Originally Published April 10, 2013
To me, breakfast and dinner are pretty easy to do without meat. I’ve been doing green smoothies for breakfast for a couple of years. On the weekend, I’ll have eggs or French toast, and I’ve even been making oatmeal from scratch lately. There are tons of options for dinner as well: soup, stir-fry’s, pot pie, marinated/roasted vegetables, gratin, my husband’s curries, and certainly more that I’m forgetting right now.
But the traditional American lunch seems to be the sandwich, and that seems to have meat in it. As a kid, I ate roast beef, corned beef, and turkey sandwiches. There was lettuce and tomato, but that was definitely besides the point.
Is a good sandwich possible without meat? Yes!
It took a little while for me to figure it out, but it’s definitely possible, not difficult, and delicious.
And DON’T let restaurants fool you because for the LONGEST time, the only vegetarian sandwich I ever saw had cucumber, sprouts, cream cheese, lettuce, and tomato. Ugh. It was awful–totally bland–but my only option at some places. This type of menu item coming from a fully-stocked kitchen could easily fool you into thinking that was as good as it could get with a veggie sandwich. Not so.
At first, my meatless sandwich consisted of simply avocado, tomato, lettuce, and mayonnaise on sprouted grain bread that was slightly toasted. Even this little number is way better than the restaurant one described above, at least in my opinion. I still love this simple combo, but I have expanded a little to make something much better.
What do I think of tofu-based “fake meat” products? Usually not worth the money. I have tried most of them, and 90% are tasteless. Unless you simply want to add texture and a few grams of protein, save your money. There are, for me, two exceptions, and one of them I am using daily at the moment.
For several years, my sandwich was the one above with a product called Tofurkey in the “Hickory-Smoked” flavor. Not quite all natural (I don’t know what “smoke flavor,” listed on the label, is…), but fairly healthy and tasty.
However, I got excited enough to write a post on sandwiches thanks to Field Roast’s deli slices. I have tried Wild Mushroom and Smoked Tomato, and the latter is my favorite. This is, by FAR, the best meatless ready-made product you can add to your sandwich out there. It adds taste and flavor, not just a placeholder for the traditional animal product that used to always go there. It doesn’t pretend to be or try to be meat. It is in its own category of, simply, “deli slices.”
I’ve also been into goat cheese lately, so I spread a little on my sandwich as well, and voila! Plenty of taste, nutrition, substance, and texture that any conventional “Joe” would find satisfactory.
You can add flavor to your sandwich with simple things like dijon mustard and a little shake of salad dressing. You can also use some roasted, marinated, or sauteed vegetables from last night’s dinner and put them in.
Another nice option is to spruce up a grilled cheese sandwich by sauteing a few slices of mushroom and onion and adding it. Tomato is a classic addition to a grilled cheese as well. Once, I made grilled cheese with tomato and threw a few spoonfuls of fresh salsa on my plate and dipped the sandwich in it. It was delicious!
A word on “fake meats,” while we’re on the subject. I generally don’t like them. They usually have chemicals, a bunch of soy sauce perhaps, and even sweetener added. Stay away from big-name brands in this department, as they’ve got flavor imitators down to a science–literally–and not in a healthy way. If you are looking to take meat away and replace it with something to taste like it, you will be disappointed. Meat is meat, and tofu with flavor enhancers is not meat, nor should it be construed as such, in my humble opinion. I don’t feel, as vegetarians looking for healthy diets, we should be on a constant quest to experience meat again without eating it–we should be on a constant quest to experience vegetables and other plants. And if you don’t love vegetables, you probably aren’t ready to take out meat. Not that you won’t be at some point if that’s your choice! But learn to love vegetables first, or you WILL be missing something nutritionally if you suddenly remove meat. As long as you are eating a variety and reasonable quantity of vegetables, fruits, and legumes, reducing or eliminating meat will not be a problem nutritionally for just about everyone. As with any other food, the closer you can consume it to its original form in nature, the healthier it will be and soy “Chick’n Strips” definitely does not fall into that category!