Can You Be a Soy-Free Vegan?
Does giving up (or even cutting back on) the meat in your diet mean you have to eat lots of soy-based fake meat?
Honestly, I find it kind of confusing that so often when you talk about eating less meat, people so often bring up fake meats made from genetically modified soy as if that’s the only other thing you could possibly eat. That’s just hands-down untrue, and I think it makes veganism or even eating less meat seem like something unattainable or very expensive.
You can eat less (or no!) meat without ever eating fake meat, and not all fake meats have soy in them. I love me some fake meat – don’t get me wrong – but it’s not for everyone, and you can be a vegan your whole life without ever eating a Tofurkey sausage, if that’s something that’s important to you.
It’s also possible to eat soy without eating genetically modified soy. One surefire way to make sure anything you eat is not genetically modified is to choose organic. Organics, by definition, can’t be genetically modified. You can also look for the Non-GMO Project label on foods. Foods bearing that certification have been verified to be GMO Free.
I know that some folks see vegans as high and mighty when we talk about food, and I want very much for this discussion to not be that way. I respect anyone who’s making mindful food choices, whether I completely agree with them or not. We’re all trying to choose diets that reflect what we feel is best for our bodies and for the planet.
This article isn’t even about convincing you to go vegan. It’s just about dispelling the common misconception that vegans have to eat fake meat and lots of soy.
On the next page, let’s talk about vegan main dishes that don’t involve any fake meat.
Eating Vegan Without the Soy
So, if you’re not replacing chicken with fake chicken and beef with fake beef, what does a vegan meal look like, and how do you get enough protein? Just like with a vegetarian diet, the trick is to reimagine your plate. If you live in the South, like I do, the typical meal is probably something like “meat and three,” where the meat is the star of the show, and the sides are overcooked veggies and maybe some mac and cheese. Take out the cheese and the meat, and that’s a pretty sorry plate!
Related Reading: 5 Soy Free Milk Alternatives
Getting out of that meat-plus-sides mindset is the key to healthy vegan eating. Here are some sample vegan main dishes that are delicious one-dish meals or as the main event with your favorite veggies on the side:
- Vegan Shepherd’s Pie – This dish is pure comfort food.
- Baingan Bharta – Indian eggplant stew. Serve over brown basmati rice. Yum!
- Soba Noodles with Citrus and Avocado – This is tasty served hot or cold.
- International Quinoa Salad – Nice and summery!
- Bowl of Stuff – A versatile dish that uses…whatever’s in your kitchen. I eat bowl of stuff at least three times a week. Sometimes more!
Of course, these are just a few examples. In general if you mix up your favorite starch or whole grain with a vegan protein source, veggies, and spices or a tasty sauce, chances are you’ve got a delicious, filling main course with no meat or fake meat in sight!
Up next, check out some vegan protein sources that are completely soy free and don’t rely on fake meats.
Vegan Protein Sources
So, how do you get enough protein without fake meat? It’s actually surprisingly easy! There are lots of vegan protein sources that are not only delicious and soy-free but inexpensive.
Worried about getting enough protein? It’s probably not a problem. Most Americans eat far more than the RDA for protein each day, and if you’re eating a balanced diet, you should be meeting your protein needs without having to do anything extra. Since I started distance running last year, I’ve been using a nutrition data app to track my nutritional intake to make sure I’m on track, and I get more than the RDA for protein every day without deliberately adding it to my diet.
Related Reading: Superfood: 10 Quinoa Recipes
Here are some common, soy-free, fake-meat-free vegan protein sources:
- Whole grains - quinoa, whole wheat pasta, brown rice, millet, rolled oats, barley, etc.
- Beans – black, pinto, lentils, garbanzo beans, etc.
- Seitan – a high protein dough made from vital wheat gluten that’s great in stir fries, sandwiches, pasta, and casseroles
- Nuts – cashews, peanuts, pine nuts, walnuts, etc.
- Seeds – sunflower, sesame, chia, flax, etc.
- Fruits and veggies – It might be surprising, but even fruits and veggies often contain protein.
If you want some more specific info on how much protein is in different vegan foods, the Vegetarian Resource Group has an excellent table showing some common plant-based foods and their protein content. You can also use sites like Nutrition Data to look up different foods and find their nutritional content, including protein.
I’d love to hear from you guys! How often – if ever – do you eat meat? Do you think you could replace even a few weekly servings of meat with any of these vegan alternatives?