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Do you think you can only dream of the day when your carnivore friends and relatives will appreciate the grains and vegetables that you love? Do you wish you could drop red meat from your diet, but can’t find any appetizing alternatives? Try embracing how different vegetarianism really is, and you may find yourself searching out all new restaurants and grocery stores for your healthy indulgence!

Myth #1: Vegetarian meat substitutes taste just like the real thing. Foods without animal fats are just not going to taste like conventional hot dogs, hamburgers, and cheese. Instead of feeling deprived of your favorite hamburger, have a true veggie burger that does not try to imitate the consistency and flavor of ground beef. A vegan patty made only of grains and vegetables is like a delicious casserole in a convenient shape for sandwiches and quick meals. If you are trying to avoid animal products, have more of the vegetarian foods you already love, such as pasta, fried rice (without eggs!), peanut butter sandwiches, saucy kidney beans, bean and rice burritos, vegetable casseroles, and fresh fruit. As with most diets, avoiding the feeling of deprivation is the key to success.

Myth #2: A meatless meal is an incomplete meal. Variety is the key to feeling satisfied. When preparing a vegetarian meal for a non-vegetarian, be sure to include more colors than green and brown with foods such as corn, carrots, and red cabbage. Also, concentrate on differences in consistency. Include a crunchy salad, crisp lightly steamed vegetables, or a garnish of sliced green onions. For flavor, it is especially important to satisfy the oil and salt cravings of guests who are accustomed to meat. Instead of steaming, enjoy broccoli sautéed in olive oil with tomatoes and mushrooms. Use soy sauce or miso dressing to impart an extra saltiness for the occasion. Be sure to include a hearty bean protein such as chickpeas in pasta salad, lima bean succotash, or a bean pate such as hummus. Include, but do not overuse the flavors sour, bitter, pungent, and salty. The most important and most overlooked key to satisfying meat eaters and vegetarians alike is to include ample sweetness in the meal. The sweetness of rice, boiled carrots, caramelized onions, and cooked cabbage will curb your appetite for dessert. Finally, include dessert anyway! Try baked apples or pears with cinnamon sprinkled on top for a light end to a guilt free meal.

Myth #3: Non-vegetarians suspicious of soy will never find a “meat substitute” they like. Do not give up! Most people who claim to despise tofu have either never had it well prepared, or have tasted limited preparation methods. Freeze tofu before crumbling it into vegetarian migas. Bake it before adding it to casseroles for a dense consistency. Cube and boil it with ginger, garlic, and soy sauce before adding it to stir fry for delicious flavor and smoother texture. Just remember not to expect it to taste exactly like meat!

Tofu, tempeh, seitan, hummus, and many other vegetarian staples have been around for hundreds, and sometimes thousands of years. People have long eaten these foods not because they taste like beef or chicken, but because they taste good! Explore vegetarianism as you would a new ethnic cuisine instead of a study in deprivation, and enjoy finding new ways to prepare your favorite grains, beans and vegetables.