In a meat-loving country like South Africa, favourites like burgers, boerie and biltong are often reasons enough to scoff at the idea of going meat-free.
But this year, local food awareness NGO ProVeg South Africa is urging people to use these products (with a twist) as a tool for going green with #MeatlessMay.
With the global rise in interest in vegan or plant-based diets, odds are that you have heard some of the reasons to reduce your meat intake.
Covid-19 placed a spotlight on our personal health, like climate change did for the health of the planet. Unsurprisingly, a diet that offers health and environmental benefits is now getting a lot more attention.
What is surprising to most of us is that a plant-based diet no longer means giving up favourites like burgers, boerewors or biltong.
Advances in food innovation have made it possible to produce plant-based products that closely mimic the taste and texture of meat – even ardent meat-eaters will enjoy them.
According to Donovan Will, the director of ProVeg South Africa, these meat replacements are a useful tool for anyone who wants to eat more plant-based foods but battles with the idea of cutting back on meat.
Meat replacements are products that mimic the taste and texture of meat. The most common plant-based ingredients used to create these products are soya protein, pea protein, mushrooms, legumes and other vegetables.
“One of the primary reasons people battle to eat less meat is that they simply love the taste. If we can offer them products that provide the same taste and texture as meat, just made from plants, then that really does make it easier”.
Meat replacement options abound
However, Will stresses that not all plant-based meat replacements are created equal.
“It’s important that people don’t try one product and think that the rest all taste the same. There are many truly amazing products available in South Africa, and it’s part of our job to point consumers in the right direction”.
The ProVeg top meat replacement list is surprisingly long, and features products from over 14 companies, and includes everything from chicken and beef replacements, with new options like On The Greenside Flamed Grilled Tender Fillets and Herbivore’s new pea protein burger, to more surprising options like Fish-Style Fillets and Boerewors from South Africa’s leading meat replacement brand Fry’s, and even vegan biltong from Joburg-based Herbi Vohr.
Most of the products on the ProVeg list are widely available from leading retailers nationwide, as well food outlets like Hudsons, Spur and Steers.
Making the transition
If the idea of a full month without meat sounds like too much of a challenge, simply try a few new meat replacements in May to start moving towards a healthier, more sustainable lifestyle.
“If #MeatlessMay sounds too daunting, you can go for a less-meat May by trying a few meat replacements, and maybe starting with Green Mondays,” suggests Will.
You can also sign up for the Veggie Challenge or Veganuary. These are free, one-month programmes that help you on your meat reduction journey by sending you daily emails with meal plans, recipes, and tips.
Additional ways to switch to a more plant-based lifestyle include:
- Learn to cook plant-based by googling plant-based versions of your favourite meals, or buying a local vegan cookbook, like the South African Vegan Cookbook or the ebook Vegan Comfort Food.
- Focus more on adding more plant-based options, like fruits and vegetables, whole grains, beans and legumes, nuts and seeds, mushrooms and meat alternatives to your plate, rather than focusing on just removing or reducing meat.
- Try plant-based options at restaurants like Hudsons and fast food outlets like Steers. Or visit a fully vegan restaurant like Lekker Vegan.
- Visit a vegan market. Options include The Vegan Goods Market in Cape Town, The Vegan Hippie Connection Market in Jo’burg, or the KZN Vegan Market in Durban.
- Follow some plant-based influencers on Instagram @provegza @africanveganonabudget, @clairesharrynroberto, @cape_town_vegan, @granthinds, @the_green_dietitian, @leozetteroode, @villageveganmom, @miraweiner, @ratilekalakala, @robynruththomas, @drroxiebecker, @shaun_the_vegan, @shinnai.
- Get a friend or family member to join you on your journey to eating more plant-based
Ultimately, don’t be too hard on yourself. Prioritise making a sustainable shift and don’t worry about being perfect in the short-term.
Author: Pedro van Gaalen
When he’s not writing about sport or health and fitness, Pedro is probably out training for his next marathon or ultra-marathon. He’s worked as a fitness professional and as a marketing and comms expert. He now combines his passions in his role as managing editor at Fitness magazine.