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Monday, June 17, 2019

Top Nutrition Tips: Plant-Based Convenience Foods

Top Nutrition Tips: Plant-Based Convenience Foods

In April, I wrote about dietitian-approved processed foods and many parents of swimmers have asked for more ideas for plant-based foods that offer flavor, good nutrition, and convenience. So, I reached out to registered dietitian Marlene Schmidt, Manager for Nutrition, Health and Wellness for Nestle USA, the world’s largest food and beverage company.

“New consumer survey data show that about 35% of meat eaters are trying to include more plant-based foods in their diets,” says Schmidt. For example, Meatless Monday has caught on with everyone from athletes to school lunch.

So, what can parents feel good about when evaluating the new plant-based foods in their grocery stores? In April we mentioned Sweet Earth Natural Foods frozen meals but keep an eye out for their newest product, launching this fall, the “Awesome Burger.” This plant-based “burger” is made from pea protein and will have 28 grams of protein and 6 grams of fiber in a single serving.

This burger differs from the alternative burgers, like Impossible Burger or Beyond Meat Burgers. Neither of these is really made from vegetables, but do contain plants, like some soy with added coconut oil and other ingredients. Nutritionally, Impossible Burger and Beyond Meat Burgers are similar in calories and fat to lean ground beef burgers, but real beef burgers are higher in protein and naturally contain vitamins and minerals which are added to those other burgers.

Sweet Earth also offers a frozen line of seitan (pronounced say-tan); a wheat-based protein that is higher in protein than tofu. But, like tofu, it takes on the flavors of what is cooked with, so experiment with seitan frozen meals to expand your protein-rich, non-meat options.

Another trend that can increase your veggie intake, is cauliflower-based meals. California Pizza Kitchen is launching an entry into the world of cauliflower with a thin-crust pizza made from, you guessed it, cauliflower. So, if you can’t get your swimmers to eat the veggie, try a pizza crust for something fun. Once they try it, then move on to roasting fresh cauliflower for the most natural, least processed form of the veggie.

Another line making a splash in the frozen meal space is Wildscape. These packaged entrees are sold in clear containers, almost like a soup carton, and offer both meat and plant-based meals. Try the peri-peri portobellos for a delicious, meaty textured veggie meal.

And, if you are looking for a new plant-based energy bar, try the newest line from Clif Bar & Company, the “Whole Lotta” bar. It is packed with 240 calories, 10-grams of plant-based protein made with organic fruits, nuts, and seeds with no added sugar. A bar is a great option for a busy swimmer to tuck into the gym bag as a snack.

(Disclosure, I am on a nutrition advisory board for Clif Bar & Company and received free samples of the new bar. I was not asked to or compensated by Clif Bar to mention the bar in this post.)

Chris Rosenbloom, PhD, is a registered dietitian nutritionist who has provided nutrition information to coaches and athletes for over 30 years. She welcomes questions from swimmers, parents, and coaches at

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