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5 Things Parents Should Know About Plant-Based Meat Substitutes

Every Friday, we bring you five related things, ideas, facts, or practices that we hope will make your parenting journey a little easier. This week, it’s five things to know about the plant-based meat substitutes that have become staples of grocery stores, restaurants, and even fast-food chains.

“Plant-based” is a nutrition catchphrase that’s become synonymous with health. Whether it’s vegan documentaries on Netflix claiming to prevent chronic diseases, books and magazines showing six-pack abs in the checkout aisle at Whole Foods, or athletes who claim rejuvenation after reducing or eliminating meat, “plant-based” is a hot commodity in the health world.

What does “plant-based” actually mean? It’s not a term regulated by the FDA or USDA so any product can claim to be plant-based. Among advocates for plant-based diets, the term is sometimes used as a friendlier synonym for vegan (like here) and other times means a diet that emphasizes fruit, veggies, and grains but still allows some meat, dairy, and other animal products (like here).

Plant-based meat substitutes, however, are 100% free of meat. You’ve probably seen brands like Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat, amongst many others, sold in grocery stores everywhere and fast food chains like Burger King and Subway. So, what do parents need to know about these products?

1. They’re not whole foods.

Unlike beef, chicken, and other animal proteins, plant-based meat substitutes are highly processed and made of dozens of industrially manufactured ingredients. Comparing 4 oz of Beyond Beef, Impossible Burger, and 85% lean ground beef, we see they’re in the same ballpark in calories, protein, fat, and carbs (though ground beef has more protein and fewer carbs, which is a plus in its favor). But the ingredients list is where they really separate themselves.  

2. Most have less protein per serving than meat

As we can see above, even good sources of protein like Beyond Beef and Impossible Burger have less protein per serving than ground beef. But a recent survey of plant-based meat substitutes by Safefood, a governmental organization that monitors food safety in Ireland, over a quarter of these products are too low in protein to be classified as “a source of protein.”  

3. They’re not nutritionally interchangeable with meat

A recent study found that grass-fed ground beef had 73 micronutrients that were either not in plant-based meat substitutes or were significantly higher than in these substitutes. The micronutrients include the omega-3 fatty acid DHA, vitamin B3, glucosamine, hydroxyproline, and several anti‐oxidants. Most of these micronutrients are abundant in meat but scarce in fruits, veggies, and grains. Plant-based substitutes had 108 micronutrients that were significantly higher than in meat but all of these are abundant in plants (and so easily made up for with a side of veggies).

4. Price

Comparing prices at Target, Beyond Beef ($7.79/lb) and Impossible Burger ($6.49/lb) are in the same ballpark for price. A pound of regular ground beef at Target is $5.39 and a pound of organic, grass-fed beef is $6.79.

5. Environmental benefits have been oversold

One of the most common selling points for plant-based meat substitutes is that they can help combat climate change and other environmental drawbacks of meat. But these analyses are based on studies funded by plant-based meat companies. According to Marco Springmann at the University of Oxford, these meat substitutes have 5x the environmental impact of legumes and the same impact as chicken. According to this scientific review by researchers at Duke and the USDA, meat substitutes are indeed better for the environment than beef from cattle raised on factory farms, but are worse for the environment than beef from pasture-raised cattle.

While plant-based meat substitutes have the aura of health and environmental friendliness, the reality doesn’t live up to the hype.

5 Things Parents Should Know About Plant-Based Meat Substitutes

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5 Things Parents Should Know About Plant-Based Meat Substitutes

Plant-based meat substitutes have an aura of healthiness and environmental friendliness. While these substitutes aren’t terrible health choices, a closer examination shows that the reality doesn’t match the hype.

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Every Friday, we bring you five related things, ideas, facts, or practices that we hope will make your parenting journey a little easier. This week, it’s five things to know about the plant-based meat substitutes that have become staples of grocery stores, restaurants, and even fast-food chains.

“Plant-based” is a nutrition catchphrase that’s become synonymous with health. Whether it’s vegan documentaries on Netflix claiming to prevent chronic diseases, books and magazines showing six-pack abs in the checkout aisle at Whole Foods, or athletes who claim rejuvenation after reducing or eliminating meat, “plant-based” is a hot commodity in the health world.

What does “plant-based” actually mean? It’s not a term regulated by the FDA or USDA so any product can claim to be plant-based. Among advocates for plant-based diets, the term is sometimes used as a friendlier synonym for vegan (like here) and other times means a diet that emphasizes fruit, veggies, and grains but still allows some meat, dairy, and other animal products (like here).

