Summer Fun With Vegetarian Fast Food

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Summer is about barbecues and occasional food fests, so what is a vegan or vegetarian to do? Well, with so many new meat alternatives on the market, now we can join right in. I usually don’t buy processed meat alternatives so on my last shopping trip I was surprised to discover just how many new kinds there are out there. So many in fact, that I couldn’t decide.

I also discovered that stores now sell various new syles of buns. They tend to be the same whitebread junkfood that I so fondly remember from childhood, but sold in new formats (thinner ones, ones with pseudo “smart” grains hidden away, etc). I was irresistibly drawn to the tiny little ones- so-called slider buns, and mini hot dog buns.

The result- I bought the little elf buns, 2 kinds of veggie burgers, 2 kinds of veggie dogs, and added in my own homemade beet burgers and we had two days of “taste offs”. To taste my burgers, I cut them in quarters and ate them open-faced on the buns, while a half length of a hot dog fit nicely into the mini dog buns.

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With a side salad, fresh chili-lime sriracha corn, and garnishes, it was two days of summertime junkfood indulgence. The results were inconclusive (I’ll share the details below for what my family decided), but I did learn that there is no earthly excuse left for me to eat “real” processed meats. There are so many delicious options now that I can fill any wayward junkmeat craving that could ever arise.

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Burgers tested:
Yves “Veggie Burger Burgers”
Isadora’s “Go-Nuts Burger”, made with walnuts from nearby Saturna Island, BC.
My homemade veggie and beet pulp burger, made with pulp from my juicer.

Hot Dogs tested:
Yves Veggie Dogs
Field Roast Frankfurters

Results:
My daughter and I both liked the Yves burgers the best. They are also the cheapest for me to buy since a local store carries them and frequently puts them on sale. They are the most like real meat burgers in taste. My son and I also really liked the Go-Nuts burger, which was not much like a meat burger, but we thought it tasted pretty delicious. We liked the texture of the crunchewy nuts, but my daughter was put off by it. Bonus that it was local, but (likely because they are a small, newer company) it was the most expensive, even on sale. My son’s favourite was my homemade burger (yay me!). I also love its taste, but I cannot get past its deep red color. With white in it also from the chopped onions and oatmeal it just looks eerily like raw hamburger meat to me. No matter how much I tried to cook that color out, I still needed a blindfold to eat it.

My son was lukewarm about both of the hot dogs, but he has never been a hot dog lover, even when we ate meat. My daughter liked the Yves dog best. I am able to cook it so that it has a good texture and juiciness like real hot dogs (see my older post here for tips on cooking veggie burgers- I do hot dogs in a similar way), but to me it still didn’t quite have that real hot dog taste I remember. The Field Roast, however, was phenomenally close to a real frankfurter in taste. It was my favourite, although it was also phenomenally expensive, and extremely salty.

The final verdict: All of these had good and bad points to weigh out, and nutritionally nothing beats homemade, but it was a lot of fun and I could occasionally see doing something like this again. We laughed and chatted and learned new things about each other as we compared and tasted our way through all the different combos.

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Starting a Healthy Diet, Part 2. Pick One of These…

By their nature weight-loss diets are restrictive, and that makes them nearly impossible to sustain over any extended time. But once we move our focus away from merely losing weight, and aim at eating good healthy nutritious food, a whole new world of possibilities opens up for us. In order to have a truly healthy diet that supports our heart and immune system, we should be doing all of the things I will list below (and get lots of good strength and aerobic exercise, too).

However, the neat thing about this list is that you can choose to implement these ideas one at a time, and still enjoy improved health and healthy weight loss right from the start. Some people will decide to only ever do one or two things from the list, and that might work well for them. However, it has been my experience that some steps are important for me to keep my own food addictions in check. If you eat irrationally by indulging cravings (or if the thought of changing your eating habits makes you feel panicky and you want to run out and buy a particular food), you may want to start by following the starred (*) items religiously. The panic and cravings are a clue that you may have some food addictions too, so you have to break them. After toughing it out for a few short days, you will no longer feel the panic, and eating this way will begin to feel good- honest.

1*. Eat REAL food, not processed. If you are used to eating mainly processed foods and takeouts and this seems daunting, start by finding one homemade recipe based on your favourite meal. Treat it like a game, experimenting with recipes until you find one that tastes good and is easy for you to make. You will likely discover that the homemade one is cheaper (bonus), and likely does not take much more time to make. After you get good at one recipe, choose another. The aim is to replace ALL processed food with real food. Start reading labels and you will see why this is a good idea. If you eat processed foods, you have no idea what strange things you might be ingesting. (See this and this for example).

2*. Eat alternatives to refined sugar (and cut down the sugar consumption overall). Once you start eating real food your tastes will change and your sugar cravings will be reduced anyway, but it is still good to be mindful of what you put in your recipes. For sweetness, you will be surprised how quickly you find a new taste for fresh fruit, and in recipes you can replace refined sugars with smaller amounts of unrefined sweeteners like agave nectar, maple syrup, brown rice syrup or coconut sugar. For more information, see this article.

3*. Switch from simple to complex carbohydrates. Simple carbs include the sugar mentioned above, but also things like white flour and most store-bought baking (see this article about breads for an eye-opener). Complex carbs are found in vegetables, beans, lentils, and many other leguminous plants.

by Gary Wilmore

4. Trade meat and dairy for other dense proteins, like tofu, beans, seitan, and tempe. There is overwhelming evidence that meat and dairy are extremely bad for you. If you want to check this out yourself, read The China Study or go to the website for Physicians for Responsible Medicine (PCRM), or google it- there are numerous good evidence-based studies about this. Nevertheless, I know that many people may not be comfortable with this change. Again, you need to make choices that you are comfortable with, in the way that you can live with. You could always approach this one step at a time. Like with the processed foods, you could start with the “meatless Mondays” idea and replace one meat meal a week. Or, you could choose one meat/dairy dish and go on a hunt for a healthier replacement recipe that you will be happy with, and then repeat until you have subbed out all your old meat/dairy dishes.

And that is it! Do those 4 things and you will be well on your way to a healthy body, without counting calories or spending exhorbitant amounts of money on “diet” (fake) food and supplements.

CHALLENGE! (for you)
What is your best/easiest/tastiest recipe that replaces an older favourite food? (ie- were you addicted to a certain fast food burger and now you have a rival vegan recipe?) Share with us- I’ll bet there are others who feel the same.

CHALLENGE! (for me or others)
Is there still a recipe that is just outside your grasp, and you’d like me or other readers to find or develop a healthy alternative recipe that makes you drool as much as the old one? Send it out and we can all work on it together. I can start the ball rolling. I am still trying to crack the code for making a vegan version of Pizza Hut’s breaded hot chicken wings. (I think they are only sold in Canada, and even the individual restaurants don’t have the recipe- I’ve asked. lol. They come to them frozen and pre-breaded). Has anyone out there found that perfect crunch and want to share it with us? Or do you have any tips or ideas for me to use as I continue the quest?