We know consumer’s wants and needs change quickly. In particular, the movement for more plant based options in the marketplace continues to grow rapidly with almost 7 out of 10 people surveyed reporting they are trying to consume more plant-based foods and 1 in 5 reported improved opinions around the healthfulness of plant protein. So why the interest in plant-based diets?
Plant-based nutrition, or a diet based on fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes (beans), nuts and seeds, isn’t particularly new and is often associated with vegetarian eating patterns. Vegans have adopted plant-based diets for many years as an alternative to consuming animal or animal-derived products. But the recent shift goes beyond vegan and vegetarian groups — people who have never considered cutting out meat and dairy are choosing to reduce their intake and replace with plant-based options for a variety of reasons. For some it is due to health concerns and medical recommendations to decrease meat and increase their intake of vegetables, whole grains and plant-based protein like beans; for some it’s about reducing the environmental impact of their diet; and for others it is based on an interest in animal welfare.
The benefits of a plant-based diet include; low in saturated fat and high in fiber and phytochemicals, a nutrient profile that lends itself to strong health benefits including reduced risk of obesity, cardiovascular disease, cancer and type 2 diabetes.
When following a plant-based diet it is important to make sure meals are well planned to ensure nutrient needs are met. Potential nutrition gaps for those following a meal plan that does not contain animal products include protein, omega-3 fatty acids, iron, zinc, iodine, calcium, vitamin D, and vitamin B-12. For example, when milk is eliminated we lose a good source of protein, calcium, vitamin A, vitamin D and vitamin B-12 along with riboflavin, phosphorus, potassium, AND niacin. When selecting a plant-based dairy alternative to replace milk it is important to know how much protein, calcium and other nutrients you are getting to make sure your intake of these important nutrients is met. If the dairy alternative does not provide the same nutrition as a glass of milk, you will need to get these nutrients from other foods.
At a food company like Nestlé, we strive to be in tune with consumer needs and to help address new food preferences. That’s why our brand Coffee-mate Natural Bliss, a dairy based creamer recently debuted plant based creamers with almond milk and coconut milk. New studies show that 90% of people who use non-dairy milk substitutes like soy, almond, and coconut milk do so out of a preference rather than to manage lactose intolerance or sensitivity (Lightspeed GMI/Mintel, January 2016), and these new creamers are made with all-natural, simple ingredients to help coffee enthusiasts start their day.
Lean Cuisine, Marketplace has introduced culinary-inspired offerings that include plant based options like Spicy Mexican Beans and Rice, Cheese and Bean Enchilada Verde, Mushroom and Spring Peas Risotto and Butternut Squash Ravioli. These offer pre-portioned solutions that make eating mindfully much easier.
Nestlé’s goal is to provide options for everyone, and nutritionists like me work to make sure that you have options and are informed as you adapt your diet in a sustainable and nutritious way. So if you’re interested in adding more plant-based foods to your diet, make sure to keep an eye on any potential nutrient gaps- then, go ahead and enjoy all the delicious plant-based options out there!