Plant-based meat substitutes, however, are 100% free of meat. You’ve probably seen brands like Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat, amongst many others, sold in grocery stores everywhere and fast food chains like Burger King and Subway. So, what do parents need to know about these products?

1. They’re not whole foods.

Unlike beef, chicken, and other animal proteins, plant-based meat substitutes are highly processed and made of dozens of industrially manufactured ingredients. Comparing 4 oz of Beyond Beef, Impossible Burger, and 85% lean ground beef, we see they’re in the same ballpark in calories, protein, fat, and carbs (though ground beef has more protein and fewer carbs, which is a plus in its favor). But the ingredients list is where they really separate themselves.  

2. Most have less protein per serving than meat

As we can see above, even good sources of protein like Beyond Beef and Impossible Burger have less protein per serving than ground beef. But a recent survey of plant-based meat substitutes by Safefood, a governmental organization that monitors food safety in Ireland, over a quarter of these products are too low in protein to be classified as “a source of protein.”  

3. They’re not nutritionally interchangeable with meat

A recent study found that grass-fed ground beef had 73 micronutrients that were either not in plant-based meat substitutes or were significantly higher than in these substitutes. The micronutrients include the omega-3 fatty acid DHA, vitamin B3, glucosamine, hydroxyproline, and several anti‐oxidants. Most of these micronutrients are abundant in meat but scarce in fruits, veggies, and grains. Plant-based substitutes had 108 micronutrients that were significantly higher than in meat but all of these are abundant in plants (and so easily made up for with a side of veggies).

4. Price

Comparing prices at Target, Beyond Beef ($7.79/lb) and Impossible Burger ($6.49/lb) are in the same ballpark for price. A pound of regular ground beef at Target is $5.39 and a pound of organic, grass-fed beef is $6.79.

5. Environmental benefits have been oversold

One of the most common selling points for plant-based meat substitutes is that they can help combat climate change and other environmental drawbacks of meat. But these analyses are based on studies funded by plant-based meat companies. According to Marco Springmann at the University of Oxford, these meat substitutes have 5x the environmental impact of legumes and the same impact as chicken. According to this scientific review by researchers at Duke and the USDA, meat substitutes are indeed better for the environment than beef from cattle raised on factory farms, but are worse for the environment than beef from pasture-raised cattle.

While plant-based meat substitutes have the aura of health and environmental friendliness, the reality doesn’t live up to the hype.

Every Friday, we bring you five related things, ideas, facts, or practices that we hope will make your parenting journey a little easier. This week, it’s five things to know about the plant-based meat substitutes that have become staples of grocery stores, restaurants, and even fast-food chains.

“Plant-based” is a nutrition catchphrase that’s become synonymous with health. Whether it’s vegan documentaries on Netflix claiming to prevent chronic diseases, books and magazines showing six-pack abs in the checkout aisle at Whole Foods, or athletes who claim rejuvenation after reducing or eliminating meat, “plant-based” is a hot commodity in the health world.

What does “plant-based” actually mean? It’s not a term regulated by the FDA or USDA so any product can claim to be plant-based. Among advocates for plant-based diets, the term is sometimes used as a friendlier synonym for vegan (like here) and other times means a diet that emphasizes fruit, veggies, and grains but still allows some meat, dairy, and other animal products (like here).

Plant-based meat substitutes, however, are 100% free of meat. You’ve probably seen brands like Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat, amongst many others, sold in grocery stores everywhere and fast food chains like Burger King and Subway. So, what do parents need to know about these products?

1. They’re not whole foods.

Unlike beef, chicken, and other animal proteins, plant-based meat substitutes are highly processed and made of dozens of industrially manufactured ingredients. Comparing 4 oz of Beyond Beef, Impossible Burger, and 85% lean ground beef, we see they’re in the same ballpark in calories, protein, fat, and carbs (though ground beef has more protein and fewer carbs, which is a plus in its favor). But the ingredients list is where they really separate themselves.  

2. Most have less protein per serving than meat

As we can see above, even good sources of protein like Beyond Beef and Impossible Burger have less protein per serving than ground beef. But a recent survey of plant-based meat substitutes by Safefood, a governmental organization that monitors food safety in Ireland, over a quarter of these products are too low in protein to be classified as “a source of protein.”  

