Consuming animal products including dairy and meat is not recommended on the Overcoming MS Program however, there are lots of options to replace the meat in meals.
Fish and seafood
Meat substitutes such as soy products and seitan
Plant-based proteins such as beans and lentils
Making vegetables the focus of your meal
For some support on gradually implementing the diet element of the program into your daily life, we have written a blog post here.
Protein in your diet
Protein is essential for growth and repair, and the good news is that there are lots of different sources of protein. Protein also helps you to feel full for longer.
Many people overestimate the amount of protein they need in their diet — the average person consumes 45-55% more protein than they need each day. 'Where do you get your protein from?' is a common question posed to people who avoid animal products in their diet, but it is unlikely you will be protein-deficient if you are eating a balanced, wholefood diet. If you do a lot of sports, you may need more than the recommended 0.75g of protein for each kilogram you weigh.
For example, if you weigh 154 pounds / 70 kg you should eat about 52.5g protein.
Aside from protein, something else you get from animal products is B12. Make sure you take a B12 supplement or food that is fortified with B12 if you don't eat fish. Omega 3 is a really important part of the Overcoming MS program, which you can get through fish but also flaxseed oil supplementation.
1. Fish and seafood
Fish can be a great substitute for meat in meals — and is an easy starting point for those who aren't well-versed in vegetarian and vegan cooking. If you don't like fish or choose not to eat it for environmental or ethical reasons, there are lots of other options.
For a meatier texture, try swordfish and tuna.
Include omega 3-rich fish such as mackerel, salmon, seabass, sardines and trout.
Incorporate white fish such as cod, haddock and hake.
2. Meat replacements
These meat alternatives can be heavily processed and contain additives, including preservatives, oils and salts. However, there are also some healthier options such as tofu. Make sure you look at the ingredients and nutritional information, particularly the saturated fat and added palm oil, as there is a lot of junk food sold under a 'vegetarian' or 'vegan' banner.
Making your own veggie burgers, 'meat' balls or 'sausages' at home means that you know what has been added.
A guide to meat substitutes
Made by curdling fresh soya milk, pressing it into a solid block and then cooling it — in much the same way that traditional dairy cheese is made.
Tofu comes in several varieties — the firmness depends on how much water has been pressed out
Silken tofu (Japanese): Silken tofu is undrained and unpressed, so works well in creamy and blended foods like smoothies, desserts, puddings, salad dressings, sauces, and dips. It can also be used as an egg substitute in baking.
Soft tofu: Soft tofu is the Chinese-style equivalent of silken tofu. It is slightly less smooth but can be used in the same way as silken tofu. Soft tofu has the least amount of water pressed out, while super-firm has a low moisture content and a dense texture.
Medium tofu: Denser than silken or soft but still fairly delicate. It can work well in gently simmered soups like miso.
Firm tofu: Absorbs flavours well and can be stir-fried and pan-fried. It's also great used in tofu scramble and as a substitute for ricotta cheese.
Extra-firm tofu: This tofu holds its shape well and is excellent for slicing, cubing, and all kinds of frying. It can also be baked, grilled, and crumbled and used like ground meat.
Super-firm tofu: This tofu is very dense with a high protein content. It won't fall apart on you and there is less water to cook out, so it can be a good choice when you're in a hurry. This tofu is often vacuum-packed rather than sold in a tub.
A traditional soy product originating from Indonesia. Made by fermenting soybeans in banana leaves until a firm, earthy patty forms. Nutritionally similar to tofu, the fermentation makes the starches easier to digest and is rich in prebiotics.
Aka wheat meat, seitan is good for those who need to avoid soy, but not good for those who avoid wheat. Seitan is good for meat stews and soups, but it is not a full dietary supplement for animal products. For this reason, it is advisable to eat seitan alongside other food such as beans for additional nutritional value.
Textured vegetable protein
A by-product of extracting soybean oil is soya flour which has been processed and dried. This is often used in vegetable products but isn't as nutritious as other soy-based options such as tofu or tempeh. Not suitable if you can't eat soy.
Made of Mycoprotein, a microfungus found in soil, and is heavily processed, so eat in moderation. However, it is high in fibre and protein.
Young, unripe jackfruit has a stringy consistency which can be used to create plant-based pulled pork etc. You can buy tinned Jackfruit in the supermarket.
3. Protein sources
There are lots of great plant-based sources of protein, with different tastes and textures.
Pulses and beans — e.g. lentils, kidney beans, edamame, pinto beans, black beans.
Wholegrain cereals — e.g. quinoa, wheat, oats and rice.
Nuts and seeds — pumpkin seeds, almonds, sunflower seeds and chia seeds are highest in protein.
4. Vegetables at the centre
Vegetables can make a great centre to a meal, for example when replacing meat when entertaining. There are so many recipe books out there centred around plant-based cooking. Some leafy green vegetables contain protein e.g. watercress, spinach, asparagus, and of course, fibre, antioxidants and vitamins to keep your body healthy.
Some other vegetables that make a good centrepiece to your meal:
Squash / pumpkin-stuffed
Cauliflower — a roast cauliflower can be the real star of the show
Meat and cheese contain ‘umami’ flavours which you might crave when changing your diet. Add these flavours to recipes using: miso, mushroom (particularly shiitake), soy sauce, nutritional yeast, fish sauce, Marmite /Vegemite, celery, ripe tomatoes, darker-fleshed fish (eat in moderation), sea vegetables (e.g. nori), black olives, toasted nuts and seeds and green tea.