Beyond Meat…

Dr. Danesh D. Chinoy is a leading Health and Wellness Coach, Sports Physiotherapist and Psychologist. He is dedicated to helping all to heal holistically and remain fighting fit for life. Providing eye-opening and ground-breaking insights into Wellness, Dr. Chinoy’s two-decades’ rich expertise has won him innumerable awards, nationally and globally. His mission is to empower you to reach your highest levels of wellness/fitness. You can connect with Dr. Chinoy at: . 

There is enough for every man’s needs, but not for his greed! The demand for meat consumption globally is similar – and Mother Earth is running out of resources to provide it. The meat industry uses up exorbitant amounts of land and water, making it the number one contributor to deforestation and climate change. If people want to continue eating ‘Mutton Dhansak’ and ‘Sali-boti’ at the current rate, something needs to change. The meat industry’s answer to this problem? Meat alternatives i.e., something that feels and tastes like meat.

Yes, my friends, the meat alternatives or scientifically – meat analogues – are becoming increasingly popular the world over. Numerous businesses are providing such meat alternatives. Change is the only constant and it reflects in all our habit. Whether it’s about slow-paced move towards sustainable living or a thoughtful move towards healthy eating. Thanks to genuine concerns about health and awareness, people are now moving towards plant-based meat and saying no to animal meat. The shift is palpable everywhere. !

If you too are wondering if it would be a wise decision for you to replace animal meat with meat substitutes to regain health and fitness, reduce the harmful environmental impact and grow compassion towards our co-existing species… my answer would most definitely be a confident YES! Having said this, let’s explore healthier choices to replace the meat in our Dhansak, Sali-boti and Farchas!

The healthiest meat substitutes will be made of veggies, legumes, nuts and fruits by themselves, but there may be products made from soy, wheat-gluten, nuts, vegetables, legumes, or a combination of them all. But remember, just because it is meat-free, it doesn’t become automatically good for you! I’m a proponent of plant-based eating, and have found compelling scientific evidence to have completely quit meat and dairy, but I make it a point to take a close look at what I substitute it with. Some of these commercially available meat substitutes are over-processed, loaded with unhealthy fats, contain excessive amounts of sodium, chemical preservatives and artificial flavouring. 

Thanks to marketing campaigns, the most popular meat substitute are the soya meal-makers. But hold on! Look around and you will now find a dozen more easily available! My top-of-the-list and a personal favourite for meat substitute is… a fruit!!! Yes, please do not pinch yourself, you have read me right! An easily available fruit from your fruit vendor, when cooked correctly can confuse some of the most die-hard meat fans into thinking it to be ‘ramakras’ in your Dhansak! A leading Biryani Restaurant Chain in Mumbai serves you the vegan version of their famous Mutton Dum Biryani using this fruit. Try it out at home once and see if your darling Dinsu can tell the difference!!

It’s the humble Jackfruit that does this magic. I always recommend cooking raw jackfruit to my clients who strongly feel the need for a meat alternative. The best part is that it’s completely natural, full of nutrients, very easy to find, pocket friendly and most importantly, it’s plucked from a plant and not manufactured in a plant – thus no harmful chemicals added to it! The taste and texture of this exotic fruit is such that you feel you are eating meat. In fact, many people refer to jackfruit as vegan meat! Its meat-like texture and strands make it chewy and delicious. 

In fact, you can try your favourite meat dishes, just by replacing the meat with raw jackfruit. Just make sure you take the tender jackfruit for cooking dishes and don’t boil it much; this will ruin the taste and texture. It’s packed with nutrients like fiber, proteins, magnesium, copper, potassium and Vitamin A and C. Right from boosting immunity to improving skin problems to improve heart health, jackfruit is not just delicious, but also way healthier substitute for meat.

My friend’s mother used to prepare ‘kheema’ using smashed chick-peas and vatana! Don’t laugh, eat it once and you will forget the ‘Irani Kheema pao’ for good. It’s simply a matter of love and skill in cooking. All beans and legumes when cooked in specific process and recipes can taste very similar to meat. What’s more, they’re all a great source of plant-based proteins, which makes it perfect as a high protein diet.

The soft and mushy texture of mushrooms make for a perfect indulgence. Just par-boil and marinate with spices and herbs and cook, I bet you will not miss your soft fatty meat. However, to retain the texture make sure, you don’t overcook the mushrooms. Another reason for adding mushroom to your diet is that it’s rich in proteins, selenium, phosphorus and vitamin D, which makes it a healthy and delicious meat substitute.

Likewise, eggplants, roots and tubers such as sweet potatoes, carrots, beetroots, potatoes – all have their distinctive taste and texture. In fact, you can add these veggies to your cutlets, chops, patties, thick creamy soups and if you want to try it in the Indian delicacies, you can make koftas, kebabs and even crispy fries by marinating with spices and herbs and then cooking them. I’m sure once you start enjoying these healthy cooking options, you will end up ditching meat for good!

 As you have noticed, I have not included in my list any of the commercially available meat substitutes such as soya meal-makers, other textured vegetable proteins that are now increasingly available in health food stores or even the supermarket aisles. I do not consider them a healthy substitute of meat as they are processed products and would bring with them artificial flavourings, preservatives and other stuff which your body is not happy about. Once in a while, it is okay to indulge your taste buds with it, if you feel a strong need but else, I’d advise against making it a staple.

The ideal thing for us would be to clear the mental block that meat-based foods are tasty over plant-based foods. In one of my future columns, I’ll share how this block was created by a specific industry for commercial gains and how to get rid of this mental block. Until then, enjoy your good health and fitness with tasty and healthy plant-based eating habits!

Dr. Danesh Chinoy
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