There has been a lot of talk as to whether we should be eating plant-based meat alternatives due to them falling into the processed food bracket. There are both pros and cons but let’s start on a positive note…
They can be very useful for those wanting to reduce their meat intake
It is not always realistic to expect a complete diet change overnight, and people’s reasons for wanting to reduce their meat intake varies. Changes in diet patterns should be sustainable and these products can help with this.
They make plant-based eating more accessible
These meat alternatives are often placed in the same aisle as meat and although some people have highlighted this as a negative, I actually think it is an inspired idea. I know a lot of meat eaters who have accidentally come across these products, bought them and then decided to replace their usual burgers with the meat free alternative
They do not contain haem iron or harmful nitrates
This type of iron found in meat contributes to inflammation in the body and can result in insulin resistance and contribute to chronic disease states. Nitrates in processed meat generate harmful, carcinogenic (cancer causing) compounds.
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They are handy when eating out with friends, or going to social events
Many restaurants now have a vegan menu which is fantastic, and the primary options tend to be plant-based burgers or hot dogs. Similarly, when invited to social events such as BBQs, rather than missing out, or having to make your own food to take with you, you can either take your plant-based burgers enjoy the occasion with your friends.
They are useful for feeding the family
We all have very busy lives and often, the last thing you feel like doing is cooking a meal from scratch, especially if you can’t be sure that the children will eat it. These products are convenient and when served with salad for example, can form a nutritious meal for your family
They are a processed food
Ultimately, these products are still classed as a processed food and can contain high amounts of salt, sugar, saturated fat and additives. All these things can have a negative impact on our health, such as increasing our risk of obesity, tooth decay and cardiovascular disease.
They can be expensive
When switching to a plant-based diet, there is often the misconception that it can be much more expensive than a meat-based diet. Although this isn’t true, if these products become a regular part of the diet, the cost can quickly add up.
They are often not suitable for those with allergies
Many meat alternatives contain ingredients such as soya, wheat and barley, which means that they may not be appropriate for those with allergies or conditions such as coeliac disease. It is very important to check the labels carefully if this applies to you.
Meat alternatives can be a great choice for those wanting to transition to a more plant-based diet. There is little point in moving from a processed meat-based diet to a primarily processed vegan diet. However, eating plant-based meat alternatives as part of an otherwise healthy, balanced diet is not going to have a significant negative impact on your health. In addition, if the occasional meat substitute makes things easier in terms of pleasing the whole family, reducing stress and resulting in food satisfaction for all, then we shouldn’t feel guilty about that.
Whatever you choose to do, you can feel reassured knowing that by increasing the number of plant foods in your diet to replace animal foods, you are improving your health, reducing your risk of chronic disease and. helping to reduce your environmental impact.