Plant-based food may not be a Holistic Health hero.
Are you unclear about the difference between plant-based food and living a plant-based lifestyle?
Plant-based food items are gaining in popularity as an alternative to animal-product foods. When you learn of their growing popularity does that mean more veganism? The data shows that meat-eaters and vegans alike are shopping for manufactured foods that are plant-based.
Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants. –Michael Pollan
Pollan’s holistic health advice is starting to be practiced in mainstream ways. As people adopt the “mostly plants” guideline, the food they buy and then cook at home is very powerful.
The Plant-Based Food Category
The plant-based food category at the grocery store grew 20% last year, equaling $670 million in sales. According to data compiled by the Nielsen organization, the sale of plant-based foods that directly replace animal products such as seafood, meat, eggs, and dairy has grown significantly.
The food industry has heavily advertised the processed foods in the plant-based category. Milk alternatives, such as soy or almond, account for about half of all plant-based food sales. Because of this advertising, or perhaps for other reasons, traditional cow’s milk sales were down 6% in 2017.
The Nutrition Facts about Plant-Based Food Items
Does the way the food industry advertises plant-based foods look like a nutritious habit for your wellness lifestyle?
If you are reading more food labels, you’ve likely come across the large class of plant-based foods at the grocery store. Have you noticed that hidden in processed foods, even the plant-based ones, there are artificial ingredients?
Here are two nutrition fact labels on common plant-based food items: Almond Milk and a popular “Ham” meat replacement called The Cheerful Log (I’m not making that up!):
The second ingredient in this almond milk is evaporated cane juice. There is more sugar in this item than there are almonds. Raw almonds contain natural sweetness, and for carb-counting, one cup of sliced almonds contains 20 grams of carbohydrate. Because this label states that there are only 2 grams of total carbs in one cup of this almond milk, it is fair to assume that very few almonds were used in this recipe. I would be very suspicious of the “vanilla flavor with other natural flavors” ingredient. The FDA allows food manufacturers to list “natural flavors” instead of listing “MSG”, which is a flavor enhancer.
The second nutrition fact label is a meat-replacement for ham or The Cheerful Log. By my count, there are five kinds of sugar or starch in this product. Maltodextrin is a starch made from either corn, potato, or rice. Yeast extract enhances flavor and may be code for MSG, as well. MSG is often of animal origin, so vegans may have some concerns with this meat alternative. Beetroot is a sweetener and sweet corn flour is corn starch, which is a degerminated corn powder. All of the nutritious germ and bran of the corn has been removed in the making of corn flour.
Three Kinds of Food Consumers
In my holistic health coaching practice, I have met many people who do not eat plants as whole food. They have the habit of eating lots of meat, dairy, and convenience foods. I have also coached people who are devoted vegans and vegetarians. They do not often call their diet “plant-based” and instead self-identify as people with a moral obligation to avoid animal products. The third category of people I often see are those who do their best to eat a plant-heavy diet about 80% of the time. They enjoy all the food groups in moderation, yet, like my Solution Starter Prediabetes Program community members, they fill about half their plate with produce every chance they get!
As you notice the food industry serving up information about “Health Foods” that are plant-based, I hope you will take the time to look at the nutrition facts label before you buy. If you would like some support in being a savvy nutrition label reader, check out my FREE Nutrition Label resource today. Whichever kind of food consumer you are, it is helpful to know for sure what is in the food you buy and eat.