Several food trends swept over much of the nation during the last decade as many consumers became more health- and environmentally conscious. The trouble is, the version you buy in the store or at a restaurant isn't always better for you. And it can be pricey.
Making your own versions of trendy foods is often healthier and less expensive. Knowing that means it can be easier to stay up-to-date on the latest drink or food craze without breaking the bank.
Here are cheaper, homemade alternatives to the foods that exploded in popularity in the 2010s and appear to be staying in vogue for years to come.
From ice cream to macarons, matcha seemed like it was everywhere in 2019. The Japanese powder is made by grinding a type of green tea leaves and contains more caffeine than bagged tea.
It was first popularized over 900 years ago by Chinese Zen Buddhist monks, according to PureLeaf. In 2015, the drink became popular in the U.S. when Graham Fortgang decided to open MatchaBar in Brooklyn, the first modern matcha cafe in New York City. MatchaBar became a recognizable brand with a little help from the rapper Drake, who was revealed as a significant investor in the company two years ago.
Since then, the matcha tea market has been on a tear. It's expected to continue to grow and reach $4.8 billion in sales by the year 2024, according to Zion Market Research.
Matcha is said to offer some health benefits. Since it involves consuming the entire leaf of tea, a cup of matcha has more fiber than, and 10 times the antioxidants of, regular green tea. Matcha also contains up to five times as much of an amino acid called L-theanine as regular green tea, which can increase your energy without the crash that often follows a caffeine boost from coffee, according to The Daily Meal.
But it's not cheap: At Starbucks, a grande matcha tea latte will set you back around $5.40, and it also contains 32 grams of sugar. If you're drinking matcha for the health perks, you may be better off making it yourself. Jade Leaf Matcha Green Tea Powder is the bestselling matcha on Amazon. The matcha mix costs $0.66 per serving, plus $0.17 per serving for cow's milk, which can turn the powder into a homemade latte. Adding a sweetener is optional: Some recipes call for a little honey as an alternative to sugar.
About three decades ago, Americans were drinking about 247 pounds of milk a year. By 2016, consumption dropped to 154 pounds, according to the United States Department of Agriculture. At the same time, sales of alternative milk – almond milk, rice milk, oat milk, and soy milk – have boomed. The global dairy alternatives market size is expected to reach $41 billion by 2025, according to Grand View Research.
Almond milk can be found everywhere now, from local coffee shops to Dunkin' Donuts. And a variety of milk alternatives are sold at major grocery chains like Whole Foods, Costco, and Walmart.
While you may be looking to make a healthy choice by switching to a nondairy milk, additives in store-bought versions can be a turn-off. In addition, some almond milk products contain small amounts of carrageenan, a seaweed derivative commonly used as a stabilizer in beverages. The Cornucopia Institute, a Wisconsin-based organic industry watchdog group, has raised concerns that carrageenan might cause gastrointestinal inflammation.
Making milk alternatives at home can be cheaper and healthier, Yummy Spoonfuls co-owner Agatha Achindu told Grow earlier this year. Achindu, who is also a certified nutrition coach, says store-bought milk alternatives lose nutrients in the mass production process and often contain fillers and shelf-life extenders that may not be great for you.
While almond milk costs more to make at home, oat milk is much less expensive than it is to buy at the store. Making your own oat milk costs just $0.07 a cup, while store-bought oat milk costs around $0.62 a cup.
Thanks to concerns around health and the climate change, plant-based meat alternatives have gone mainstream. McDonald's, Burger King, and even local supermarkets are embracing the trend, offering sandwiches made with products from Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat. Sales of plant-based foods in the U.S. have grown 11% in the past year, bringing the market value to $4.5 billion, according to the Plant Based Foods Association and The Good Food Institute.
Red meat has been linked to cancer, which may make meatless burgers a safer alternative. In addition, some people have sensitivities to the growth hormones and antibiotics used in beef, which isn't an issue in plant-based burgers. Still, while eating less meat may be better for the environment, experts aren't fully convinced that these patties should be thought of as a health food.
Impossible and Beyond burgers have similar amounts of protein and calories as beef patties, but they contain less saturated fat and no cholesterol. They also contain fiber, unlike real meat. But the two most popular plant-based burger brands are considerably higher in sodium than beef burgers, containing about 16% of the recommended daily value. An uncooked 4-ounce beef patty has about 75 milligrams of sodium, compared to 370 milligrams of sodium in the Impossible Burger and 390 milligrams in the Beyond Burger, according to U.S. News & Health Report.
They're also highly processed, which makes them less nutritious than whole foods like unprocessed vegetables.
Video by Jason Armesto
To avoid the additives and cut down on the salt but keep the same flavor, and save money, you can make vegetables with meat seasoning at home, says Danielle Nierenberg, president and co-founder of nonprofit organization Food Tank, and an expert on sustainable agriculture and food issues. "We don't cook vegetables well. I think that's kind of an art that maybe we didn't grow up learning how to do. It's sort of the same way we learn to roast meat, like a pot roast or something. You can do the same with vegetables," she says.
Using meat spices and a grill can help you achieve the taste you may be craving at home, she says: "If you've been a meat eater all your life, you can use some of those same cooking techniques that you've used and just apply them to vegetables." A 6-ounce package containing two portobello mushroom caps costs $1.68 at a Walmart in North Bergen, New Jersey, while an 8-ounce package containing two Beyond Burger patties goes for $5.99 at a Target in the same neighborhood.
If meat is a nonnegotiable for you, you can still find ways to save. When making a burger at home, buy ground beef in bulk instead of preformed patties or frozen meat patties to save $1 per pound. And to achieve restaurant-quality taste at home, Mike Puma, who's been named the "most trusted" burger reviewer in New York, shared a recipe for a top-notch burger that will only set you back $3.
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