Tuesday, 28 May 2024

Plant-Based Meats: Making Informed Choices for Your Young Athletes

Plant-based meat products have gained immense popularity in recent years, with many fast-food chains now offering vegan alternatives. Brands like Impossible Burger and Beyond Meat have made it possible for eateries like Burger King and White Castle to cater to a meatless audience. However, not all plant-based options are created equal when it comes to health. Let’s explore what you should consider when choosing faux meat for your young athletes.

Not All Meatless Burgers Are Healthy

While plant-based meat substitutes may seem like a healthier choice, they can often be packed with artificial flavors, preservatives, and high amounts of fat and sodium. Some of these substitutes lack sufficient protein, which is a crucial macronutrient found in meat. For instance, a plant-based burger from Burger King contains similar levels of saturated fats as their traditional Whopper but with even more sodium! It’s important to note that while the burger itself may be plant-based, the accompanying fries and soft drinks at fast-food places are far from being “health conscious” options.

Opt for Whole Food Ingredients

When choosing plant-based options, prioritize those made with ingredients you recognize and can pronounce. Look for burgers that have higher amounts of fiber and protein and a low sodium count. Burgers based on beans, legumes, and mushrooms are often a safer bet. While a plant-based meal can be great for kids, incorporating whole food sources like lentils as the protein source is even better. You can also explore thousands of recipes for homemade plant-based burgers using beans, mushrooms, and vegetables. This way, you can have fun in the kitchen while adding more vegetables to your young athletes’ plates.

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Consider Macronutrient Content

Many plant-based burgers now offer protein levels similar to actual red meat burgers. However, it’s important to read the labels. Most children require four to six ounces of protein per day according to national health guidelines. This can be challenging if a vegetable-based burger only contains a few grams per serving. Additionally, young athletes need to ensure they consume enough calories to fuel their physical activities. Vegan burgers often have fewer calories than their red meat counterparts. If your child relies solely on vegan food sources, consider consulting a nutritionist to ensure a well-rounded and healthy diet.

Pay Attention to Key Micronutrients

Vegan diets often lack calcium, iron, and vitamin B12. While your young athlete may not consume a strictly plant-based diet, swapping a meat-based burger for a plant-based alternative could result in a deficiency of these micronutrients. While plenty of plant-based alternatives are fortified with these vitamins and minerals, it’s essential to carefully read the labels.


A plant-based diet can accommodate meat-based products in moderation unless your child is a strict vegan. By focusing on nutrient-dense plant-based options that provide enough calories, your child can maintain a healthy and active lifestyle. If you’re considering transitioning your child to a plant-based diet or aiming to reduce meat consumption as a family, experimenting with new plant-based meats and vegetarian protein sources can be an exciting journey. Remember to remain mindful of the labels. It may be beneficial to consult a dietitian to ensure your young athlete doesn’t miss out on essential nutrients.

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Q: Is a plant-based diet suitable for young athletes?
A: Yes, a plant-based diet can be healthy for young athletes. It’s important to focus on nutrient-dense plant-based options and ensure an adequate intake of calories and essential nutrients.

Q: Are all plant-based burgers healthy?
A: Not all plant-based burgers are healthy. Some contain artificial flavors, preservatives, and high amounts of fat and sodium. It’s crucial to read the labels and opt for burgers made with whole food ingredients.

Q: How can I ensure my child gets enough protein on a plant-based diet?
A: While plant-based burgers can offer protein, it’s important to read the labels and consider other sources of protein such as lentils, beans, and legumes. Consulting a nutritionist can also be helpful.

Q: What micronutrients may be lacking in a vegan diet?
A: Calcium, iron, and vitamin B12 are often lacking in vegan diets. While some plant-based alternatives are fortified with these nutrients, it’s essential to pay attention to the labels and consider supplementation if necessary.