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The Top 3 Alternative Food Trends This Week

US retail sales of plant-based foods grew 27% in 2020, bringing the total market to roughly $7 billion, according to data from the Plant-Based Foods Association (PBFA). Alternative food trends fit in with the dietary needs of people in the US, as, according to the US Department of Agriculture’s most recent Dietary Guidelines for Americans, almost 90% of the population does not meet the daily recommendation for vegetables. Vegetables are where we get so many of our nutrients needed to nourish our body and increase our energy. Yet, with so much information floating about, it’s hard to figure what alternative food trends and plant-based menu items are worth watching. Here are 3 that caught our eyes this week at CleanTechnica.

Wanna Go Out for Fish(less) & Chips?

Fishless fish? It’s a contradiction, right? Well, it’s not — if you’re a vegan/vegetarian/flexitarian. Remember those Friday nights of crisp coatings, tart lemon, and goopy tartar sauce? Yum. Well, sophisticated fish alternatives have shown up at grocers and are peeking out from some restaurant menus. They’re really appealing to those of us who have sworn off traditional seafood.

Because consumers drive food markets, and we’re voicing concerns about the seafood industry’s environmental problems, new and appealing seafood-less menu items are gaining momentum for several reasons.

  • Unsustainable fishing practices have decimated fisheries in recent decades, a problem both for biodiversity and the millions of people who depend on the sea for income and food.
  • In Meatless, Kristie Middleton, Senior Food Policy Director at the Humane Society of the US, lists health concerns about eating fish, including exposure to mercury and polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB), which are both toxins.
  • Today’s plant-based fishless fish options are a lot closer in flavor and texture than earlier releases.

Plant-based seafood made a big impact in the plant-based meat category in 2020, accounting for $12 million in sales, up 23% over the previous year. “This isn’t your grandfather’s alternative fish stick,” Joshua Katz, an analyst at the consulting firm McKinsey who has studied the alt-protein industry, told the New York Times. “Seafood is still a massive market with compelling reasons to work on it.”

Shifting to plant-based, cultivated, and fermentation-derived seafood is the most tractable way to improve our oceans’ health, according to the Good Food Institute. Alt-seafood ventures worldwide received at least $83 million from investors in 2020, compared with $1 million 3 years earlier, according to the Institute’s data. As of June, 2021, 83 companies were producing alt-seafood products around the world, a nearly 3x rise since 2017.

Here are some more important items to know when you’re thinking about choosing fish-less foods.

  • 90% of wild fisheries are classified as overfished or harvested at maximal capacity.
  • 170 countries are projected to be left with substantial unmet seafood demand in the near future.
  • Just $9.5 million retail dollar sales of plant-based seafood in 2019 — just 1% of all plant-based meat dollar sales — make plant-based seafood a market white space.

It’s Time to Rethink Breakfast, For You & The Planet

Food production accounts for a quarter of global greenhouse gas emissions, so it’s time to think critically about how we can reduce the impact of our breakfasts. And we can do so without sacrificing taste or satisfaction.

Those and other findings were shared by Alice Garvey, a researcher in environmental policy at the University of Leeds. Garvey offers several suggestions for reorienting the breakfast menu choices you make to lower your carbon footprint and reduce your likelihood of cardiovascular disease.

  • A traditional breakfast holds the majority of the carbon footprint from its meat: 29% from the bacon. A breakfast using plant-based bacon substitutes would reduce its carbon footprint by 51%.
  • An average vegetarian sausage has about a quarter of the impact of a standard pork sausage at 34%, making it an easy option to significantly reduce the breakfast’s environmental impact without dramatically affecting flavor. This change alone would reduce the breakfast’s footprint by 25%.
  • Switching to whole grain bread, seasonal/ local tomatoes, and a plant-based spread — which has around 3.7 times less environmental impact than dairy spreads — could reduce your footprint by a 12%.
  • A bowl of cereal or porridge is an excellent, low-carbon source of energy, with a carbon footprint about one-tenth that of a single pork sausage.
  • Dairy milk is typically 3.5 times more emissions-intensive than alternative milks. The alternatives that produce the least carbon emissions are almond, oat, and soy. (Contrary to popular belief, Garvey says the amount of water needed to produce even the most water-intensive alternative milk — almond — is still less than the amount needed for dairy milk.)
  • Fruit is another great source of low carbon energy. Fruits such as berries and grapes typically have about twice the footprint of a banana due to their perishability, so opting for a banana or apple could be an easy low-carbon breakfast decision.
  • Switching to fruit juices with ingredients that can be grown locally can help to reduce the impact of your breakfast beverage selection.
  • In general, plant-based items have a longer shelf life and can reduce the need for costly refrigerated transportation while providing an attractive opportunity for local production.

Rethinking what you eat for breakfast can have a positive impact on your health and the planet. Your can definitely design your first meal of the day to have lower carbon — do it!

Salt Substitutes Save Lives

The right levels of sodium allow your muscles to contract and your nerves to fire. They also regulate fluid levels to prevent dehydration. The Cleveland Clinic describes, though, when you eat too many salty foods, excess fluid starts to build up in your bloodstream. Your kidneys can’t filter all the fluid out, so the fluid stays in your blood vessels, straining their walls. Over time, that high blood pressure can lead to kidney disease, heart disease, and stroke.

In the US much of the sodium that is consumed comes in the form of pre-prepared and processed foods. Cooking meals from scratch is definitely better for us, as we take control of the items that go into the various dishes that we eat. Salt substitutes with reduced sodium levels and increased potassium levels have been shown to lower blood pressure. A salt substitute of 75% sodium chloride and 25% potassium chloride can have a real impact on health outcomes, as shown by a recent research study funded by the National Health and Medical Research Council of Australia.

Among persons who had a history of stroke or were 60 years of age or older and had high blood pressure, the rates of stroke, major cardiovascular events, and death from any cause were lower with the salt substitute than with regular salt. 21,000 participants were studied, with half using regular salt and the other half using a salt substitute.

On occasion, salt substitutes have their own set of possible side effects, so why not use more herbs and spices in place of salt? Many herbs have anti-inflammatory properties, so your diet can be healthier and even tastier. Salt-free herb blends like Mrs. Dash® at available at most grocery stores, or you could make your own to taste. You’ll find many recipes for different salt-free herb blend combinations online. Marinades marinades and bread crumbs also add a bit of zest to a meal. How about seasonings like lemon juice or flavored vinegars?

Easy recipes for salt-free Mexican, Italian, and mixed herb seasoning blends, plus tips for eating right with less salt, are available from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

Until we slow down our cooking, sodium will continue to hide almost anywhere in the foods we eat.

Final Thoughts about Alternative Food Trends

Overall, the key to healthy body and planet includes fresh fruits and veggies, whole foods/ whole grains, increasing the amount of water you drink, and limiting your processed foods and red meat intake. Planning meals ahead of time to consider the effect foods have on the environment and your health can make all the difference. Keep watching CleanTechnica for alternative food trends so you, too, can stay current with what’s happening in plant-based consumer foods.

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Written By

Carolyn Fortuna (they, them), Ph.D., is a writer, researcher, and educator with a lifelong dedication to ecojustice. She's won awards from the Anti-Defamation League, The International Literacy Association, and The Leavy Foundation. Carolyn is a small-time investor in Tesla. Please follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

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