Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The Fake Meat Debate

Many vegetarians (and vegans) oppose on principle eating "fake meat," i.e., textured vegetable protein (TVP) products intended to mimic meat. I don't mean tofu or tempeh, which are products in their own right, eaten frequently in other parts of the world, sometimes along with meat. I mean things like Trader Joe's "chickenless strips," or the Morningstar Farms sausage patties. From what I gather, the objection is based on the fact that if you choose not to eat meat, you should not eat things that are intended to mimic the meat you've chosen not to eat.

I have no objection to fake meat on principle. My main reason for eating it only infrequently is that it is processed food, which I generally try to avoid. However, every once in a while -- like this weekend -- I want chicken pot pie. So I use the TJ's chickenless strips and make my own. I use lots of vegetables and I also add beans and/or chickpeas, depending on what I have. I also make a whole wheat crust. And sure, it would probably be decent enough without the fake meat, but it does step it up a bit, in my own personal opinion. And I don't feel guilty about it!

I eat fake meat only once a month or so, at most, with one important (and significant exception). Before my morning runs, I usually want something in my stomach, but I don't want to take a lot of time, since I have to work most days that I run. So I end up eating a single Morningstar Farms sausage link -- just one, microwaved for 45 seconds. I know, I know.... And obviously it doesn't fill me up or fuel my run, since it is such a small amount of food (only 40 calories). It's clearly a mental thing -- I just feel better knowing I have eaten something. But 4 times a week, that's more frequent consumption of processed food, even a small amount, than I'd like to have.

So my new goal is to find a substitute -- something small, with protein, that won't weigh me down, but will alleviate the sensation that I'm running on a completely empty stomach.


  1. How about a small handful of nuts or a spoonful of peanut or almond butter? I go to the grocery each week and buy delicious tofu salads in the deli. When I get home we portion them out in 2-ounce containers. Would something like that be helpful to you? I don't eat cheese (vegan) but if you do, string cheese is an option. Before I run, if I need something in my stomach I have also popped a slice of baked tofu in the toaster oven to warm it up.

  2. Nuts are a great idea! I think I don't get enough in my diet anyway. Will try on my Thursday run! -- Susmita.