Guilt-free food- substitutes for meat, sugar and dairy

Healthier replacements that look and taste good.

Portrait of Tammy Strobel

Nature may have provided us with meat, spices and plants, but science is giving us guilt-free eating – through substitutes. Now dairy, sugar and even meat have replacements that look and taste great, and are healthier for us.

"4Fingers is making wings night possible for vegetarians with Quorn Chickless Wings and Nuggets at all its outlets. Dip these in sauces and they make the same sticky mess as any buffalo wing platter. The pieces come in all sorts of shapes and don’t turn rubbery. They also need less frying time. Less oil and more flavour? Oh yes."

While we still aren’t at the stage where we’re popping pills as full meals (like in science fiction movies circa the ’70s), we have reached a juncture where science has overtaken what nature intended. The revolution in substitutes – be it meat, sugar or dairy – seems futuristic, but is clearly here to stay and play. Say goodbye to the Frankenmeats of yore, and hello to faux meats that bleed, tofu cheeses, coconut yogurts and cakes minus the artifi cial sweeteners. (Dear scientists, we still don’t want the pills.)  

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"From bun to condiments, Hello Baby’s Hello Ang Moh is an animal-free burger using Beyond Meat patties (soya-, gluten- and GMO-free). They are springy and actually “bleed”. Beyond Meat kind of tastes like the real thing (FYI, Bill Gates agrees)."


Science has synthesised plant-based protein to the point where you can’t tell – in taste, optics and texture – where meat ends and non-meat begins. Various companies have used ingenious and healthier options as substitutes:

Omnipork, with its obvious pork-like texture, has been a vegan community staple in Hong Kong for a long time. It contains soya-based proteins made of soya, peas, shiitake mushroom and rice.

Quorn (its naked fillets look like chicken and absorb any flavour they’re exposed to) is made from fungi protein. No, it does not taste like mushroom at all – the “chicken” totally tastes like chicken.

Beyond Meat’s burger patties are a combination of beets (for the red beefy colour), peas, coconut oil and potato starch.

We like that restaurants here are in on this too: Hello Baby (10 Trengganu Street) and Hrvst (OUE Downtown Gallery, 6A Shenton Way) are giving us guilt-free fast food with patties from Beyond Meat. The Fullerton Hotel is on board with Omnipork; and fried chicken chain 4Fingers is giving us Quorn wings and nuggets. Just imagine the queues when the USA’s red and bloody Impossible Burger comes to our little red dot in the first half of 2019.

You can get Quorn and Beyond Meat products from Redmart. The former costs $6 for 300g (be it mince or fillets) and the latter costs $14 for two 113g patties.

While you’re at it, sub out some other options:

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Opt Out of Disposable Cutlery
Local delivery service Foodpanda gives you a choice to cut down on plastic wastage. The next time you order something off it, click the “no cutlery” option.
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Use Kombu and Shiitake Mushroom for Soup Stock
Ditch the chicken or pork broth (spare the animals) for this umami hit. This age-old Asian version is equally tasty and mum-tested.
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No More Plastic Straws
If you still aren’t on board with bamboo, metal or glass straws – shame, shame, shame. It’s time you got yours, and don’t forget the straw cleaner.
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Reusable Sealable Bags

Lunch bags that can be washed are now a thing. Lunchskins is a brand that produces lunch bags made of pastry fabric. They’ll keep your food dry and are recyclable as well.
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"Born Cultured’s coconut yogurt makes a great breakfast condiment. It’s thick but runny enough to drizzle on your granola. Plus point: It’s sugar-free. Starts at $13.98 for 500g at "

"The Kroodi range includes a soft Truffi Cheez that’s fragrant and truffle infused.

This Cheddi Cheez ($17.50 for 130g) is smoky and sharp, a little stronger than brie (and as creamy) but not as pungent as aged cheddar.

The Basilicato Cheez ($19 for 130g) is Italian inspired, with a herbaceous punch. The sunflower seeds nestled in it provide crunch. All available from Redmart."


Sour cream on bagels and cream cheese on crackers, ice cream parties after comfy dinners – these are a few of our favourite things. You don’t have to say goodbye to them just because you’re lactose-intolerant or reducing your dairy intake.

Want non-dairy cheese boards? Kroodi and Chao have got your back. Kroodi, a Singapore-based brand (sold at Redmart), specialises in artisanal cashew cheeses that are sugar-, gluten- and preservative-free. They looklike cheese, have the textureof hard cheese and taste remarkably like… cheese.

Chao cheese (at Eat Organic, 619H Bukit TimahRoad), long an American vegetarian favourite, fi nally reached Singapore a year ago. This is a food science experiment done right, as Chao is a tofu-based cheese high in protein and probiotics.

And if you’ve ever rejected a dessert menu because of your food preferences, good news: The dairy industry has more defectors now. You have indie brands like Australia’s Born Cultured and Brownice (#01-03 Sin Ming Centre, 8 Sin Ming Road), and even ice cream giant Ben & Jerry’s is creating non-dairy options as if cows never happened.
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"Duxton 41 has neutralised the sugar problem in desserts with its mini loaf cakes. These are slightly dense but aren’t dry. Sweetened with monk fruit, they’re a treat, and are $6 a piece."


Refined sugar gets a bad rap, but substituting it isn’t too difficult. And we aren’t pushing artifi cial sweeteners like stevia and agave nectar either. According to a medical journal by the National Library of Medicine at the National Institutes of Health in the USA, agave nectar is 85 per cent highly concentrated fructose – it’s not natural fructose, and lacks vitamins, fibre and other important nutrients. Time, we say, to climb down from that sugar high and try other options.

We found inspired dessert solutions from the people at Duxton 41 (41 Duxton Road) and Tiann’s (Block 71 Seng Poh Road) – who are baking sans sugar. Their treats are sweetened with all-natural ingredients like monk fruit granules, carrots, dates and natural fruit juices, and they aren’t short on creativity and flavours.

At Duxton 41, you can have matcha and apple crumble mini loaf cakes without sugar – monk fruit granules are used instead. Yes, you can buy and eat the whole loaf. Tiann’s also has a homemade gooey banana bread that’s sweetened only with chopped bananas and dates (all blended into the dough).