Is fake meat good or bad for kids?
There are pros and cons to eating meat alternatives so it’s important to be informed when deciding what to feed your child. For Children’s National Hospital, Washington DC, USA, nutritionist Jessica McGee explains whether fake meat is good or bad for children.
“One of the challenges we face when selecting meat substitutes is that they are often highly processed, resulting in greater amounts of saturated fat and sodium than the whole plant and even sometimes higher than meats. High sodium and saturated fat intake in children is associated with high blood pressure and cholesterol levels, respectively, which can raise the risk for heart disease or stoke later in life.”
Some of the benefits of meat alternatives include added antioxidants and fiber from some of the ingredients in products like soy and whole grains. Another benefit to meat substitutes compared to real meat is food safety and the reduced risk of Salmonella or E.coli infection. Most meat alternatives are already cooked and only require heating, whereas it’s essential to cook raw meat with the appropriate equipment, cleanliness and to proper temperatures. Lastly, environmental sustainability is a huge benefit to reducing meat intake with meat substitutes. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics states “plant-based diets are more environmentally sustainable than diets rich in animal products because they use fewer natural resources and are associated with much less environmental damage.”
There are some disadvantages of meat alternatives when compared to meat, such as higher sodium and saturated fat content as mentioned above. Meat alternatives also lack vitamin B12, which is found in foods from animals like meat, dairy and eggs. Additional things that parents may want to consider when deciding whether or not to purchase meat alternatives are the fact that they are often more expensive than real meat, they contain top allergens and are highly processed.
Meat substitutes can be included as part of a healthy diet when choosing products with minimal processing and fillers made with plant foods like legumes, vegetables, tofu and whole grains.