Are meat alternatives healthy?

Updated: Jul. 10, 2019 at 7:08 PM CDT
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HATTIESBURG, Miss. (WDAM) - With vegetarian, vegan and plant-based diets growing in popularity, you can dine many places these days and find a meatless burger, chicken sandwich and hot dog on the menu.

But does meatless equal healthy, and do you get the same nutrients from meatless products as you would from a steak or chicken dinner? Merit Health Wesley Dietitian and Diabetes Center coordinator, Hannah Thompson, said you have to consider this to answer those questions.

“It really depends on what these meat alternatives are made from,” Thompson said.

Thompson said that means taking the time to check the fine print.

“My personal favorites are gonna be made from whole food sources," Thompson said. "You are going to get the most nutrient quality from those specific items.”

She said that means looking for whole-based soy because it has more of the amino acids you need, pea concentrate or black beans. Thompson also said beware of the additives.

“Why are they throwing in these extra colors, these extra additives for flavors, because we are still getting away from a whole-food base," Thompson said. "Even though it may look healthy, it may not be healthy because of the extra additives in there.”

Thompson said when it comes to meat alternatives, you steer away from healthy once there are high levels of sodium, and if you are gluten free she has this warning.

“A lot of your meat alternatives for a binder or filler to kind of hold everything together, they will use wheat products," Thompson said. “So if you are trying to go gluten free, you might can’t do some of the meat alternatives out there.”

Thompson said deciding if the meat alternative movement is healthy can be a gray area. But to make sure you are getting all your nutrients, keep a whole foods based diet along with your meat alternatives. She said don’t forget your vegetables, and always make sure you are getting enough protein.

Thompson said a good number to focus on for your protein is 50 grams of protein a day. If you want to know the exact number for you, Thompson said you can reach out through Merit Health’s Wellness Center website or call 601-268-5010.

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