3. They’re not nutritionally interchangeable with meat

A recent study found that grass-fed ground beef had 73 micronutrients that were either not in plant-based meat substitutes or were significantly higher than in these substitutes. The micronutrients include the omega-3 fatty acid DHA, vitamin B3, glucosamine, hydroxyproline, and several anti‐oxidants. Most of these micronutrients are abundant in meat but scarce in fruits, veggies, and grains. Plant-based substitutes had 108 micronutrients that were significantly higher than in meat but all of these are abundant in plants (and so easily made up for with a side of veggies).

4. Price

Comparing prices at Target, Beyond Beef ($7.79/lb) and Impossible Burger ($6.49/lb) are in the same ballpark for price. A pound of regular ground beef at Target is $5.39 and a pound of organic, grass-fed beef is $6.79.

5. Environmental benefits have been oversold

One of the most common selling points for plant-based meat substitutes is that they can help combat climate change and other environmental drawbacks of meat. But these analyses are based on studies funded by plant-based meat companies. According to Marco Springmann at the University of Oxford, these meat substitutes have 5x the environmental impact of legumes and the same impact as chicken. According to this scientific review by researchers at Duke and the USDA, meat substitutes are indeed better for the environment than beef from cattle raised on factory farms, but are worse for the environment than beef from pasture-raised cattle.

While plant-based meat substitutes have the aura of health and environmental friendliness, the reality doesn’t live up to the hype.

Every Friday, we bring you five related things, ideas, facts, or practices that we hope will make your parenting journey a little easier. This week, it’s five things to know about the plant-based meat substitutes that have become staples of grocery stores, restaurants, and even fast-food chains.

“Plant-based” is a nutrition catchphrase that’s become synonymous with health. Whether it’s vegan documentaries on Netflix claiming to prevent chronic diseases, books and magazines showing six-pack abs in the checkout aisle at Whole Foods, or athletes who claim rejuvenation after reducing or eliminating meat, “plant-based” is a hot commodity in the health world.

What does “plant-based” actually mean? It’s not a term regulated by the FDA or USDA so any product can claim to be plant-based. Among advocates for plant-based diets, the term is sometimes used as a friendlier synonym for vegan (like here) and other times means a diet that emphasizes fruit, veggies, and grains but still allows some meat, dairy, and other animal products (like here).

Plant-based meat substitutes, however, are 100% free of meat. You’ve probably seen brands like Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat, amongst many others, sold in grocery stores everywhere and fast food chains like Burger King and Subway. So, what do parents need to know about these products?

1. They’re not whole foods.

Unlike beef, chicken, and other animal proteins, plant-based meat substitutes are highly processed and made of dozens of industrially manufactured ingredients. Comparing 4 oz of Beyond Beef, Impossible Burger, and 85% lean ground beef, we see they’re in the same ballpark in calories, protein, fat, and carbs (though ground beef has more protein and fewer carbs, which is a plus in its favor). But the ingredients list is where they really separate themselves.  

2. Most have less protein per serving than meat

As we can see above, even good sources of protein like Beyond Beef and Impossible Burger have less protein per serving than ground beef. But a recent survey of plant-based meat substitutes by Safefood, a governmental organization that monitors food safety in Ireland, over a quarter of these products are too low in protein to be classified as “a source of protein.”  

3. They’re not nutritionally interchangeable with meat

A recent study found that grass-fed ground beef had 73 micronutrients that were either not in plant-based meat substitutes or were significantly higher than in these substitutes. The micronutrients include the omega-3 fatty acid DHA, vitamin B3, glucosamine, hydroxyproline, and several anti‐oxidants. Most of these micronutrients are abundant in meat but scarce in fruits, veggies, and grains. Plant-based substitutes had 108 micronutrients that were significantly higher than in meat but all of these are abundant in plants (and so easily made up for with a side of veggies).

4. Price

Comparing prices at Target, Beyond Beef ($7.79/lb) and Impossible Burger ($6.49/lb) are in the same ballpark for price. A pound of regular ground beef at Target is $5.39 and a pound of organic, grass-fed beef is $6.79.

5. Environmental benefits have been oversold

One of the most common selling points for plant-based meat substitutes is that they can help combat climate change and other environmental drawbacks of meat. But these analyses are based on studies funded by plant-based meat companies. According to Marco Springmann at the University of Oxford, these meat substitutes have 5x the environmental impact of legumes and the same impact as chicken. According to this scientific review by researchers at Duke and the USDA, meat substitutes are indeed better for the environment than beef from cattle raised on factory farms, but are worse for the environment than beef from pasture-raised cattle.

While plant-based meat substitutes have the aura of health and environmental friendliness, the reality doesn’t live up to the hype.

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