Chances are, if you’re switching to a plant-based diet, you’ve already scoured the freezer section of your grocery store and checked out the meat replacement options that run the gamut from burgers to “chicken” offerings. and even artificial. Ground beef.” There’s no denying that these alternative meats make switching from a carnivorous diet to a plant-based diet that much less daunting, but are these man-made options really good for your health?
We spoke with Anna RiosRDN who also follows a diet free of animal products to determine the health qualities of meat alternatives so you can stay aware of what you are really putting into your body when it comes to your new vegetable-based diet. .
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They are highly processed
It can be a lot harder to get enough protein on a vegan or vegetarian diet, and fake meats offer a simple solution to combat that. That being said, unlike animal protein, these meat alternatives are often highly processed and packed with preservatives and a host of other less than ideal ingredients to give them their flavor. “The reason I recommend eating these types of vegan meats in moderation is because of the amount of fat and other additives they contain,” Rios says. “Most of the time they contain high amounts of saturated fat, preservatives and sodium.”
While this isn’t necessarily harmful to your body, it certainly takes away from the health benefits of your meal, and there are other, more natural ways to reach your daily protein intake goals without loading your body with preservatives and processed ingredients. “It’s best to include more whole plant proteins in your diet, such as beans, chickpeas, lentils, tempeh, homemade seitan, and nuts/seeds,” suggests Rios.
These ingredients certainly don’t taste like meat, but if you leave your carnivorous diet behind, foods don’t have to *imitate* that flavor to still be delicious. In fact, there are a number of satisfying and filling vegan recipes that rely on beans and vegetables for flavor, and are actually much better for your body than some meats.
Many meat eaters wonder what exactly constitutes these plant-based meat products, and it’s not really a mystery. “Meat alternatives are typically made with soy, pea protein isolate, or gluten,” Rios says. “These are not harmful to your body unless you are allergic or have food sensitivities, but vegan meat alternatives are best consumed in moderation (about once a week or so).” In addition to preservatives, meat alternatives are often also high in sodium, which can lead to bloating and discomfort, which is never ideal when trying to adopt a healthier lifestyle.
A good rule of thumb suggested by Rios is to check the nutrition label: the fewer ingredients, the better. “Try to find meat alternatives with minimal ingredients, lower sodium levels, and lower amounts of saturated fat. I generally recommend Dr. Praeger’s as a ‘healthier’ meat alternative,” she says.
If eating meat alternatives helps you transition to a plant-based diet, there’s no reason not to continue including this food in your diet. That being said, in order to properly reap the benefits of a vegetarian or vegan diet, turning to natural sources of protein and other valuable nutrients such as beans, cruciferous vegetables and whole grains will ultimately serve your body well. allowing you to feel your best.
Buying time with the occasional veggie burger won’t cause any lasting harm to your body, but staying aware of the nutritional value of your food is key to creating an eating plan that will adequately fuel your day.