Here are our top tips for healthy plant-based eating
here's been a lot of talk these days about eating more plant-based foods. What's good for the environment is good for you, right? Well, the answer lies in the ingredients list. Not all plant-based foods are equal and some are definitely more unhealthy for you than others. This is especially the case for plant-based processed foods. These include things like frozen veggie burgers (yes, the Impossible Burger included), or chicken-less chicken nuggets, or vegan pizza. So what's the key to healthy plant-based eating? There isn't one golden rule to follow, but we've rounded up some good tips to help you avoid plant-based processed foods below!
Here's what you can do…
- Stick to purchasing items like fresh or frozen produce, and dry or canned beans and legumes.
- Look for plant-based foods that have five ingredients or less.
- If you are able to, buy organic. Artificial preservatives and flavors and a lot of other unhealthy ingredients are not allowed in organic products. If you're on a limited budget, here's what we recommend prioritizing when buying organic.
- Whip up a GIANT (we're talking HUGE) batch of homemade vegetable burgers and throw what you can't eat into the freezer. Then when you're craving a burger, just defrost one from the refrigerator and voila! Here are some great recipes below:
- Lentil Burger: https://www.bonappetit.com/recipe/healthyish-lentil-burgers
- Vegan Sweet Potato Black Bean Burger: https://minimalistbaker.com/sweet-potato-black-bean-burger/
- Vegan Tofu Burger: https://www.thespruceeats.com/vegan-tofu-veggie-burgers-recipe-3377169
- Vegan Smokey Tempeh Burger: https://fullofplants.com/smoky-tempeh-black-bean-burgers/
- Falafel: https://smittenkitchen.com/2018/12/falafel/
- Make some easy plant based treats. Some of our favorites include:
- Dark Chocolate Chunk Oatmeal Cookies: https://www.halfbakedharvest.com/healthy-dark-chocolate-chunk-oatmeal-cookie-bars-idiot-proof/
- Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookies: https://food52.com/blog/14647-plot-twist-the-most-genius-chocolate-chip-cookie-recipe-is-also-vegan
- Vegan Apple Crisp: https://minimalistbaker.com/the-best-vegan-apple-crisp/
So you can steer clear unhealthy ingredients like these...
- High salt content: Just like most processed foods, plant-based frozen meals are also very high in salt.
- Tertiary butylhydroquinone (a.k.a. TBHQ). TBHQ is a lab-made preservative that helps processed foods retain its flavor (1). For instance, making sure your smoky-fire roasted veggie burger tastes smoky. Unfortunately, animal studies have shown that TBHQ can cause cancer in animals, which is why the FDA limits the amount of TBHQ allowed in products (1). A safer and naturally occurring preservative alternative used by some food manufacturers is vitamin E (2).
- Artificial food coloring. Artificial food colorings are ones like Red #3 and Yellow #6. High doses of artificial food coloring have been linked to a higher risk of cancer (3).
- Emulsifiers. If you've ever looked on an ingredients list and saw ingredients like soy lecithin or mono and di-glycerides, these are emulsifiers. They help keep ingredients in a product mixed together and not separate, particularly if a product is made up of solids and liquids (3). However, animal studies have shown that emulsifiers can alter the microbiome of mice, cause inflammation and also increase the risk of obesity and other metabolic disorders (4).
When it comes to plant-based foods, the bottom line is that they are not perfect. Even if a product is plant-based, it doesn't automatically mean that it's healthy or safe, or even as nutritious as its meat counterpart. The best thing to do is use your best judgement (and this handy dandy article) when your plant-based craving strikes.