The Skinny on Fake Meat

Why “plant-based” faux meat is worse than the real thing

Ivey dishing her tofu scramble. Photography by Kent Anderson
Photography by Kent Anderson

We have all heard that eating too much meat is bad for us. In fact, the International Agency for Research on Cancer has found that regularly consuming processed meats can increase one’s risk of developing certain cancers by 18 percent. This is compounded by deficits in healthy eating practices. According to a report issued by the National Cancer Institute on the Standard American Diet, three out of four Americans don’t eat a single piece of fruit in a day and nine out of 10 don’t reach the recommended daily intake of vegetables. Furthermore, 96 percent of Americans don’t achieve the minimum weekly recommendation for greens and beans, and 99 percent do not reach the minimum for whole grains. The most shocking statistic about the average American’s diet is that 70 percent of it is processed. 

Processed food is classified as any food that has changed in any way from its natural state, which is far too vague of a definition. In reality, processed food is any product that’s made a stop in a lab on its way to you. So, what started as a real whole food was then “enhanced” with chemical additives, sugar, artificial sweeteners and flavorings, chemical emulsifiers, stabilizers, and preservatives to become something that’s more like a distant relative of what it once was. 

The worst offenders are typically the ready-to-eat, packaged “faux foods” like imitation eggs and beef that are low in nutrients and high in chemicals, calories, sodium, and additives. Companies now slap labels such as vegan, plant-based, keto, gluten-free, or non-GMO on these packaged foods and trick the population into thinking they’re healthy when they’re quite the opposite. Remember what I always say when reading labels: If your brain doesn’t recognize it, your body won’t either.

Ivey enjoying her black bean burger. Photography by Kent Anderson

One of the most popular fake meat burgers on the market includes such ingredients as magnesium carbonate, erythrosine (red No. 3), propylene glycol, and ferric orthophosphate. Magnesium carbonate helps food retain its color, but it is also used in flooring, fireproofing, and fire extinguishers. Erythrosine (red No. 3) is an artificial coloring that the FDA banned in cosmetics after it was shown to cause cancer, yet it is still allowed in foods. Propylene glycol is used as a moisturizer in foods and just so happens to be the main ingredient in antifreeze. Ferric orthophosphate is used to fortify foods and also as a pesticide to kill slugs and snails.

The best piece of advice when it comes to limiting processed foods is to ask yourself: Did it grow on a tree, bush, or in the ground? Did it roam freely in a pasture? Or, did it grow in a lab or factory? Read on for more tips and insight. 

Burger Versus Burger

Fake Meat Burger

  • Calories: 270
  • Fat: 20 g
  • Sodium: 380 mg
  • Carbohydrates: 5 g
  • Fiber: 3 g
  • Sugar: 0 g
  • Protein: 20 g

4-oz. Grass-Fed Burger

  • Calories: 280
  • Fat: 23 g
  • Sodium: 75 mg
  • Carbohydrates: 0 g
  • Fiber: 0 g
  • Sugar: 0 g
  • Protein: 19 g

Living with Ivey Black Bean Burger

  • Calories: 300
  • Fat: 4 g
  • Sodium: 80 mg
  • Carbohydrates: 30 g
  • Fiber: 12 g
  • Sugar: 4 g
  • Protein: 15 g
Props courtesy of Hive Home, Gift & Garden. Clothing courtesy of Hive for Her. Photography by Kent Anderson
Props courtesy of Hive Home, Gift & Garden. Clothing courtesy of Hive for Her.

Tofu Scramble

Ingredients (serves 2)

  • 1 14-oz. block of firm tofu 
  • 2 tbsp. nutritional yeast 
  • 1/4 tsp. turmeric 
  • 1/4 tsp. garlic powder
  • 3 tbsp. unsweetened almond milk
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Chopped chives for garnish

Dry the tofu thoroughly by placing it between two paper towels. In a small bowl, add nutritional yeast, turmeric, garlic powder, and almond milk and whisk to combine. Set aside.  

Add olive oil to a heated cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. Add tofu block and cook for 2 minutes while breaking up tofu with a fork. Add in almond milk mixture and cook for an additional 2 minutes. Transfer to a plate, season with salt and pepper, and garnish with chopped chives. 

Ivey's black bean burger. Photography by Kent Anderson

Black Bean Burger

Ingredients (serves 4)

  • 1/2 red pepper
  • 1/2 red onion
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1 15-oz. can or jar of black beans
  • 3/4 cup cooked quinoa (1/4 cup raw quinoa cooked per instructions on bag)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. black pepper
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil

Dice red pepper, red onion, and garlic. Drain black beans. In a bowl, combine beans, cooked quinoa, egg, spices, and diced vegetables. Form the mixture into patties. 

Add olive oil to a large cast-iron skillet over medium heat. Cook patties for 5-6 minutes on each side (you may flip twice to ensure they are well browned but not burnt). Serve with your favorite bun or lettuce cup and traditional garnishes.

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