According to a 2018 Gallup poll, just 5% of Americans identify as vegetarian and 3% as vegans. However, there’s no denying that plant-based eating is becoming more mainstream, even among omnivores. Many fast food restaurants are even offering plant-based meats on their menus. These alternatives are usually designed to mimic the taste of their meat counterpart, which is most important to consumers. Marketing of these new, plant-based options can also imply they are more environmentally sustainable and nutritious as well. But how can you really be sure this is true? Well, Guiding Stars has got you covered on the nutrition in this edition of Surprising Stars.
Follow the stars.
You knew this was coming, right? Guiding Stars has made selecting a nutritious choice as easy as 1,2,3 by reading all the Nutrition Facts and Ingredients lists for you. If a product earns Guiding Stars you can be confident that it is a nutritious choice. The more nutritional value a food has, the more Guiding Stars it receives. Use our Food Finder to find the Guiding Stars rating and complete nutrition data of any food in our database.
Consider your drive-thru choices.
Now you might be thinking “but Guiding Stars ratings are not available everywhere I eat.” This is true, at least for now. Some new and popular plant-based meats are even exclusively sold at certain restaurants. While we have already evaluated most of the new plant-based meats for our grocery store clients, there are a few things you should consider when our stars are unavailable. Like when you find yourself at the drive-thru.
According to the CDC, over one-third of adults eat fast food on a given day. So, positive shifts in the environmental sustainability or nutrition of fast food menu items could have a large impact. While the manufacturers of these new plant-based meats justifiably tout their environmental benefits (over red meat especially), the nutrition differences are less positive.
The protein amounts are generally similar, but most Americans consume more protein than is required anyway. Through fortification, the vitamins and minerals often closely match as well. The nutrients to consider more closely are saturated fat and sodium, which may be higher in plant-based meats than their meat counterparts. Their higher amounts in these products are due to flavoring with coconut oil and salty seasonings. Keeping these nutrients in check is particularly important for heart health.
So, should I eat them or not?
We all should consider reducing our intake of red meats since their production makes a significant environmental impact. By emulating meat’s texture, appearance, and taste these new plant-based meats have intrigued many meat eaters. However, they are not more nutritious than a traditional veggie, lean turkey, or lean beef burger. Enjoy these new plant-based meats occasionally, as part of an overall balance diet.