Alternative Meat Options, Are They Healthy Or Not?

by Skye Kimberley Mallon

Alternative meat options come in a wide variety of brands nowadays. I’m truly happy that more people are hopping onto the conscious living train to look after our precious planet and their personal health. However, it does worry me that we’re still eating a lot of overly processed food. In fact, these meat alternatives are just as, if not more, processed than their meat counterparts.

This is an issue we should speak about more. It’s a reason to be concerned. Just because you’re opting for a vegan or vegetarian-friendly product doesn’t make it healthier. The other thing you need to know is that many of these meat alternatives aren’t necessarily for the health-conscious or vegan consumer. They’re simply there to help meat-eaters reduce their consumption of meat. It’s good to have the correct information and make a more mindful decision next time you go food shopping.

In the US there are big franchises like Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat who are creating all kinds of plant-based meat alternatives. Their products are designed to mimic the taste, texture and even the ‘bleeding’ of a regular hamburger. A great idea for sure. However, many people are confused and have fallen into the trap of thinking these are healthy and can be eaten in excess.

Meat Alternatives Help Meat-Eaters Eat Less Meat

This isn’t only happening in the US though, we’re seeing it all over. I see people in South Africa opting for vegan fast food or ‘healthy’ meat-free options more and more. They feel confident that they’re eating an exceptionally healthy meal, when in fact it’s just as greasy, processed and fattening as the real thing. However, I can’t complain too much because it is a form of conscious living since it helps protect the planet. I just feel the need to properly educate others on the quality of the food they’re eating.

Remember that nutrition is life and you want to make sure that 80% of the time you’re eating fresh and whole foods. Personally, I eat mainly plant-based and then eat seafood because I am a pescatarian. However, there are days and sometimes weeks when I try to eat a vegetarian diet depending on how I feel. Therefore, I often grab a box of Frys traditional soy sausages to satisfy that craving for substantial protein.

But I try not to eat this too much because these products are overly processed which can’t be good for you in excess either. That’s why variety is key. Opting for whole grains like lentils, legumes, and beans is probably a better bet.

I think it’s really great that new fast-food restaurants like the Fussy Vegan are opening up in Johannesburg. But we still need to consume these products with a pinch of mindfulness. They’re by no means healthier than a homemade, fresh salad or vegetable roast. Having said that, it is nice for us to have the option of not eating meat.

How Do We Know If Meat Alternatives Are Healthy Or Not?

Before it used to be a lot harder for everyday people to convert to a plant-based diet. Mainly because we were subjected to unsatisfying veggie patties that left us feeling more hungry than before. Especially if you’re someone who has grown up eating meat. The other dilemma would be the long list of ingredients these ‘veggie substitutes’ had on their labels.

Nobody cared to read through it and we weren’ t exactly encouraged by the number of additives either. But today, the list is much shorter. The only problem that we face is distinguishing between the healthy and the not so healthy brands. It’s tough to keep up with all the new innovations from different brands popping up. If the FDA can’t track it, then how can the average consumer?

An article I wrote for Longevity also comments on this. It explains clearly that we all need to be diligent about remaining mindful about these meat alternatives. The article says that many of these meat alternatives contain a high amount of saturated fats and a lot of vegan or vegetarian people flood clinics due to high cholesterol problems. Ironic right? Almost the same issue as someone who eats a ton of red meat…

A lack of knowledge was also a major part of the problem in the past. Luckily today we’ve got tons of it, so take advantage guys!

Hold Yourself Accountable When Food Shopping

I don’t mean to bash meat alternatives, but I just want to stop people from assuming it’s okay to overeat these products. They’re not exactly healthier, they’re just better for the environment. Julieanna Hever, says that it’s very easy to be misled by marketers. I think the ‘health halo’ placed around these meat alternatives is strong. Dieticians like Hever see more clients with high cholesterol and weight problems because they’re eating too much of these processed foods.

Don’t fall into this trap. Remember moderation and that whole food options will always be better for you. Give my peanut power breakfast a try! Save the tasty treats for a treat. Don’t be hard on yourself for falling into this trap, just know now that you need to be held accountable. Just because they’re meat-free doesn’t mean they are healthy foods.

Maybe The Veggie Burgers Were Better After All?

The ironic thing about this switch-a-roo from meat to plant-based eating is the fact that meat alternatives are not great either. The complaints before were mainly that simple veggie patties never quite satisfied meat-eating consumers.

However, news reports from CNN Health suggest that you’d probably be better off choosing the veggie pattie from a health standpoint. Just don’t eat the veggie pattie alone, pair it with other nutritious food options.

To be honest, if I want a plant-based burger, I’ll rather choose a really delicious veggie patty. I wouldn’t go for the one with fake ‘blood.’ This is because I care about my personal health more. I want a burger that is comprised of real vegetables and does not taste like a meat hamburger. I’m talking about a veggie burger, that has lentils, beets, brown rice, red pepper, quinoa, black beans or jalapeño, topped with tahini, tomato, onion, avocado, and sprouts. But I suppose if you’re a heavy meat-eater this won’t cut the craving? Let me know what you’d choose.

meat alternatives [skyezee fashionfit]
Whole foods are always better than processed foods, despite the fact they may or may not be vegan or vegetarian.

Therefore, my opinion on this matter is that if you’re going to eat these meat alternatives and burgers, then it’s a win-win because you’re contributing to the well-being of the planet while enjoying what you eat. However, if you’re eating these burgers simply in the name of saving calories, or sodium, or saturated fat, or improving your health then you might want to rethink your decision.

The bottom line: Opt for fresh, whole foods 80% of the time, even when the processed or fast food option is vegan or vegetarian. That way you have some freedom to treat yourself every now and then because of the remaining 20% of your life.

Have I convinced you to live more consciously yet? Well, diet isn’t where it ends. You might want to start looking at your clothing and how it affects your health too.

If you’d like to join in the discussion about food, well-fashion, sustainability, and conscious living send me a personal message and we might have something worth chatting about over my new Skyezee FashionFit podcast. I’d also highly recommend following The Global Wellness Summit.

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