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The Unlikely Fridge Item Flying Off The Shelves Right Now

Eat This, Not That! logo Eat This, Not That! 6/12/2020 Olivia Tarantino
a store filled with lots of food: meatless protein options like tofu on grocery store shelves © Provided by Eat This, Not That! meatless protein options like tofu on grocery store shelves

With everyday staples selling out in grocery stores throughout COVID-19, shoppers have been looking for creative substitutions to their most-needed items. The meat aisle, in particular, has seen the largest supply chain disruption when production facilities shut down after countless confirmed coronavirus cases. This led to a meat shortage that affected both grocery stores and restaurants. As a result, meat alternatives skyrocketed in popularity. The clear winner of the vegetarian protein popularity contest? Tofu.

The long-time face of the vegan movement, tofu has long had a hard time expanding beyond the niche vegan diet. However, the tides have finally turned. Combine a lack of meat products during COVID with a rapid rise in plant-based eating over the past couple of years, and you can see why clear path opened up for tofu to go mainstream.

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All plant-based sales during the third week of March were up 90% compared with the previous year, according to a report from the Plant-Based Foods Association (PBFA). Tofu sales, in particular, were up 66.7% compared to the same period in 2019, according to Nielsen data and reported by Bloomberg. Sales were still up by 32.8% this past May.

This underrated food has never seen this amount of popularity before because it has long been chided as tasteless and boring. But unlike other plant-based meat alternatives like burgers and sietan, tofu's versatility, affordability, and familiarity are likely what propelled the food to the number one spot.

Additionally, while plant-based burgers are having a moment, many consumers are still wary that they aren't as healthy as they appear.  In fact, to match the flavor of beef-based burgers, their plant-based alternatives generally match their nutrition stats in calories and fat — and are higher in sodium. Tofu, on the other hand, is straightforwardly healthy.

For perspective, 100 grams of extra-firm tofu contains 10 grams of protein for only 80 calories and 5 grams of fat. The same 100 grams of ground beef serves a solid 17 grams of protein, but comes with 250 calories and 19 grams of fat.

When shopping for tofu, dietitians recommend opting for organic and GMO-free products. Tofu is great to add to soups, seared to serve alongside a salad, or blended in a smoothie for a boost of protein. For some ideas, check out these 10 Plant-Based Smoothie Recipes To Get More Produce In Your Diet.

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