Plant-based meat alternatives – are they worth the hype?
For the Wausau Times
WAUSAU – Plant-based meat alternatives are rising in popularity. But, are they really healthy for you? Chrisanne Urban, a Marshfield Clinic Health System dietitian, says yes, and no.
“It will come down to the individual to determine if it is worth it,” Urban said. “You have to know what you’re looking for and what’s important to you based on your diet.”
Food technology has transformed plant proteins into a growing number of plant-based meat alternatives filling grocery store aisles.
Plant-based meat alternatives can be packed with protein, but choose wisely.
Soybeans, peas, legumes, nuts, seeds, and whole grains can be altered into veggie burgers, sausages, hot dogs, and faux chicken nuggets and fish sticks. However, what looks pleasing to the eye might not really be healthy.
Packed inside many plant-based meat alternatives are protein, fat, vitamins, minerals and water. However, some may contain a lot of filler ingredients that makes them unhealthy.
“They aren’t suitable for all diets. They could include eggs and gluten as filler so you really need to look at what’s in them,” Urban said. “When you’re looking at selecting, you have to look at what is added into them. Many have iron sodium added into them while some have added fat. You need to be careful when selecting.”
Growing in availability
Consumers may enjoy the taste of meat but opt to go the plant-based meat route for a variety of reasons – ethical, environmental, cultural or other personal reasons. Plant-based alternatives mimic the taste of meat and the options are growing.
Fast-food chains such as Burger King and Carl’s Jr have gotten in on the trend recently with meatless “burger” menu options. However, finding endless plant-based meat alternatives in your grocery store could be limited depending upon where you live.
“Living in rural America, you likely won’t have the options that a bigger city might have,” Urban said. “You will pay more as well so cost can be a factor when you look at them.”
Do your research
Not all plant-based meat products offer the same nutritional value.
“Generally they are healthier than meats. Some may have fiber based on the ingredients but they could be more processed and lacking in nutrients,” Urban said. “They are not all created equal. They may look good but not really be good for you,”
The lesson here? Choose your meat alternative wisely.