Rise of the 'flexitarians': Major fast food chains now prioritize offering meat substitutes

The world currently has about 22 million people who describe themselves as flexitarian, non-vegetarian consumers who resort to a vegan diet for health and fitness purposes


                            Rise of the 'flexitarians': Major fast food chains now prioritize offering meat substitutes

The fake meat revolution is here, and how! Major fast food chains such as Burger King, Nestle, and the Harvester chain have started producing their own line of vegan burgers, in a bid to attract more "flexitarians", a term coined for non-vegetarian consumers who resort to a vegan diet in a bid to pay more attention to their health and fitness needs.

And the success of such products, especially via trendy burger joints, has snowballed so much, it has prompted fast-food mega-chains to get in on the act. In order to appease the major chunk of people who prefer to eat more vegan foods than meats, Burger King started stocking the vegan Impossible Burger, and Nestle launched their soya and wheat protein Garden Gourmet Incredible Burger.

Reports suggest that the world currently has about 22 million people who describe themselves as flexitarian. (Photo Illustration by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Reports suggest the world currently has about 22 million people who describe themselves as flexitarian, and it is also said that becoming one is actually the better option to choose, considering the fact that our insatiable desire for ever-cheaper meat is unsustainable in the wake of fast-depleting resources.

"Choosing to go vegan is often a way of life that is more than a dietary choice. Most vegans are choosing to respect the lives of animals by not eating animals or using products made from animals. For people choosing the vegan diet, the main concern would be to make sure that the person choosing to go vegan is getting enough of the essential nutrients from the meat substitute," said Dr. Kelly Brittain, Associate Professor in the College of Nursing at Michigan State University.

A thing to consider when looking for vegan options in lieu of meat is sodium content, since a lot of processed foods, meat substitutes included, can be high in sodium, which isn't a healthy option whatsoever. (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

As per Brittain, flexitarians have to take care of their daily intake of protein, if on a vegan diet. Apart from regular protein, there are other vitamins and minerals as well which help in boosting a person's diet, even if it's meat-free. Brittain said "nutrients like iron, vitamin B12, and calcium" can be easily found in meat substitutes, but one has to carefully look for them.

Moreover, it is very crucial to check the texture of the meat substitute, in order for it to aptly feel like meat when eaten. Another thing to consider when looking for vegan options in lieu of meat is sodium content, since a lot of processed foods, meat substitutes included, can be high in sodium, which isn't a healthy option whatsoever.

Nowadays, a lot of people have resorted to even making vegan lunch and dinners at home, in order to eat healthy even without the help of the local vegan corner for it. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Nowadays, a lot of people have resorted to even making vegan lunch and dinners at home, in order to eat healthy even without the help of the local vegan corner for it. Brittain explains that "some of the popular substitutes are portabella mushroom caps and vegan burgers from MorningStar Farms Meat Lovers Vegan Burger. These substitutes have the same texture of a burger and in the case of the portabella mushroom cap, it can have the same thickness and hardiness of a burger."

Checking the labels when buying vegan food substitutes is a must in all cases. "Many of these options will give you some of the recommended daily allowances of iron, vitamin b12 and calcium. However, one should read the labels and look for the sodium content as well. Diets high in sodium are not good for one's health." And not only burgers, but flexitarians are also going for a lot of vegan options when it comes to food items like eggs, butter, and cheese.

Kelly recommends people using butter to make a switch to "oils like coconut or olive oil or sunflower oil" for cooking, while spreading can be taken care of by "vegan spreads that are made from avocado oil."(Photo by Steffi Loos/Getty Images)

Instead of using eggs, flexitarians can start substituting them with "peanut butter, bananas, Quinoa, silken tofu, instant mashed potatoes, garbanzo beans and in baking, applesauce," for better taste and texture. Brittain recommends people using butter to make a switch to "oils like coconut or olive oil or sunflower oil" for cooking, while spreading can be taken care of by "vegan spreads that are made from avocado oil."

But considering flexitarians are, in fact, meat eaters too, what are the best possible inclusions to have in their diet to promote a healthy vegan lifestyle? According to Brittain, the answer lies in legumes. "Beans, along with portabella mushroom caps, Quinoa, silken tofu, instant mashed potatoes, garbanzo beans are best. It really depends on how you want to eliminate animal products from your diet." As a word of advice for budding flexitarians, Brittain advises, "If reducing meat is the goal, then going meatless a few days a week, as it is for a flexitarian, is a great option. Being a flexitarian gives you more options, like incorporating fish and seafood in the diets."

Instead of using eggs, flexitarians can start substituting them with "peanut butter, bananas, Quinoa, silken tofu, instant mashed potatoes, garbanzo beans and in baking, applesauce," for better taste and texture. (Photo by Moses Robinson/Getty Images for KFC)