How healthy are plant-based snacks really?

Snacks are the kind of everyday luxury I can really endorse – nothing beats a small mid-afternoon snack. And I’m mostly vegan, so the snacks I eat are probably really good for me, right? Well, whether something is “healthy” or not really depends on the nutritional content, not the buzzwords. Unfortunately, a Many people tend to conflate “vegan” with “healthy,” and marketers play into this by pushing it as a slogan on plant-based snack labels and packaging.

Those salespeople are experts, so can you really blame anyone who thinks that seeing a picture of a vegetable or the term “plant-based” front and center on a bag of chips or vegan jerky wrapper means it’s a solidly healthy option? That said, we should always take claims on food packaging with a grain of salt, which is why I asked nutritionists to help me investigate if these plant-based snacks are actually healthier than their alternatives.

Crunchy plant-based snacks

Have you noticed a major increase in the number of bean-based products on the market these days? Yes me too. Not that I’m complaining, I’d like to thank Chickpea Carbonara for basically changing my life. There’s a good reason why legumes are becoming everything from chickpea puff pastries to lentil crackers, black bean tortilla chips, and edamame pasta. “[Snacks like] Hippeas are great for satisfying a craving,” Kathryn Bonilla Strickland, a registered dietitian in Virginia, tells Mic, referring to a popular brand of chickpea puff pastry. “They are healthier than French fries, but comparable to baked potatoes.”

That’s not exactly because However, they are of plant origin. After all, French fries (as long as they’re not made with animal fat or other animal-derived ingredients) are largely plant-based. But chickpea-based snacks, for example, have fiber and protein from chickpea flour, so unlike traditional chips and crackers, they actually have some nutritional value. The same cannot be said for, say, Pringles, which have basically negative nutritional value.

That doesn’t mean those packaged salty bean snacks are healthy, though; they are simply healthier than many other options. “I wouldn’t consider these snacks ‘healthy,’ but more of a treat to eat from time to time,” says Strickland.

In fact, Hunnes warns against blindly assuming that Hippeas, lentil puffs, or similar vegan bean-based snacks are “healthy” at all. “These are highly processed foods, similar to Cheetos (but vegan),” she says. Sure, they have “marginally healthier ingredients,” she notes, but “if you consider how highly processed they are, they’re not necessarily healthier.” Still, she says that when it comes to choosing between Hippeas and Cheetos, Hippeas are probably a better choice.

If you want a truly healthy salty snack that’s also high in protein, Hunnes says making your own is the best option. “I’d rather have someone roast the chickpeas and add a little spice to them for a crunchy snack,” she says. I have to agree. Making homemade chickpea sandwiches requires basically no prep, and frankly, they taste better than anything on the market.

vegan jerky

If the many ads I get targeting vegan (read: lesbian) hikers are to be believed, vegan jerky is all the rage. I’m literally not buying this one. What’s in vegan jerky, anyway? “Vegan jerky is made from soybeans, mushrooms, or mung beans, depending on the manufacturer, and then flavored with liquid aminos, soy sauce, or other spices,” explains Strickland. That doesn’t mean vegan jerky is bad – especially when compared to the fatty and salty meat versions, but it is not a health food. “Strictly speaking, no one needs vegan jerky, but it can make a decent snack, especially on the go or to satisfy a craving.”

Hunnes recently tried Beyond Jerky and says it was salty, chewy and reminiscent of jerky, but that doesn’t mean he thinks we should all go out and buy it. As with crispy snacks, he points out, jerky is full of highly processed ingredients. “I would say that you absolutely do not need to eat vegan jerky unless it is a flavor [and] texture that you miss with a plant-based diet,” he says.

Still, while vegan jerky isn’t always a healthy food, it’s definitely better for you than most beef jerky. Slim Jims, for example, are packed with fat and salt, and many other processed ingredients. Plus, as iffy as pea and mung bean protein crunch sounds (that’s what Beyond Meat’s new line of jerky is made of), reviewers seem to love it.

plant-based protein bars

As a person who works out a lot and lives alone, sometimes eating full meals is not a priority for me. In those cases, I take a protein bar. Dinner in 45 seconds – amazing! But not all protein bars are created equal. Virtually every expert I talked to agreed: Plant-based bars are probably healthier than protein bars made with milk and eggs. “Plant-based protein bars tend to use other, healthier ingredients, like almond butter, flaxseed, and walnuts,” says Strickland. Of course, as with anything, it’s best to look past the flashy claims on the packaging; always read the ingredients and nutritional information to get a better idea of ​​what you are eating.

That said, it turns out that plant-based proteins may be better for you than animal-based ones. Plant-based proteins contain nutrients that are inherent in the plant itself (phytonutrients, plant nutrients, antioxidants, fiber) that make them healthier, says Hunnes. Animal proteins, which tend to be more acidic than plant proteins, can change the pH of your blood and also affect the health of your microbiome; those effects, Hunnes notes, can be detrimental to health.

So which vegan protein bar is the best? According to the experts I spoke to, it’s the Lara Bar. “It’s naturally sweetened with dates and easy to take on the go or just have around the house as a quick snack,” says Strickland.

But nutritionists’ favorite plant-based snacks, unsurprisingly, aren’t anything that comes in a package. “When I think of healthy plant-based eating, I think of whole foods, whole grains, nuts, seeds, legumes, fruits and vegetables, and other plant-based proteins like tofu and edamame,” says Hunnes. So if you really want a healthy plant-based snack, think simple.

Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published.