Vegan Meat For Kids – Everything You Need To Know
Plant-based products are emerging as the newly popular food choice for meat-eaters and non-meat-eaters alike, but they may not be the smarter choice for your kid. As alternative meat products continue to generate buzz, it is important to understand the ingredients before swapping out meat for meatless.
We asked our expert nutritionist Jessica McGee to weigh whether fake meat is good or bad for children. Plant-based products are emerging as the newly popular food choice for meat-eaters and non-meat-eaters alike, but they may not be the smarter choice for your kid.
What Is Vegan Or Fake Meat?
“Fake meat is a meat substitute that has been developed for convenience and ready-to-eat,” says McGee. “Meat-free options include vegan meat, vegetarian meat and meat substitutes such as Tofurky, MorningStar Farms and Gardein.”
What Types of Fake Meat Are Available? “Popularly, food service companies offer ready-to-eat vegan meatballs, meatless bacon and meatless sausages,” explains McGee. “As far as plant-based meat products go, I would recommend Gardein.
Their products are full of wholesome ingredients that are high in protein, vitamins and minerals, and they are gluten-free.” Fake meat is vegan, vegetarian or vegan-friendly meat products that look and taste like meat but are not made from animal by-products, such as meat by-products (meat chunks, etc.), animal fat, blood or other animal by-products.
Common vegan fake meats include tofu, tempeh, seitan and many other products. The majority of fake meats are also plant-based, which means they are made from fruits and vegetables and do not include dairy, eggs, or other animal by-products.
Fake meat can be grown, minced, dried, and then packaged as meat replacements or meat analogs. Essentially, these products mimic meat. Except for some soy products, most faux meats and other plant-based meats are made from soy. A common misconception is that all faux meats are made from soybeans.
While some imitation meats are made from soy, others are not, such as fish-based alternatives, peanut-based alternatives, gluten-free alternatives, and many others. Foodservice and convenience foodservice outlets have increasingly added faux meats to their menus, and some are now providing these foods for sale in stores. “Fake meat is not real meat and, therefore, does not fit into our nutrient requirements.
Labels like ‘plant-based meat’ or ‘plant-based cheese’ or even ‘plant-based ice cream’ mislead people into thinking that these products contain meat and therefore are beneficial to your child’s well-being and nutrition. The reality is that these products are less healthy for children, but they also do not provide the same nutrients and nutrients they do from real animal products.
In fact, many fake meat products contain a disproportionate amount of sodium compared to real meat. Other negative attributes are as follows: Fake Meat is not gluten-free and cannot be used in a gluten-free diet, especially for children. Fake Meat has more saturated fat than real meat.
How Is Vegan Meat Made?
Most plant-based meat substitutes are made by isolating an animal's protein-producing tissue from animal sources (mainly soy, seitan, and tofu) and then manipulating it to mimic meat's taste, texture, and appearance. According to Edelman's consumer research, 65% of American parents have tried non-meat products, with an average of four per household.
Consumers are leaning toward plant-based protein because many Americans feel that meat production is unsustainable and environmentally destructive. Fake meat starts as “cell culture meat,” or the growing and harvesting of cells from living animals and then can be pressed, pressed hard, into Petri dishes and consumed as meat products.
Some fake meat products (like Beyond Meat and Gardein) also feature a small amount of real animal DNA. However, for the most part, the cells that comprise the meat “vegetables” are derived from plant sources like legumes or soy.
“The largest fake meat production is in Asia, in China and Korea,” says McGee, noting that the by-products of this production include leeched flesh, bits of bone and fat. “When [it’s processed], there is some conversion of cellulose into acetate (which is used to make cigarette filters),” she says.
These inedible products are discarded and, “as a result, manufacturers in the U.S. tend to reduce the amount of fat and animal products in their products to avoid the extra cost of disposing of the byproducts,” adds McGee.
What are some of the potential side effects of eating fake meat?“More than any other product I’ve seen, fake meat has a long list of side effects. They are not listed on the product label; therefore, consumers don’t know if the product is safe for their kids. For many years, consumers were cautioned about feeding their children hamburgers and steaks from animal-based sources, as these meats were suspect of causing certain health issues.
There has been a renewed interest in using plant-based meat as an alternative to animal products in more recent times. To produce fake meat, various ingredients are added to create a semblance of animal proteins, without actually having them, from plant-based sources.
There are typically four major ingredients: wheat, soy, canola oil, and yeast. Because all ingredients are derived from plants and are plant-based, fake meat products are not considered meat-based, and therefore do not contain the nutrients and enzymes that have been present in animal products.
Pros Of Eating Vegan Or Fake Meat For Kids
“The pros are many, but the two things that stand out the most are the health benefits and the ability to enjoy many of their favourite foods without the high fat, cholesterol and sodium content of traditional meat,” says McGee. “Also, we have seen many more successful campaigns for children aimed at reducing meat consumption, which could also be helping to spread the word about the benefits of plant-based diets and the substitution of these meat products for them.”
