Plant-based snacks are having a moment, with many of us including them in our diets, if not completely switching to a greener way of eating. The reasons behind this new way of eating are many, for health reasons to awareness about animal rights and environmental and factory farming concerns. But how many of us really understand the differences between plant-based, vegan, and vegetarian snacks? It’s common for many eaters to simply pick up a green meal under the assumption that if it’s green it must be good for us. We speak to experts in the industry to understand the concept better, break a few myths and more.
Get to know the snacks better
Sabine Karam, manager and co-founder, iDiet by Healthbox.me explains how plant-based typically refers to products with limited to no animal-derived products, “Vegetarian snacks may contain eggs, honey, and dairy products such as milk, butter, cheese, and yoghurt.” Aria Ramsinghani, co-founder and spokesperson, Kind Lyfe, too stresses on the difference when she explains, “Veganism means they do not contain any animal products/products produced from animals such as dairy, eggs, and honey, whereas vegetarian snacks often contain them.” All of Kind Lyfe’s products are vegan, gluten-free, refined sugar-free, preservative free, and non-GMO.
The manifold benefits
“The core benefits of going plant-based are essentially not having to compromise on taste, whilst also not negatively impacting animals in the process,” says Divyesh Bhatia, co-founder, Vegarian. The brand is selective to associate with providers that beat their direct (non-plant based) competitor regarding taste and health. “Plant-based snacks tend to have more vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants than a regular snack, as they usually contain nutrient-dense ingredients such as nuts, nut butters, dried fruits, and seeds. However, not all plant-based foods are created equally, they can vary in quality and nutritional value,” adds Karam. Kind Lyfe’s goal is to fulfill wants and needs for a healthy lifestyle, without compromising on taste and cravings whilst leaving out the chemicals and preservatives. “The majority of snacks nowadays contain chemicals and preservatives, which can cause inflammatory issues, however, us being a ‘free from’ brand, everyone can reap the health benefits and still indulge in guilt-free snacks,” elaborates Ramsinghani.
Is ‘green’ always healthy, though?
“Many of the vegan products in the market contain an excess of calories, highly processed ingredients, or even high levels of sugar and sodium. When picking snacks, it’s important to look for natural products made of whole ingredients and free from additives,” says Karam. She advises that as shoppers one should read the ingredient labels to figure out the true nutritional value of a product, “When it comes to desserts, manufacturers take butter and eggs out of their recipes and replace them with starches, gums, and pectins to achieve a similar consistency. These ingredients do not aid in the nutritional value of the snack itself and can lead to a higher calorie intake.” For Kind Lyfe, being preservative and chemical-free is a non-negotiable factor, hence they like to be known as ‘clean snacking’ brand. “The benefits of vegan snacks are that they are an excellent option for those who can’t tolerate dairy, but still crave snacks that traditionally contain it. Since they also don’t have any preservatives or chemicals, they are also very easy to digest,” adds Ramsinghani.
Who are these meals catered to?
A common belief would be it is for those wishing to make a switch from meat or those who are already vegetarians, but Karam explains, “In a day and age where fatty, processed foods are the norm, eating healthier plant-based snacks is a smart move (that is of course if you make the right choices) for all.” Kind Lyfe too suggests that these snacks are for everyone! “Our goal is to provide a go-to snack for everyone regardless of diet preferences. It is not only the perfect snack for vegetarians and vegans but also a tasty snack for individuals who do not have any dietary restrictions and are looking for some healthier alternatives,” adds Ramsinghani. Bhatia says they cater to everyone, especially those who are looking to reduce their meat consumption. He shares how the majority of the western world is now becoming vegetarian (at least one such meal a week), “We want to be the plant-based distributor in the GCC by providing the consumers with the best possible plant-based varieties of their non-plant based counterparts.”
If it’s healthy, does it have to be tasteless?
Many providers often try to replicate standard desserts in a vegan fashion, “I personally believe that is not easily achievable which is why they end up with tasteless results,” says Karam. At iDiet, they focus on creative recipes made of tasty natural ingredients that re full of flavours. They don’t offer the typical vegan mousse, cheesecake, or brownies, instead, focus on items like peanut butter cups, vegan cakes made with whole fresh fruits, energy balls made with dates, and other flavourful dried fruit snacks. Bhatia suggests how it depends on the type of plant-based meals you have tasted, “If you’d asked me this five years ago, I would have agreed. Now I completely disagree, and hence why the growth in the plant-based category has been over 500% in the likes of major supermarkets like Aldi UK. Interestingly, plant-based brands as Purezza Plant Based Restaurant were voted the best Pizza at the Napoli Pizza World Championships against its non-vegan competitors. Even our classic hummus scores points on all fronts, Allo Beirut, Dubai and Abu Dhabi, have launched seven exclusive hummus flavours including Basil, Hummus Falafel, Carrot and Orange, Black Sesame, Beetroot, Sundried Tomato and Peanuts, and Za’atar and Nuts, which are packed with plant-based protein, rich in digestion aiding fibre, and are naturally gluten-free, nut-free and dairy-free!” Even the home-grown brand Honest Badger offered a clean and plant-based dessert tray for Eid Al Fitr, with 15 popular and delicious desserts.
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