How discerning are you about ‘plant-based’ food? | Lifestyle.INQ

OCTOBER 27, 2022

Plant-based Italian sausage by Naked Foods, a popular choice among Filipinos who love to travel

Not all plant-based foods are made equal.

The pandemic had people cruising down refrigerated grocery aisles in search of meat alternatives. But just because a food is labeled vegan or vegetarian doesn’t necessarily mean it is healthy.

It’s easy to see why companies are cashing in on the plant-based food trend.

A report in Eco-Business said that since the lockdown, plant-based meat sales in the United States jumped 261 percent, while in Europe, 39 percent of global sales accounted for meat substitutes. Plant-based manufacturing companies are now keenly observing the new frontier: Asia.

Just recently, the Singapore Food Agency approved sales of Eat Just “chicken” nuggets, becoming the first country to approve lab-grown chicken nuggets. We now have Impossible Food products (Burger King’s plant-based patty is manufactured by Impossible Food), Beyond Meat, OmniMeat.

The demand for plant-based food is soaring, but is the market, comprised of people who earnestly want to shift to a healthier lifestyle, discerning enough?

Plant-based Italian sausage by Naked Foods, a popular choice among Filipinos who love to travel

Nutritional difference

The next-generation faux meats are mostly highly processed food that mimic almost to perfection the real deal in texture, mouthfeel, smell and look—some even “bleed” like your typical beef burger.

For example, nutritionally, the difference between Burger King’s plant-based burger and real meat is not that big. Bur­ger King’s Plant-Based Whopper (marketed as Impossible Whopper in the United States) is loaded with 630 calories compared to the real deal at 660 calories; Plant-Based Whopper packs 1,080 mg sodium while the regu­lar Whopper has 980 mg; saturated fat is 34 g while the regular Whopper has 40 g.

Checking the ingredients is prudent practice. Make it a habit to flip over the box. Check the sugar, protein source, saturated fat. Does it contain recognizable whole-food ingredients, or does it list a series of unpronounceable stuff?

In the Philippines, Naked Foods, the new kid on the block, is fast gaining followers among woke consumers. Since lockdown, demand for its plant-based products skyrocketed by 60 percent, its founder Cinty Yñiguez told Inquirer Lifestyle.

Naked Foods is a family-­owned business on a mission “to nourish people with healthy, plant-based alternatives that are stripped of preservatives.”

Handcrafted in Makati and distributed nationwide, it aims to make healthy choices simpler and easier. Options range from Filipino and Italian sausages, to bacon, and even butter.

Yñiguez is a certified yoga instructor, clinical nutritionist, health and wellness advocate, who will soon complete her Vegan Nutrition Health Coach certification.

“We’re constantly exploring and evolving to find better ways, not necessarily the best, but at least better ways to keep ourselves healthy, to nourish ourselves physically, mentally, emotionally, even spiritually. And so we’re always looking for that healthy, safe, sustainable path that’s always going to heal us,” Yñiguez said.

Plant-based pulled pork with Sriracha mayo by Naked Foods

Fresh and whole ingredients

Naked Foods aims to provide people a healthy, sustainable lifestyle, and that means supplying the market with nutritious and tasty plant-based foods.

What started in Hong Kong with making green juices and five plant beds grew into a passion for spreading love. Yñiguez recalls distributing tumblers of green juices to friends so they would know green juice didn’t taste offensive. Her passion for cooking and experimenting with ingredients made her vegan journey enjoyable.

When she relocated to Manila, she connected with local farmers to make healthy plant-based food made of fresh and whole ingredients.

“Whenever I source the ingredients, I ensure that they’re non-GMO (genetically modified organism). I really source carefully. I’m conscious about the trans fat and, of course, no whites. I don’t use anything white—white sugar, white flour, white rice, white pasta, white fat from meat. White fat from meat products is different from what you actually get from vegetables,” she said.

Sweeteners are natural, like brown sugar or maple syrup; nutritional yeast instead of cheese. No milk and milk products. Just clean, pure, vegan food choices. She also believes going vegan need not be expensive.

“There are plant-based products in the market that are expensive, especially those imported from overseas. That’s why it’s good to have a local alternative that makes the prices accessible, and that will also give you the same amount of nutrients, sometimes even better,” Yñiguez said.

Naked Foods’ plant-based Filipino sausage appeals to the Filipino sweet tooth.

Sodium content

How much better is Naked Foods? For starters, Yñiguez said she is particular about the sodium content, even in her home. She doesn’t buy table salt.

“There’s a huge difference when you take table salt, and you compare that with one piece of rock salt. You’ll feel it instantly, you’ll feel the unhealthiness of the table salt. Sea salt is very light, and it makes a huge difference in the dishes that you prepare, whether it’s for commercial or for personal use,” she said.

Yñiguez also replaced regular soy sauce with coconut aminos. There are healthier replacements for most ingredients, she said; one needs to find them. Another plus with locally produced plant-based foods, she said, is being able to make products suited to the Filipino palate.

Naked Foods’ Filipino Sausage, for instance, is mildly sweet. Made of mushrooms, garlic, onions, tomato paste, olive oil, sunflower oil, and more, a serving has only 330 calories. She keeps the Filipino sweet tooth in mind but is mindful not to go overboard with the sugar. That way, Filipinos can still satisfy their cravings for familiar food without sacrificing the nutrition. Sweet Pork is Naked Foods’ version of tocino.

“All products have no preservatives; that’s why those that are not frozen have a shorter shelf life,” she said.

Her personal favorite and popular among buyers is the Smoky Maple Bacon with an umami flavor. Also available are plant-based Beyond Butter in salted, unsalted and garlic truffle in 140-g tubs; Vegetable Bouillon Powder; Beef Strips; Char Siu; Sweet Pork Bites; Pulled Pork; Sweet-Glazed Bacon; Dark Choco Chip Edible Cookie Dough; and Dark Choco Mint Edible Cookie Dough.

“For me, it’s about replacing meat when I create the products. It’s an alternative, giving people an option. You know, which one works well for them, which one resonates with them, which one is going to make them feel at their best ultimately,” she said. —CONTRIBUTED

Cinty Yñiguez first experimented with farming when she lived in Hong Kong.

Naked Foods is available at Naked Foods By Cinty on Facebook or @nakedfoodsbycinty on Instagram, Real Food PH, Molito, Alabang @realfoodph, Real Food PH, BGC, The Vegan Grocer @thevegangrocerph. For Cebu, Only Vegan Food Cebu @onlyveganfoodcebu.

Your subscription could not be saved. Please try again.
Your subscription has been successful.

Subscribe to our daily newsletter

By providing an email address. I agree to the Terms of Use and acknowledge that I have read the Privacy Policy.