In addition to many non-meat-eaters switching to vegan diets, many young people opt for plant-based foods over traditional meat or dairy. McGee says that these plant-based products are high in protein and be a healthy alternative to meat. What’s more, these products are made of plant-based foods like soy, legumes, peas, and peanuts, which are high in essential minerals, vitamins, and phytochemicals that may be beneficial for your child.
Fake Meat looks like meat. The texture can be similar to meat. If you are concerned about nutritional value, meatless products can be used as an added source of protein for your child. The body breaks down some protein in meat, so it’s better not to provide any plant-based protein to the body. It comes in so many flavours!
There are many varieties of meatless products on the market that can taste like meat. High in protein: Fried-style fake meat is high in protein content and does not contain any carbohydrates. Other fake meats like Tofurky contain about 17 grams of protein and 1 gram of fat per serving.
Vegan and Cruelty-Free: Any parent of a child will tell you that the best foods to feed your child are the foods that are good for them. As a vegan or a child with a dairy allergy, you can rest easy knowing that most vegetarian fake meats are vegan.
Easy on the wallet: If your child is making the switch to a plant-based diet, you can quickly see how being more conscious of your purchases can save you money on both food and shopping. For example, the sesame seed crumbles faux chicken nuggets from Follow Your Heart are only 39 cents per serving.
Cons Of Eating Fake Meat For Kids
While there are many good things about eating a plant-based diet, there are also some serious drawbacks. Most important is the effect that the artificial growth hormones used in meat products have on your child. These hormones influence how much insulin is released, leading to increased blood sugar levels and diabetes risk. Another concern is the increased amount of saturated fat found in fake meat.
These products are also often high in calories and sodium, which contributes to obesity and heart disease. Certain kinds of fake meat products are not nutritionally complete. There is a low nutrient density compared to meat, so calories and protein intake may be low. Fake meat contains extra calories from fat and salt. Alternative meat such as tofu does not supply essential amino acids that are found in meat.
The vegetarians and vegans in your life will love the nutritional benefits of their dietary choice, but kids may miss out. For kids, there are serious dietary concerns, in addition to ethics. These products do not contain essential micronutrients like vitamin B12 and iron that support proper growth and development and lead to anemia.
Due to a lack of natural calcium and vitamin D, vegan children may experience a nutritional deficiency that can lead to bone and tooth problems, headaches and mental sluggishness. Additionally, there is a risk of infection from antibiotic-resistant bacteria, and there is no form of vitamin B12 in plant-based products.
Dr. McGee warns that plant-based products are also a big portion of children’s total protein intake, and iron-fortified plant-based foods may lead to anemia and vitamin B12 deficiency.“The issue of excessive iron levels has become a pressing issue.
“If your child is lactose intolerant or an egg eater, chances are they are going to experience a negative reaction to a fake burger. “There are even a few processed fake meat products that come with additives that include gluten. This is even more concerning if a child has celiac disease or an egg allergy.” “Reduced fat products are the worst for kids.
My nutritionist clients tell me that the goal should be a diet high in plant-based foods and less sugar, saturated fat, and cholesterol. To reach this goal, your kid's diet should consist of a good variety of plant-based foods.” “Some fake meat products are fortified with B12, which may be particularly concerning for vegans who are B12 deficient. Some B12 deficiency symptoms include lethargy and irritability.
If your child cannot eat a balanced meal, sometimes fake meat can be a better option than a less healthy version of their favourite meat. Some alternatives include seitan, tofu and tempeh. However, it is important to choose one containing less saturated fat and sodium while also lower in total and saturated fat content.
Stick to reputable brands of plant-based products that are grain-based but lower in total fat content. Strictly all-vegetarian protein sources can be difficult to digest, particularly if your child is sensitive to egg or dairy products. Egg yolks can produce excessive amounts of salicylates in children, a toxin that irritates the mucous membranes of the eye and respiratory tract.
Should I Encourage My Kids To Eat Vegan Meat Products?
The key to the right choice of food choices is to be a good role model. Your children’s eating habits will shape yours. While many plant-based foods are not harmful in moderation, the overall food pyramid recommends including animal foods at least three times a day to stay healthy.
Are our plant-based products better for you and your kids? While many plant-based foods are healthy, some contain more calories and fat than traditional meat, and the amount of protein in plant-based foods varies greatly. However, plant foods may offer other advantages like less saturated fat, making it easy to enjoy foods high in fiber and minerals, and often lower in cholesterol, sodium and added sugar.
I think the answer is an easy one. Food is for eating, and children should have the opportunity to choose what they want to eat. However, there are several factors to consider when determining whether or not food is a good fit. If children are young enough that their diets are mostly fruit and vegetables, there is little danger in introducing them to plant-based products.
When introducing these products, there is a risk of vitamin B12 deficiency, which is especially troubling if your child already has a vitamin B12 deficiency. I would definitely be careful if your child has problems with iron, which deficiencies in B12 can cause. Even if it is only a small risk, it is still worthwhile to avoid introducing your child to these products until they are older.
