According to a new survey conducted by SafefoodOne quarter of meat substitutes do not have enough protein to be considered a suitable protein source. The survey counted 354 meat substitutes and vegetarian instant meals, including vegetarian versions of chicken, meatballs, beef balls, sausages, nuggets, and fish. Researchers found that most are thoroughly processed and many are not as nutrient-dense as you might expect. If you are expecting a meat substitute to meet your daily protein intake, be sure to check the nutrition sheet.
“If you position ‘protein’ on the nutrition facts panel, you will see the grams listed and if you look to the right, you can see the percent listed. This is the percentage of daily value, ” Melissa Rifkin, RD. . “Unfortunately, it won’t be listed on all food products, but you can use the grams listed to calculate your own daily value percentage. In order for a single meat substitute to be considered high in protein, it must contain at least 20 percent of the determined Daily Value for protein. ” Individual protein needs vary depending on an individual’s age and activity level, but The Food and Drug Association (FDA) has identified 50 grams of protein is the daily value for a 2,000 calorie diet.
It’s important to pay attention to the protein source as well as the other ingredients listed. “Many meat alternatives have long ingredient lists,” Rifkin said. “This isn’t all bad because many of the items listed as vitamins and minerals are added to make a whole food product.” However, many meat replacement products contain preservatives (incl sodium) and chemicals used to dye food.
Here’s what a registered dietitian thinks about Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat:
Meat substitutes are usually made with soybeans, tempeh, peas, quinoa, lentils, chickpeas, beans or mushrooms. Each of these ingredients itself is full of nutrients – and in fact, most are excellent sources of protein (except mushrooms). However, Rifkin says you should keep an eye on the protein content on the nutrition facts panel to make sure it’s considered the main ingredient.
“As with all dietary approaches, it’s good to consume a variety of foods in order to get plenty of nutrients,” Rifkin says. “While meat alternatives can be a source of protein for plant-eaters, they can also consume beans, lentils, nuts and seeds to meet their nutritional needs.”
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