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"Peas" stop with the meat and dairy substitutes

"Peas" stop with the meat and dairy substitutes

I’m all about following the latest food trends, especially when it comes to healthy eating.

Matcha tea powder? Fantastic in smoothies. Avocado toast? It’s an avoca-do for me. Buddha bowls? Let’s mix things up.

I’ve also become a fan of high-protein diets. Now that I’m in my 40s, I’m focusing more on protein-rich foods, like meat, milk and eggs, that can help with weight loss and prevent muscle loss as we age.

Yet one diet trend I can’t get behind is the emergence of new plant-based protein alternatives in grocery stores.

Nowadays, you can find veggie burgers that “bleed” beet juice when you cut into them. Some chefs are using the exotic jackfruit as a replacement for meat in tacos. And I can’t believe all the dairy alternatives in the grocery store – drinks, yogurts and frozen treats made with pea protein, coconut, flax, nuts and hemp.

What puzzles me is that this plant-based protein trend clashes with our increasing demand for simple foods with recognizable ingredients.

Take, for example, the Beyond Meat burger. It’s highly processed, with more than a dozen different ingredients. In comparison, beef only has one ingredient – beef.

Dairy milk has three simple ingredients: milk, vitamin A and vitamin D. Plant-based beverages often have 10 or more ingredients and go through more rigorous processing than milk.

And the high-quality, or "complete," proteins found in animal-based foods, such as beef, pork, poultry, eggs and dairy, contain all the essential amino acids and are easily digestible.

Most plant-based proteins are "incomplete" proteins because they lack one or more essential amino acids and are less digestible.

Animal proteins are also a good source of nutrients that are more difficult to get from plant proteins alone. Important nutrients found in meat, dairy and eggs include B12, which helps maintain brain function; iron, which helps your body use oxygen; calcium, which is essential for bone health; and zinc, which benefits the immune system. Vegetarians and vegans often must take supplements, or eat piles of beans and spinach, to get these vital nutrients.

So instead of reaching for a protein bar with a long list of ingredients on the label, grab a hard-boiled egg, string cheese, Greek yogurt or beef jerky for a high-quality protein snack.

And like dietitians recommend, aim to follow the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s MyPlate guidelines. MyPlate recommends filling one-half your plate with fruits and vegetables, one-quarter with lean protein and one-quarter with whole grains, plus a low-fat dairy serving. You might be surprised by how many cuts of beef and pork are considered lean by USDA standards.

I must admit, there’s another health food trend that I just can’t get behind. I would rather enjoy a few scoops of real ice cream than a whole pint of “light” high-protein ice cream.

This girl is trying to live her best life – and that best life includes Neapolitan ice cream, beef tacos and the occasional peanut butter cup.

By Teresa Bjork. Teresa is Iowa Farm Bureau's Senior Features Writer.



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