How sustainable and healthy is Terra Heijn’s all-vegan line?

How sustainable and healthy is Terra Heijn’s all-vegan line?

Photo by Matthew Ball

With Terra, Albert Heijn wants to “contribute to a more sustainable food system” and commit to the “protein transition”, that is, the shift of consumption from animal proteins to plant proteins. According to AH, a vegetarian alternative is available for every meal: “breakfast, lunch, dinner or snack.”

Is the Terra Collection really sustainable and healthy? “These two things are not automatically synonymous,” says food scientist Allie de Boer of Maastricht University. “Plant-based products are actually more sustainable and climate-friendly than animal products. But to be a complete alternative, they must also have the same nutritional value. For example, a product must contain a fair amount of protein if you promote it as “Good for protein transport.”

This is not the case with a large number of products from the Terra line. For example, regular Gouda cheese contains about 25% protein, calcium, vitamins B12 and B2, and iodine, all of which are important nutrients. Terra’s vegan “cheese” does not contain any proteins, vitamins or minerals. This does not make Terra cheese a complete substitute.

Many meat substitutes also contain a little protein, and plant-based fish substitutes contain no or only a little protein, plus water, a binding agent, and seaweed extract. Fish is rich in protein: Proteins are the building blocks of all cells in the body.

A little protein once won’t hurt. Dutch people generally consume a sufficient amount of protein. But if you were to replace all animal foods with Terra products too often, it could definitely lead to nutritional deficiencies.

“The range also seems quite random,” says Arnot Fischer, associate professor of marketing and consumer behavior at Wageningen University. ‘It contains products like vegetable shortening, mayonnaise and margarine which you should not eat as a protein substitute. Great.’

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Unfortunately, there is no legal definition of “alternative,” says de Boer. “There could be something that substitutes in terms of nutritional value: for example, tofu is a good substitute for meat, because it closely approximates the nutritional value of meat.” But food can also come close in taste and texture, while differing in nutritional value – as is the case with chopped Tira mushrooms and Tira mushrooms. Beet roots. De Boer: “They are both vegetables, and they have a completely different nutritional value than meat.”

The need for clear information

Nutritionist Lisbeth Oerlemans adds: “In practice, consumers expect a plant-based product to be an alternative not only in terms of experience, but also in terms of nutritional value. The AH should provide clear information on this topic.”

De Boer: “It’s mainly about product positioning. Beetroot is a healthy vegetable in its own right. But AH considers Terra steak a meat alternative. Hence the accompanying meal tip (“Delicious with baked potatoes and green salad”) doesn’t exactly provide a complete meal Because beets contain almost no proteins.

In general, we get the most protein during the main meal, says Sander Biesbruck, associate professor of healthy and sustainable nutrition at Wageningen University. “It is therefore important that the meal replacement component also contains a sufficient amount of protein.”

The Nutrition Center uses “alternatives” criteria. For example, a complete meat substitute that might be included in a “5-wheel” should consist of more than 20 percent of its calories from protein and also contain enough iron and vitamins B1 and B12.

Nutri-Score is not a 5 wheel

Right now, about half of Terra’s products fall outside the 5-wheel. Anyone looking at the Terra range on the AH website will see something called the Nutri-Score everywhere with the products. Many Terra products receive a grade of A or B for “healthy” green. But Nutri-Score is not like the Wheel of Five. All Nutri-Score does is compare foods within the same product group.

Crackers with a Nutri-Score A are healthier than crackers with a lower score, for example because they contain more fiber and less saturated fat. But “healthy eating” is still not that simple.

You can look at the ingredients list yourself. But if you really want to know, you should refer to the Wheel of 5 app or the Nutrition Center app Do I choose healthy? Download, says Oerlemans.

“The way you use AH Nutri-Score is confusing to consumers,” says de Boer. ‘A lot of people won’t know that the Nutri-Score and the 5-Wheel are often very different. You could even call it cheating.

Highly processed products

Most Terra products are highly processed. Bissebroek says this doesn’t have to be worse, as long as the nutritional value is good. The Oerlemans find it strange that simple plant products such as beans or nuts are not included in the range.

It’s different, A.H. answers: “Tera products are an alternative to animal products. Nuts and legumes are not Tera, because they are not substitutes for an animal species.

The Nutrition Center recommends the same legumes and nuts as good plant-based meat alternatives. De Boer: The Terra line is primarily a model for beginners who want to try plant-based food without losing their familiar flavors. We hope that these people will also try products such as legumes and nuts. Because these are healthier and more sustainable options than processed Terra products.’

Are we too strict on AH?

Maybe we are too strict with Albert Heine? “It is welcome that this supermarket chain is committed to more plant-based eating,” says de Boer. “They get the plants from the alternative angle,” Fisher says.

Biesbroek is also very positive: “50 to 60 percent of our environmental impact is due to dairy and meat products.” Any alternative helps. One recognizable umbrella logo makes choosing plant-based products even easier. You don’t really have to eat only healthy products, meat eaters don’t either. As long as you consume enough protein and other nutrients throughout the day.

What does the consumer himself think? However, 22-year-old student Rianne Zwaan from Utrecht is excited. She eats vegetarian and, if possible, completely vegetarian, like many of her friends. “We are very happy with the Terra line.” Finally something other than hummus on your bread. The products are also delicious and not too expensive. Anyway, I know how to get enough protein, but this may be less known to others.

Finished by the author
Loeth Olthuis has been writing about nutrition and sustainability since 1998 De Volkskrant He is the author of the book Meaning and nonsense in the supermarket.

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