In the past year, I’ve tried a wide assortment of meat alternatives and veggie based alternatives that I never would have considered, even just a few years ago. I still favour my Mushroom Swiss Burger from FatBurger and I can’t see myself ever swaying from it. But I would be lying if I said that vegetables aren’t loaded with a wide variety of health and nutritional benefits that make adding them to your meal a good idea. I usually favour a cruciferous option, like broccoli or brussel sprouts. But I seem to be the only one in the household who likes them. I know brussel sprouts are pretty universally hated, but sprinkle a bit of cheese on some broccoli? Fuggedaboutit…
As I have a firm belief in the balance of things, I like to point out how there’s inherently a good and a bad side to all things. We already know that vegetables can provide vitamins, minerals and nutrients that some other foods may not. And there’s certainly the benefit of feeling full for longer that comes with having plenty of green on your plate, steering one away from over eating and helping with the reduction of your total daily caloric intake. But what about veggie-based meat alternatives?
A balance can be important if you’re trying to control say, oh I don’t know… your carbohydrate intake so that you can maintain better blood sugars… From a fitness standpoint, vegetables are important for a variety of reasons besides what they provide your body for building and healing muscles tissue and there are also some vegetables that will help you to sleep and digest better. If you’re looking to replace some of the meat in your diet with an alternative, it would be helpful if you gained all these benefits in the process, right?
If we get to the meat and potatoes of it (see what i did there?), some of the meat alternatives mentioned in the opening paragraph may not be all they’re cracked up to be. And this is where the BAD side of things comes in. I’ve written about this before but as I’ve tried different things, I think it’s pretty important to recognize the potential pitfalls of trying to replace everything in your diet with a vegetarian alternative. Here’s a short list of things to bear in mind when purchase veggie-based meat alternatives at the supermarket:
- They’re Loaded With Preservatives: This is the first and probably the top one. Anything you eat that’s been mass-produced and sold at the supermarket will go through some sort of processing that will involve preservatives in some given way, shape or form. Without getting into the specifics surrounding potential pesticides used for crops, you can be certain that real vegetables and real cuts of meat won’t have all these preservatives, making them the better option. There are a number of negative effects to the over-consumption of preservatives, including some forms of cancer. No, I’m not trying to say that eating these meat-alternatives will give you cancer! Simply that excess preservatives have been long found to be bad for the body. Moving on…;
- They’re Also Packed With Salt: I’ve often written about the importance of checking the nutritional label when eating something packaged. People rarely consider the amount of sodium they may be eating when consuming something “healthy,” and portion sizes are often not proportionate with how much a person would actually eat. I learned this lesson the hard when, in an effort to reduce the amount of carbs I consume in a day, I was starting my morning with a mug of chicken broth. Sounds like a warm, reasonable way to start the day. But the portion size is usually about half a cup of vegetable broth, which accounts for roughly 25% of your daily sodium intake. Once I’ve guzzled down a full mug, I’ve already packed on well more than half of my daily intake of sodium and it’s first thing in the morning. And speaking of carbs…;
- They’re Full Of Carbs: I was pretty excited about six months ago when I found a package of buffalo “chicken” bites that were made with cauliflower. They tasted even better, which made me believe I had found a healthy alternative to eating platefuls of buffalo bites made of chicken, which happens to be my next food addiction after burgers. Then I realized that despite being made from vegetables, the bites had almost double the amount of carbohydrates than traditional chicken bites. It probably didn’t help that they were battered. Not so great for a Type-1 Diabetic who’s trying to control blood sugars and the amount of carbs he’s taking in!
- They Can Cost A LOT: Processing and packaging food that’s been prepared in any particular given way gets costly, and that cost is usually reflected in the item’s price point. It’s made all the worse when you have to make something look like something else. Have you seen the chicken nuggets made from vegetables? I swear, I wouldn’t be able to tell the difference, based on appearance. The point is, a small box of cauliflower buffalo bites will usually cost about as much as a traditional box of buffalo chicken bites, making them ridiculously costly.
So the big question is, are these veggie-based alternatives better for you? From an overall and Diabetic standpoint, the answer is a resounding NO. You’ll end up taking in as many carbohydrates, if not more than your traditional versions and you’ll pay more for it, to boot. Watching your sodium intake is quite important when you have Diabetes, as proper kidney health is always a concern at the best of times. The only way to balance the scales (except for the cost aspect) would be to eat significantly less of the alternatives, which could potentially leave you feeling hungry and unsatisfied.
On the flip side, if you’re okay with eating small amounts at a time and you’re looking for a veggie-based alternative snack, they can be okay. So long as you bolus correctly for them and take the sodium into account. The long and short of it (let’s be honest, I always go for the long…) is that you’re better off having yourself a plate of carrot or celery sticks with a touch of ranch dip, a hot bowl of broccoli with cheese sprinkled on top or even a bowl of boiled Brussel sprouts with a touch of melted butter and pepper. Any of those will be far healthier, satisfy you and make you feel full for longer, whether you have it as a snack or part of your meal, and you’ll get all the included benefits without any of the preservatives. ☯