sliced tomatoes. Sounds delicious, right? It wasn't. At first bite, the kids determined that the vegetarian bacon tastes like dog food. Yeah... It was super salty, and not at all pleasant to eat. The texture was almost identical to Turkey bacon, but the flavor was very unappetizing.

After tasting all of these healthy meat alternatives, we had some clear favorites, a few possible contenders, and a couple of losers. My family and friends highly recommend the Lightlife ground sausage, chicken tenders, and hot dogs. If you're feeling adventurous, try the black bean burgers, beef crumbles, or Italian sausage! As far as bacon goes, we recommend eating only the real deal... In moderation.

What have I learned from this experience? Healthy food isn't always flavorless and funky! My family will definitely be incorporating some of the Lightlife meat alternatives that we tried into our regular diets.

Products received complimentary for testing & review.