The truth about Vegan Diets & Meat Alternatives
By PW Nutritionist Steph Evans
With over 1 million Brits in the UK now vegan – 4 times the amount since 2014, there’s no surprise that the supermarket aisles are now full of ‘vegan meat’ and meat alternatives for you to buy. We are no longer talking typical vegan protein sources as chickpeas, tofu and lentil burgers - this new craze around vegan meat is a minefield on its own! From jackfruit ‘pulled pork’, banana blossom ‘fish’ and the release of the infamous Greggs Vegan Sausage roll – these meat alternatives are everywhere! If you haven’t heard what 2020 had to offer then go check out our 2020 Food & Nutrition Trends blog first! But the question is, are these new crazed substitutes actually any healthier than animal meat?
There is no question that reducing your overall meat consumption generally leads to improved health, not to mention the reduced impact on the environment. With red meat associations to increased risks of some cancers, and the high saturated fat content of some animal products to heart disease, it’s no wonder many of us are opting for the “flexitarian” lifestyle. This doesn’t necessarily mean you have to go Vegan! and it definitely doesn’t mean that those who are vegan will be any healthier than those who chose to eat meat a couple of times a week!
First off, when it comes to making realistic vegan meat products, it’s a tough question between what you deem is the most important aspect of your meat. For example, the popular vegan banana blossom ‘fish’ and chip option can taste scarily like fish and resemble its texture when deep fried – but the nutritional content just does not pair up! For sure it’s a great low-calorie option – ideal for those of us looking to lose a bit of weight - but it is also very low in protein, healthy fats and omegas when compared with freshly cooked fish. So, depending what you want from your meat substitute, you may want to pick carefully! Sadly, there isn’t necessarily anything particularly healthy about your vegan sausage roll either; it’s still processed which means it’s often high in salt!
More recently we have seen a rise in new vegan meat brands hitting the market! These companies have thought more about the complete replica for meat products in regard to the nutritional value as well as the sensory qualities associated to animal meat including texture and taste! Higher quality vegan brands often base the main ‘meaty’ component on pea protein, which is both high in protein, fibre and low in fat! This incredible nutritional composition means you get all the good sides of meat (ie. lean protein) without the fat of your typical greasy cheeseburger!
Take Home Message:
- Meat alternatives such as jackfruit and banana blossom are great for cutting down the calories for individuals trying to lose weight! Low in salt, sugar and fat they are incredibly healthy options.
- If building muscle is your goal, opt for sources of vegan protein, such as vegan meat products based on pea protein, but be careful of hidden salt! These products may be a bit pricier than your typical veggie burger, but if you are looking for the best nutrition and good quality vegan protein then these are ideal choices! Alternatively, we have just launched a Vegan Protein shake that is an ideal post-workout or high-protein snack to have on the go – packing in 30g gold-standard plant-based protein per serving!
- You don’t need to eat fake meat EVERY day as ultimately a vegan diet should be focused primarily on wholefoods (such as veggies, beans and pulses). Other vegan protein sources such as tofu, lentils and chickpeas are incredibly nutritious and can make some delicious dishes! If you are still sceptical on tofu, try our Tofu Breakfast Scramble or Tofu Poke Bowls recipes, you’ll sure to be a convert!
- Cutting down meat consumption will help lower your risks of cardiovascular disease and cancers; however, it doesn’t mean you have to cut out meat completely. Basing your diet on whole plant-based foods alongside eating lean cuts of meat 2-3 times a week is just as beneficial as if you chose meat alternatives. Unsure what the difference is? Check out our Vegan vs plant-based article!
Remember, if you are vegan (or thinking of trying a plant-based diet) then it is important to ensure you supplement your diet with vitamins you could be lacking; ie. B12, iodine and calcium. Try our Vegan Blend as a high protein snack you can drink alongside your daily meals as it is fortified with all essential nutrients to ensure you keep yourself healthy all year round! You may also want to read up on our blog post: Thinking of Going Vegan?.
Need advice on Vegan diets? We’d be happy to help, get in touch! Simply email: email@example.com