How healthy are plant-based snacks really?

Snacking is the kind of everyday luxury I can really stand behind—nothing quite like a little afternoon nibble. And I’m mostly vegan, so the snacks I eat are probably really good for me, right? Well, whether something is “healthy” or not actually comes down to nutrient content, not buzzwords. Unfortunately a Many people tend to confuse “vegan” with “healthy,” and marketers are playing along by using it as a buzzword on plant-based snack labels and packaging.

These marketers are savvy — so can you really blame anyone who thinks seeing a picture of vegetables or the term “vegetable” front and center on a bag of chips or vegan beef jerky means it’s a solidly healthy one choice is? However, we should always be cautious about claims made on food packaging, so I asked nutritionists to help me investigate whether these plant-based snacks really are healthier than their alternatives.

Crunchy plant-based snacks

Have you noticed a sharp increase in the number of bean-based products on the market these days? Yes, me too. Not that I’m complaining — I want to shout out chickpea carbonara for fundamentally changing my life. There’s a good reason legumes are made into everything from chickpea puffs and lentil crackers to black bean tortilla chips and edamame noodles. “[Snacks like] Hippeas are great for satisfying a craving,” Kathryn Bonilla Strickland, a registered nutritionist in Virginia, tells Mic, referring to a popular brand of chickpea puffs. “They’re healthier than fried chips but comparable to baked chips.”

It’s not exactly because of that However, they are vegetable. Finally, potato chips (unless made with animal fat or other animal-based ingredients) are mostly plant-based. But chickpea-based snacks, for example, contain fiber and protein from the chickpea flour — so unlike traditional potato chips and crackers, they actually have some nutritional value. The same does not apply to Pringles, for example, which have an inherently negative nutritional value.

That doesn’t mean these packaged salty bean snacks are healthy, although; They are simply healthier than many other options. “I wouldn’t call these snacks ‘healthy,’ but more like a nice treat to have every now and then,” says Strickland.

In fact, Hunnes warns against blindly assuming that hippeas, lentil puffs, or similar legume-based vegan snacks are even “healthy.” “These are highly processed foods, similar to Cheetos (but vegan),” she says. Sure, they have “slightly healthier ingredients,” she notes, but “given how highly processed they are, they’re not necessarily healthier.” Still, she says if it’s a choice between Hippeas and Cheetos, Hippeas are probably the ones better choice.

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

Vegan Jerky

If the many ads I get about vegan hikers (read: lesbians) are to be believed, vegan jerky is all the rage. I literally don’t buy these. What is actually in vegan jerky? “Vegan jerky is made from soy, mushrooms, or mung beans, depending on the manufacturer, and then flavored with either liquid aminos, soy sauce, or other seasonings,” explains Strickland. That doesn’t mean it’s vegan jerky Poorly – especially compared to the greasy, salty meat versions — but it’s not a healthy food. “Strictly speaking, nobody needs vegan jerky, but it can be a decent snack — especially on the go or to satisfy cravings.”

Hunnes recently tried Beyond Jerky for herself and says it’s salty, chewy and reminiscent of jerky — but that doesn’t mean she thinks we should all go out and buy it. As with the crunchy snacks, she notes, jerky is packed with highly processed ingredients. “I would say that you absolutely do not have to eat vegan jerky unless it’s a flavor [and] Texture you miss on a plant-based diet,” she says.

While vegan jerky isn’t always a healthy food, it’s definitely better for you than most meat jerky. Slim Jims, for example, are packed with fat and salt — and a whole host of other processed ingredients. Plus, as iffy as compressed pea and mung bean protein sounds — that’s what Beyond Meat’s new line of jerky is made up of — reviewers seem to love it.

Plant-based protein bars

As a person who exercises a lot and lives alone, sometimes eating whole meals just isn’t a priority for me. In such cases, I reach for a protein bar. Dinner in 45 seconds – amazing! But not all protein bars are created equal. Pretty much every expert I spoke to agreed: Plant-based bars are probably healthier than milk and egg protein bars. “Plant-based protein bars typically use other healthier ingredients like almond butter, flaxseed, and nuts,” says Strickland. Of course, as with anything, it’s best to look past the flashy packaging claims; Always read the ingredients and nutritional information to get a better idea of ​​what you are eating.

However, it turns out that the proteins that come from plants may be better for you than animal sources. Plant-based proteins contain nutrients found in the plant itself — phytonutrients, phytonutrients, antioxidants, fiber — that make them healthier, Hunnes says. 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; these effects, Hunnes notes, can be detrimental to your 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 is easy to take out or just have around the house as a quick snack,” says Strickland.

But nutritionists’ real favorite plant-based snacks are, unsurprisingly, nothing that comes in a box. “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, just think.

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