Fake meat may be getting a lot of play, but is it healthy?

Fake meat or the real thing? This soy-based product can be made to "bleed" red just like animal flesh. Image source: Anthony Lindsay Photography/Impossible Foods
Fake meat or the real thing? This soy-based product can be made to "bleed" red just like animal flesh. Image source: Anthony Lindsay Photography/Impossible Foods

Fake meat may be getting a lot of play, but is it healthy?

This summer, fake meat went mainstream. It felt like every restaurant chain was boasting meat-free versions of their menu options. Products like The Impossible Burger and Beyond Meat moved confidently to the frozen food section. Even the most committed carnivores tried meat replacement burgers, chick’n fillets, and kale sausages. When products advertised themselves as reputable substitutes to meat, they emphasized their texture and taste. Like the Pepsi challenge of the 1980s, meat eaters were being fooled into accidentally eating vegan — and they weren’t complaining.

Veggie burgers have come a long way. Once constructed from peas, corn, and some sort of sawdust-like binding agent, it was rare to find a vegetarian option that didn’t need to be smothered in sauces to become edible. As soy products evolved with a societal demand, and we learned that being meat-free didn’t mean we were relegated to soft tofu, vegetarian brands became supermarket staples. For many people, the flexitarian lifestyle (eating a mostly vegetarian diet, occasionally including meat) is a healthy solution.

It’s rare that your vegan best friend will complain that they miss the taste and texture of beef or the crackle of chicken skin. When you think about it, meat replacement products that boast these attributes are geared towards the occasional meat eater. So if you love the taste of a burger, but find the sustainability of raising cattle hard to stomach, beefless alternatives are worth a try. Plant-based burgers use less water and generate less greenhouse gases.  

But, let’s not lie to ourselves. A burger is a burger. And a burger, impossible or not, is not healthy. They contain mostly soy or wheat protein, as well as added preservatives, salt, flavourings, and fillers to enhance its taste, shelf life, and texture. The Impossible Burger has more sodium with 370 milligrams, or about 16 percent of the recommended daily ceiling versus 82 milligrams in a beef burger

Would I recommend switching to these new meatless products for health? The simple answer is no. If you are sensitive to soy, salt, or wheat, these new burgers should be avoided. There are other alternatives, though they have not received the benefit of the buzz media cycle, that contain whole grains and legumes that would be a considerable alternative. They are the more traditional veggie burgers and contain less genetically modified and processed ingredients. 

There’s nothing wrong with the occasional burger — be it beef, turkey, chicken, soy, or bean. While increasing options to suit all dietary restrictions is a positive step, we have to educate ourselves about our choices. We also have to be truthful and ask ourselves why are we deciding to eat something — is it for ethical reasons, or because we think it is better for us? By questioning the hype cycle, and becoming informed consumers, we can make better choices for ourselves and for the welfare of the planet.  

On weight training and how to avoid getting stuck in the comfort zone

Black and white image of woman weight training / Photo by Derwin Edwards from Pexels
Black and white image of woman weight training / Photo by Derwin Edwards from Pexels

On weight training and how to avoid getting stuck in the comfort zone

If you’ve been lifting weights for a while, you have come to realize that it’s empowering and not intimidating. You have probably seen your form improve and your core stabilize as you pick up new exercises and work through your routine. Weight training in all its forms, whether it’s one-on-training, classes, or free weights, is bound to boost your confidence. Remember the days when you wondered if you could even pick up that 12 lb weight? Well, now you’re busting through those flies and curls while thinking about your shopping list. And your arms and legs keep repeating movement in perfect form. 

Congratulations, you’ve won weight training. It’s time to move up to a heavier weight. Like so many things in life, you don’t win weight training when it gets easier. You lose weight training when it gets easier — and you just stay there. 

The moment your brain leaves your body and you are sailing through your routine, it’s time to take stock and challenge yourself again. Many of us tend to stay in our comfort zone once we’ve accomplished something. After all, it’s called a comfort zone because it’s reassuring. You know you can complete the exercise effortlessly at that weight set … and it feels good. 

However, moving on is essential because if you don’t, you’ll stay static at the same fitness level. Strength training is about increasing resistance to build muscle. As your body adapts to this stress, your muscles respond by becoming stronger. This leads to increased results like lean body mass, decreased fat, and the ability to lift more for a longer period of time. If you stay with your current set of weights, your progress will stall. You will be cheating yourself from the benefits of your efforts. 

How do you know that it’s time to move on? Well, if you’re sailing through reps and lose count because your mind is on what you’re going to watch on Netflix tonight — it’s time to change up your weights. Weight lifting is a mental exercise as well as a physical one. If you aren’t present, it’s time to re-engage and add more resistance.

Another way to figure out if it’s time to move up is by evaluating your last couple of reps. If your first rep and your last rep feel the same, it’s time. Your goal is to be challenged by your last rep, without compromising your form. If you’re working with a trainer, let them know that you can go heavier. Trainers aren’t mind readers but we will probably know if you’re coasting on your routines. 

The time you spend in the gym is your time and needs to be spent efficiently. If you are settling at a level, it’s time to grab the next weight over or split your sets by using a heavier weight for the last couple of reps. It’s not a cliche but what you get out is what you put in. You might feel like a winner when you’re gliding through a workout without much effort and feeling great — so celebrate your accomplishments. And then humble yourself and start all over again.