Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Vegetarian Food Misconceptions

A while back I was taken aback when told by someone that the sugar content in soy milk, which was what I added to my cereal at the time, was higher than that in cow's milk.  The next time I was in the store I held the containers side by side and compared the nutrition facts and there were no "facts" to the basis of the soy milk having a higher sugar content.  I now use coconut or almond milk as I've found the health benefits to be superior to soy OR cow's milk

More recently, I examined the sodium content of our vegetarian bacon and found that, contrary to a proposed notion, it was in fact, MUCH lower than that of regular bacon.  The sodium content of two slices of regular bacon would be 400 mg and the sodium content of Morningstar Farm's bacon is 230 mg.  Likewise, the fat content of regular bacon was 3.725 grams (of which .625 was polyunsaturated) and Morningstar Farm's was 4.5 grams (of which 3 grams was polyunsaturated, another 1 gram was monounsaturated and the final .5 was saturated).  Polyunsaturated Fats and Monunsaturated Fats are "Good Fats."  And the protein content.  Regular Bacon: 3.86  grams/Morningstar Farm: 2 grams.  And calories...depending on the thickness of regular bacon, and we'll go on the thin side here 2 slices will likely cost you 100 calories.  2 slices of Morningstar Farms will rack you up 60 calories.  And, it does taste good.  Try it.


Anonymous said...

We’re all so defensive when it comes to the deeply personal choice of bacon. Ridiculous, really. Am I right? Your closing thoughts hit the nail on the head. Our choices should be based on taste. Let me throw in my personal favorite – Oscar Mayer Turkey Bacon. I like the taste, the texture, and that it has 50% less fat than pork bacon which makes it less messy to prepare. A slice by slice comparison is not really fair of any bacon type because they are not all the same thickness or ounces, as you alluded to already. But here are the details for two slices of my Oscar Mayer Turkey Bacon: 70 calories, 6 grams of fat, 360 sodium, and 4 grams of protein. Since a slice by slice comparison is not really fair, let’s look at the ingredients list. My Oscar Mayer Turkey Bacon contains 14 ingredients and your Morningstar Vegetarian Bacon contains…..wait, is this correct…. a startling 37 ingredients? What’s in this vegetarian bacon? Lots of vegetables I might think, or other great health benefit promoting ingredients? No, those won’t be found, but it does contain caramel color, red #3, and yellow #6, among many others.
Your title of Vegetarian Food Misconceptions can go both ways. Vegetarians and non-vegetarians alike have misconceptions of vegetarian diets. Not surprising, really, since there are so many variations on a vegetarian diet (i.e. vegan, some who still eat fish, others who still eat eggs). My hubby and I counted ourselves among vegetarians a few years back. It is possible to enjoy great health benefits from a vegetarian diet eating whole food vegetarian. When big corporations jumped on this market and created an industry of packaged/processed vegetarian food, vegetarians themselves have fallen to the greatest misconceptions that these vegetarian boxed items promote good health benefits and therefore buy them by the cartful and give only a glance to actual vegetables and fruits. A meatless version of a traditionally meatful dish, such as bacon, requires an astonishing number of ingredients to mimic the actual meat. I’ve read so many books on food culture in recent years that I don’t recall the exact quote but in one of Michael Pollen’s books he gave the great advice of eat food, real food, just not too much of it. He defined real food as anything with 5 ingredients or fewer. That motto and taste guide my current food choices.
The general notion concerning sodium content has basis in all fast-food options, vegetarian and non-vegetarian, both those at establishments like McDonalds and those in frozen packaged products at our grocery stores. Simply because something is vegetarian does not necessarily make it better for you. The best thing we all can do for our health is prepare whole food meals at home, limit the boxed food items we purchase, and eliminate all frozen prepared dishes that get zapped in a microwave. Food should be about taste. It should also not be about convenience.

(Ellen, I’ve posted this anonymously because although I know we are all among friends here I’ve learned in the blogging world that while bloggers welcome comments they often only welcome comments of a similar mindset to their own. Eating a vegetarian diet is great. Eating a non-vegetarian diet can also be great. Just thought I’d chime in with my two cents on packaged foods.)

Ellen Zschunke said...

Thank you, anonymous friend, for your comment.
One note that I will disagree with - that your comment is not of a similar mindset.

I agree with everything you have said here. My post was not necessarily about the health benefits of veg bacon, but rather a literal comparison of the sugar content of milk types and the sodium content of meat-like products. I've heard now, from more than one person (my mom included), that there is more sodium in veg bacon and veg burgers. And that's just not true. So, having that as a default argument is not ok with me. With that said, I will NEVER attack or judge what someone else chooses to eat, but when put on the "defensive" I will defend my own choices when it comes to what I put in my own body. I agree that the best food is whole foods. What you are referring to is the yellow rubber band around the lettuce on the front cover of Michael Pollan's "In Defense of Food" which states: Eat Food, Not Too Much, Mostly Plants. I agree. I will not state that a vegetarian diet is healthier for you, or vice versa. Food is all about balance and boxed food is not the answer. I've tried tempeh, but didn't find it to my own liking. Likewise, I've been told the same information about veggie burgers. I've tried boxed and I've made my own veggie burgers - chock full of real veggies I prepared myself. The reality is that's not always possible. I don't generally talk or blog that much about my own food choices, but I don't like mis-information floating around either.

On November 12, 2008 I wrote about Michael Pollan as well as other writers I was reading to learn more about my quest to eat (in my opinion) better. In my "past" life, I ate terribly and I am happy to have found alternatives that make me feel better and healthier.

Other good reads include The China Study

And while I used to still eat pepperoni, I have since cut it (and all other non-fish meat) out but do (as you indicated) eat eggs and fish...and cheese, even though I know I am healthier/less mucous-y when I avoid it.

And here's a post about the health related choices I've made as it pertains to food and the doctor's recommendations:

Thank you again for your comment. I do wish you felt comfortable posting here. And I hope that my original post's tone did not convey a defensive or condescending nature.