The following tips can help you introduce these in-demand foods to your restaurant, anticipate some of the questions you may hear and serve them to your guests with confidence.
"I need my protein"
Most of these products are complete proteins, like soy or blends such as pea and wheat, offering all the essential amino acids and about the same amount of protein found in real meat1. For a high-quality protein profile, pick products containing soy, or protein blends such as pea with brown rice or pea with wheat.
"I’ve heard that soy can cause health problems"
Soy is a common food since ancient times, and no available studies have linked it to specific health issues for humans. It may even help lower cholesterol and the risk of heart disease2.
"Are plant proteins enough to fill me up?"
Yes. You won’t be hungry after eating these types of products. Because they’re made of plants, these foods usually have a higher fibre content than meat, and that helps people feel full3.
"Some products specify that they don’t contain GMOs. What do they mean?"
GMOs are usually the result of selecting a desirable gene from a microorganism and the placing it into a plant (like soybean, cotton or corn). The process has been widely used in global agriculture to improve crop yields by making them more resistant to insects, weeds and diseases. Regulatory agencies around the world including the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) have concluded that authorized Genetically Modified (GM) crops and food ingredients derived from them are safe for human consumption. However, their use remains controversial. That is why most meat alternatives specify that they don’t contain ingredients derived from GMO crops.
"These foods are highly processed. How healthy can they be?"
The term "processed foods" is usually negatively perceived. However, foods are processed for many reasons, including making raw ingredients safer, more palatable, and easier to digest. Food processing can also minimize food safety risks, reduce food waste, increase shelf-life, increase the bio-availability of nutrients in some products, and create flavours.
Food processing, either conducted at home or in an industrial environment, may decrease the content of certain heat-sensitive vitamins. But the food industry minimizes these losses through controlled and often very fast processes and by restoring the original vitamin content after heat exposure. Finally, processing can also increase the nutritional value of foods. For example, it enables us to eliminate anti-nutritional factors in pulses or to increase the digestibility of starch. In the case of plant-based meat alternatives, processes are what allow us to achieve a highly palatable texture, flavour, and variety. Without advances in food technology, it wouldn’t be possible to provide a nutrient profile and experience so similar to meat, which is what many.
1 Marsh, K. et al. Protein and Vegetarian Diets. Medical Journal of Australia, 2013
2 Simon, S. Soy and Cancer Risk: Our Expert’s Advice. American Cancer Society, 2019
3 Klementova, M. et al. A Plant-Based Meal Increases Gastrointestinal Hormones and Satiety Nutrients, 2018