More people than ever are switching to plant-based diets. It is estimated that 9.7 million people in the U.S. depend on plants for their nutritional needs. Despite skepticism that is still common, this way of life has become more accepted and respected since there are clear health benefits and reduction of environmental damage.
Whether or not a person can get all of the nutrition they need on a vegetarian or vegan diet has been debated often, and it is clear that, as long as vegans ensure they get enough B 12, iron and calcium and supplementing where necessary, there is no reason to worry that this diet is somehow deficient.
The other issue that arises among vegans is how suitable are commercially-made meat replacements. These products are almost everywhere and are even replacing meat and chicken ready-made products in the frozen sections of grocery stores. This started before the pandemic when more people worldwide were adopting a plant-based diet but accelerated because of meat supply shortages during lockdowns in the early months of Covid-19.
As a result, people were forced to switch to meat substitutes to cope with the fact that meat and chicken were not being produced and many people made permanent changes to their diets as a result. The majority of these people did not go vegetarian or vegan, but to save money, to enjoy a cruelty-free dinner and out of consideration to the plant, many people have decided to eat a meat or chicken substitute several times a week. Others simply like the taste.
So are these meat substitutes deserving of their current popularity? There are pros and cons to these meat and chicken substitutes
- Easier way to transition to a In addition, itplant-based diet
- Better for the environment than meat
- Not as inflammatory as meat
- Some are high quality
Convenience. There is no doubt that it is much easier to pop a lentil burger in the microwave than to make one in a blender and fry it up. Although the latter isn’t too difficult either, it takes some time, planning, and cleanup. Unfortunately, many people have strayed from the plant-based path because of the lack of convenience foods, but the frozen food companies are certainly making up for lost time and creating instant plant-based meals.
Some feel these vegan meat substitutes are easier to transition to a plant-based diet because they resemble familiar foods. It is simpler to make changes if some items are part of one’s routine. These meat replacements fit conveniently on the usual menu and do not require adjustments. In addition, some of these products are high quality and either taste like meat or are delicious in their own right.
Although packaging can be wasteful, since the foods are plant-based, they are better for the environment than meat. For example, cows and chickens require much more water to raise than plants and clearing additional land. Also, plant-based foods benefit the body and don’t have the same inflammatory qualities as meat.
- Still a Processed Food
- Usually Expensive
- Quality Varies
- May not be Fortified
Although vegan meat substitutes can be healthier than meat in many ways, they still have processed food. This means they contain preservatives, and in some cases, coloring and flavoring and are not freshly made. As a result, many people prefer to take a few minutes and make the same lentil burger in their blender for a fresher, cheaper alternative.
It is also worth noting that, for what you get, these convenience foods are usually expensive. For example, a lentil or a mushroom burger that would cost pennies to make can be as expensive as meat. In addition, the quality varies from brand to brand and product to product.
To those who aren’t used to a plant-based diet, “‘quality” is too often judged as the product’s resemblance to meat in its flavor. Instead, the standard should be on freshness and lack of unhealthy ingredients. In addition, not all of these products are fortified with B-12 and other nutrients. Although a homemade variety isn’t fortified either, some may expect a fortified product which in reality isn’t.
Are Vegan Meat Substitutes Worth It?
For people who miss the flavor of meat, vegan meat substitutes may trick the tastebuds or they may not. Seasoned vegans often consider them an overpriced gimmick, but these substitutes may be just the thing for people who are trying a plant-based diet for the first time. If you are willing to pay more for convenience and check the labels, it may be worth springing for packaged vegan meat substitutes.