'Where's the beef?' Meat-free replacements

GLENDALE "The American Institute for Cancer Research has recently published a study that looked at the risk of eating red meats and processed meats," said Jackie Keller.

With alarming results. Several large studies confirm that consuming more than 18 ounces, a little more than one pound of red meat, bacon, and smoked meats per week, increases the risk of colorectal cancer by 30 percent. That's worrisome since many shy from this type of cancer screening.

"And with our love of fast-food burgers and super-sized steaks," said Keller, "this is the time to investigate some other options."

So we conducted a tasting at the Veggie Grill in El Segundo. This restaurant doesn't serve animal protein, but for testing purposes they created meat and meatless versions of Santa Fe chicken, chipotle BBQ, and burger with the works.

All participants were meat-eaters, yet most were surprised to find meat-free options satisfying.

"I don't mind if it tastes like meat and it's not."

"I could tell it wasn't beef but I liked it better."

"We have no animal products at all but we don't advertise that fact because people often don't think they can get great food that doesn't have animal products," said co-owner T.K. Pillan.

The Veggie Grill just served its 200,000th customer. With two locations in Southern California, they are observing the popularity of going meat-free firsthand.

At Whole Foods Markets and other large grocery chains, you'll now find it easy to give these meat-free foods a try. Fun names like Veat, Fakin' Bacon, spicy Chik'n nuggets, even "Soyrizo" are available. Food manufacturers are better able to mimic chicken, shrimp and meat by using soy, something called tempeh, and vegetables to create enjoyable tastes and textures. Most are cholesterol-free, low in fat, and high in protein.

"It doesn't have that heavy feeling in your stomach."

In addition dietitian Jackie Keller says fish is a fabulous option.

"Interestingly enough the protective antioxidant compounds, vitamins, minerals that are found in fish help to combat the risk of cancer," said Keller.

Also helpful, ethnic foods that offer beans and legumes with small doses of meats. If meat is important, stretch it out using it in chili or sauces -- or go with this rule to scale back portions:

"Half of the plate is fruit or vegetables," said Keller.

Leaving a quarter for carbohydrate and a quarter for protein, keeping portions as they should be.

For more information about meatless meals:



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