McGee: The best approach is to look at how each food is made and keep an open mind about new products. I wouldn’t label fake meat as necessarily good or bad, but it’s important to be aware of what’s in them and how they are being labelled. So, is fake meat healthy? McGee: Probably not for the young kids, who need more nutrition than anything else, if you’re trying to curb their taste for meat.
What Should Parents Do Before Choosing Fake Meat?
Look for a label that says “cultured” or “semi-synthetic” rather than “meat.” These words, as well as “fortified” and “bleeding,” indicate no animal fat or animal DNA. Other natural meat substitutes, like seitan, do contain natural animal protein. Some fake meat can contain high amounts of sodium, such as soy-based products. Lower sodium options include applesauce and low sodium tofu. (Many brands of tofu are even vegan and plant-based.)
A serving size is about 1 cup. It is best to discuss with a health care professional if you have high blood pressure or are pregnant, nursing or have a serious health condition. Watch out for fake meat that does not provide essential amino acids, essential fatty acids and vitamin B12.
First and foremost, I always suggest trying a product at least twice before committing. If you have a child who reacts, you can reduce that risk by trying a product that does not contain other allergens. Additionally, the supply chain of these products is very complex.
The brands on the market are highly regulated, and their production facilities are inspected periodically. They also hire independent auditors to confirm the safety of the products they distribute. Allergen labelling and the use of food labels both are beneficial to understanding allergen risks. Plant-based products may be healthier than animal-based products. However, they do not have a similar fiber content. Fiber is a mineral and helps the body absorb nutrients.
The Health Effects Of Fake Meat
It is important to eat nutrient-dense foods for all ages. Plant-based products such as these protein-rich foods are excellent sources of vitamins and minerals. Phytonutrients are antimicrobial, antioxidant, and anti-inflammatory substances that protect your body from disease.
Labels that say it's “made from plants” often contain genetically modified organisms (GMOs), which have not been properly tested or approved by the FDA and are known to be detrimental to human health. Fruits, vegetables, nuts, beans, and legumes (e.g. peas, corn, lentils) were identified in a 2016 study as the best sources of plant-based protein that are “whole” and easily digested, offering complete protein, dietary fiber, and essential fatty acids. When considering food options for your children, the best option is usually to avoid artificial meat altogether.
McDonald's, Burger King, and Wendy's have all removed their chickens from the menu to make the foods less expensive, but it is more likely to increase the amount of sodium and saturated fat. “Many fake types of meat can also be high in sodium and refined carbs, which can lead to increased weight gain and a risk of obesity. Additionally, some fake meat substitutes, like tempeh, contain genetically engineered ingredients that may be harmful to young children and pets.”
How To Introduce Plant-Based Products To Kids?
The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests plant-based products be included in your child's diet as part of a well-balanced, healthy diet. Start by choosing non-meat meals, such as quinoa, black bean, or bean chilli. Be sure to include some grains, vegetables, fruit, and dairy products.
Your child may also like making food from scratch. Research shows that children who prepare meals with their parents are more likely to eat nutritionally dense foods. Is fake meat and dairy better than real meat? The FDA recommends that young children avoid animal-derived foods. Your doctor may be able to advise you about whether it is safe to feed children animal-derived foods before the age of two years.
The “kids” who eat our plant-based meat products are 2-7 years old. Typically, a meat-alternative product will be a smaller cut of meat cut from the white part of the cow rather than from the cow's muscle tissue. This is a fundamental distinction that we need to make to our family.
These meat-alternative products will be too big of new food to incorporate for some kids, so I recommend serving it as an entree. For example, if you are serving a child a piece of hamburger meat, you would have a regular portion of food. But if you were offering a ‘pea protein ball' for dessert, then that would be a treat.
Nutrients Found In Fake Meat
Although not a complete substitute, plant-based products are a great source of some nutrients. Nutrient plant-based products are high in B-vitamins, and McGee notes that this makes them an excellent source of Vitamin B12, which is also important for developing the nervous system.
On the other end of the spectrum, McGee says that B vitamins drop off as you age, making it difficult for many adults to get enough B-vitamins. There are two main nutritional differences between meat and plant-based foods. First, plant-based foods provide vitamins and minerals (that’s right, no meat requires vitamin B12), which are higher in protein.
The other big difference is in saturated fat, found in plant-based foods but not in animal-based foods. Low- and high-saturated fats have been linked to heart disease. Both types of plant-based foods are equally high in carbohydrates. For example, plant-based meat substitutes have approximately 21 grams of carbohydrates per 1 oz. Serving is similar to a 4-ounce serving of low-fat dairy and the same as an 8-ounce serving of whole wheat bread.
Unintentional feeding of processed meat to kids can cause nutritional problems due to the high number of ingredients in vegetarian products. Furthermore, hidden sugars and processed grains often make up many vegetarian products, and because they are highly refined, it's easy for these ingredients to reach our children in the form of added sugars and refined grains.
For the most part, plant-based products can be consumed in moderation. However, some recommended recommendations include: Children ages 6 months to 6 years need no more than 3 ounces of meat or egg per day. Opt for plants instead of meat when cutting or cooking for children. Plant-based products have less fat, which can help with child growth.
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