It appears to be healthy, but is it? Morningstar RibletsJune 18, 2012
For those avoiding meat or even just looking for an easy meal, the freezer section is full of stuff like this:
Morningstar Hickory BBQ Riblets
According to the package, these riblets are made with “natural” ingredients. As an unregulated term, “natural” means absolutely nothing – did you know that? So we’ll just skip it. Next, we get a calorie count and claims of being an excellent source of protein and a cholesterol free food. The mere fact that these claims prominently exist on the package shows that the marketer is looking to persuade buyers who consider themselves “healthy eaters.”
Well, it appears to be healthy! But is it?
For the record, I define “healthy” food as food that is real, whole, nutrient dense and comes from the earth.
As I scan through this ingredient list (which of course is listed by volume- greatest to least) there are only a few things I’d consider ingredients for dinner: tomato paste, vinegar, onion powder and garlic powder.
Combined ingredient score: 100 (mostly for the tomato paste!)
That’s not much on its own. So what else is in there?
Ingredient score: 0
Evaporated Cane Juice
Bam. Second ingredient. Don’t kid yourself for even a second that evaporated cane juice is any better for you than plain ol’ white sugar. Same same.
Ingredient score: -1000
Can you guess the first 2 ingredients in MorningStar's fake meat BBQ Riblets? http://t.co/9cQT8n9F
— Michelle Pfennighaus (@FindUrBalance) June 18, 2012
Soy Protein Concentrate
Here’s where fake meat gets “meaty.” From soy! No, not cute little soybeans smushed into a riblet. They actually use just the protein that is isolated from the whole soybean. Don’t ask me how that’s done. Ever try cutting the protein out of a bean?
By definition, an isolated molecule or piece of a food is not whole – it’s highly processed. To add insult to injury, soy crops are almost entirely genetically modified. Another intervention of science that benefits industry, but not our health. Finally, soy has questionable effects on hormone levels, can be difficult to digest, and is an allergen for many.
Ingredient score: -1000
Textured Wheat Protein
Gluten is the protein found in wheat. As with soy, you cannot extract a protein from a whole food without some serious, um, technology. All in the name of fake meat! Now, you may be wondering what “textured” means. Find out from a manufacturer of such highly processed things:
Textured wheat protein is produced using twin-screw extrusion technology using a proprietary mix of wheat gluten and other processing additives to yield products that differ in size, shape and color.
Ingredient score: -750
Have you ever seen a canola? Y’know, like olive oil comes from olives and coconut oil comes from coconut…there must be canolas growing somewhere?
Actually, no. The name “canola” was derived from “Canadian oil, low acid.” It’s a man made product, created to make use of rapeseed that is grown cheaply and originally for industrial use. It’s definitely not a naturally occurring fat, or even close to a real food.
Ingredient score: -500
A thickener, generally regarded as safe. Something you’d ever use at home? Not really. In my kitchen I rely on cornstarch or arrowroot for thickening. This is a chemical compound derived from cellulose. It may be safe but it’s not, y’know…food.
Ingredient score: -100
Total score: -3250
Yes, these scores are a little arbitrary, but you get my point. Morningstar’s fake meat riblets are nothing but water, sugar and cheap partial-food fillers with questionable health effects. If you want to eat that, be my guest! We all eat crap sometimes, right? But it drives me nuts that these things are fooling us into believing we are making a healthy choice.
It appears to be healthy but it definitely…is not.
What’s your favorite healthy pick from the frozen aisle?