Are “Meat Free” products actually healthy alternatives? A local dietitian weighs in

Cows or plants? Fake meat products have skyrocketed into stores and fast food restaurants

Holly Crane, Co-Owner of Bookhouse Cinema has been a vegan her whole life.

“The veggie burger patties that I would eat 20 years ago were soy and filler product and tasted as such, and now you’ve got Gardein, Impossible and Beyond Meat. All these brands that a lot of investors have put money into because they know less meat will be desired and available in the future.”

She provides tasty vegetarian and vegan options at Bookhouse through the use of tofu, tempeh and different beans.

“We’re not a vegetarian restaurant but probably at least 50% of our traffic orders vegetarian or vegan, a lot of the take out is vegan” added Crane.

She’s also not afraid to occasionally use fake processed meat products in some of her dishes.

“It’s just plant based rather than animal product based, rather than using the impossible burger or textured vegetable proteins which in occasion we do in a special if we’re going to do a special nacho or something we may have a processed vegetarian alternative in there, but for the most part we just use whole foods.”

So the question is, is “meat free” meat products all hype or actually a healthy alternative?

“The new meatless products that are coming out like the meatless burger are really tasty options for vegetarians and vegans, but they are very processed foods and in general for a healthy diet we want to limit processed foods” said Freeman Hospital Registered Dietitian, Whitney Kitchell.

These options can contain high amounts of sodium, fat and calories.

An ‘Impossible’ burger contains 240 calories, 14 grams of fat and 370 milligrams of sodium.

‘Beyond’ burger contains 250 calories, 18 grams of fat and 390 milligrams of sodium.

“If you’re looking at things at the store or in fast food restaurants I would consider looking at the nutrition label if that information is available and if you’re concerned about sodium, looking for a meal that’s total sodium content is 600 mg or less or if you’re looking at individual products look for something that’s got 200 mg of sodium or less” added Kitchell.

So while Dietitians do not consider meatless products, “health food”, they can still be enjoyed along with a healthy diet.

“Meatless burgers or regular hamburgers can still be eaten but eat them in moderation like most foods” said Kitchell.

“It’s such a personal decision as to what you put in your body that you should research and know what you’re eating” added Crane.