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Bite Advice: I Want To Eat Less Meat

By Megan Tempest in Food on Feb 4, 2010 5:00PM

2010_02_Tofu.jpg Dear Megan,

I’m a die-hard meat-eater, but have been trying to cut back on meat for the sake of my health. I’d like to give tofu a try. What is an easy way to “cook” tofu and give it some flavor, maybe texture? No hurry.


Congratulations, R.T., on your decision to reduce the amount of meat in your diet. There is no arguing the fact that a plant-based diet will help you feel great, achieve and maintain a healthy body weight, experience better digestion, and fight a long list of chronic diseases.

Tofu is nothing if not extremely versatile; you can turn a bland, boring block of tofu in to whatever you want it to be. Below are a few extremely simple suggestions for preparing tofu that won’t require you to follow a recipe. For each of them, I recommend firm or extra-firm tofu; and try to press out some of the water from the tofu before you prepare it.

  1. Make “salt and pepper tofu”. Cut your block of tofu in to cubes. Add a little olive oil to a pan, a little chopped garlic, and then cook the tofu cubes over medium heat until lightly browned. Season with salt and pepper. Toss your cooked tofu cubes with salad, pasta, rice or soup. How easy is that?

  2. Make a “tuna” sandwich using tofu instead of canned tuna. Simply mash up some tofu with a fork, add a little low-fat mayo (try Veganaise, the best thing since the invention of cheesecake), some chopped celery (capers, olives, or artichokes are good too), a little Dijon mustard, and season with salt and pepper. Add the “tuna” to some whole-grain bread, pita, or tortilla, along with your favorite sandwich accompaniments. Done!

  3. Make tofu “steaks”. Slice your tofu into thick triangles or rectangles. Dip each piece of tofu in soy sauce (preferably Tamari or Shoyu) and grill over medium heat (outdoor or the stovetop version). Give the “steaks” time to get those juicy grill marks. Eat with anything - salad, rice, veggies! You won’t miss real steaks, especially their saturated fat and cholesterol.

Food for thought - if you’re not won over by tofu’s charm (and many of us aren’t), there are plenty of other “meat alternatives” to sample. Tempeh is made from fermented soybeans and has a delightfully nutty taste and texture - it’s particularly delicious in stir-fries. Seitan (pronounced say-tahn) is extremely high in protein and shockingly meat-like considering it’s derived from gluten, the high-protein component of whole wheat. Seitan is a fabulous addition to dishes that otherwise call for beef. Try Chicago’s own Upton Naturals to get yourself positively hooked on seitan. Upton’s has got several yummy seitan varieties, including chorizo-style and Italian beef-style. The best veggie-burger on the block goes may be Sunshine Burger. And Field Roast Grain Meat Co is hands-down the best meatless sausage we’ve ever tasted - their Mexican-Chipotle “sausage” seems destined to be eaten with scrambled eggs (or better yet scrambled tofu!).

To name a few vegetarian-friendly restaurants that may be worth your while, we suggest Green Zebra, Chicago Diner, and Chickpea for some mouth-watering Fool Mudammas (Sautéed fava beans with garlic & extra virgin olive oil).

Finally, for the health-conscious individual like yourself, who wants to read up on cutting back on their meat intake without having to give up turkey for Thanksgiving, check out The Flexitarian Diet by Chicago-based dietitian Dawn Jackson Blatner.

Submit your nutrition questions here. Come on now, don’t be shy! We look forward to hearing from you.

* Hey folks, this is not intended as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of anything written on this website. Thanks!