Plant-Based Diets Take Root


Plant-based fare is steadily increasing on restaurant menus. However, only 15% of consumers say that they follow a specific type of diet, such as vegetarian, pescetarian and vegan.

A focus on health is the driving force behind the rise of plant-based consumption. Consumers report that the number one reason for eating meatless entrees is because it is good for them. More than one-third of consumers eat meat-free entrees to feel better physically. With the term “health” evolving from a focus on nutrition to a more holistic take on wellness, operators should expect these motives for meatless consumption to only grow stronger.

Consumption of vegetarian or vegan options is generally consistent across dayparts, with consumers eating meatless items for lunch and dinner just slightly more than breakfast. This could be because more people tend to skip breakfast, but rarely skip lunch or dinner. 

Protein Substitutes 

Demand for plant-based protein substitutes is growing rapidly. About three-fourths of consumers who often eat vegetarian and vegan items agree that they’d like more plant-based protein substitutes for meat, poultry and seafood. Moreover, half of consumers ages 18-34 call for the ability to swap animal proteins for plant-based alternatives.

One way operators are meeting this demand is by formulating vegan and vegetarian ingredients to look and taste like meat. The three most preferred plant-based protein substitutes are vegetables, beans and grains. Each is high in protein, with grains also high in carbohydrates, lending a similar satiety that traditional meats would provide. Other preferred plant-based meat alternatives include eggs, nuts and seeds-all of which offer healthy fats and high protein.

The benefits of a plant-based diet

Plant-based diets are proven to be extremely helpful in weight loss and are associated with lower Body Mass Index (BMI) scores. Plant foods require more energy to break down. The increased calorie burn can make maintaining a healthy weight easier. Eating more plant foods may also reduce your risk of heart disease. Research has shown plant-based diets help improve blood pressure, weight, blood glucose, and triglyceride levels. They can also reduce inflammation in the body. These risk reductions can all be achieved through the plant-based diet due to increased fiber. Another benefit is preventing and controlling diabetes. Research has shown that a plant-based diet can decrease the risk for type 2 diabetes by improving insulin sensitivity and decreasing insulin resistance.

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