It’s amazing how many vegan products are available at the grocery store now – we have so much to choose from, even compared to just a few years ago! However, that can also mean that it’s difficult to make the best selection, especially when the packaging claims to be healthy but the item is loaded with added sugar, saturated fat, or sodium.

The words used on many vegan products can make us think that they’re full of goodness, but are they really? Often the answer is no! That's why I want to introduce a great evaluation tool that has personally helped me with my grocery shopping. It's called The Beet Meter, and I encourage you to use this tool the next time you are at the grocery store.

The Beet Meter, from the editors of The Beet, involves a 10-point health grading system, created by a Registered Dietitian. The system takes various items into consideration, including saturated fat, calories, protein, and carbohydrates. Check out the grading system below. The Beet Meter rates products for health and then the products are reviewed for taste, also on a 10-point attribute system.

The Health Criteria

When evaluating the labels, the editors had a rigid set of criteria for a product to get a point, with 10 points being the highest (each health point a product gets is worth half a beet, so the highest score a product can get is five beets). A product gets a point or check mark if it meets the following criteria:

  • Protein:  ≥ 3 grams
  • Calories: ≤ 300 if it’s a snack or additive (creamer, etc), ≤ 650 if it’s a meal
  • Carbs: < 15% DV for snack, ≤ 30% DV for meal
  • Saturated Fat:  ≤3 grams for a snack or ≤ 6 grams for a meal (To get a point, Sat Fat has to be Less than 10% of total calories per serving)
  • ≤ 10 Ingredients on the label
  • No Added Sugar!
  • Fiber: ≥ 3 grams
  • Sodium:  ≤ 230 milligrams for a snack,  ≤ 650 milligrams for a meal
  • The first ingredient on the label is a whole food (oats for instance)
  • Good source of micronutrients, meaning it has at least 10% of DV of Calcium, Iron, potassium, or vitamins A, C, or D, etc.

Scoring: This is a 10-point system. Each check is worth half a Beet on the 5 Beet Meter Scale.

The Taste Criteria

As for taste, what good is a product if you don't like to eat it? that's where the taste attributes come in. They are equally spelled out, and fun to see if you agree with. The Beet Meter has a "rate it yourself" function that lets users enter their own taste ratings into the system. (The health criteria are not subjective so those are pre-set by the editors.)

Each point on the taste scale is earned if the product is tasty, has no unpleasant aftertaste, or is as good as the real thing it's replacing (such as non-dairy coffee creamers, ice-cream or dairy-free milkbutter, cheesesyogurts, cream cheesespizzas

The taste criteria are slightly more subjective but more than one tester was recruited to come up with the score. They are:

  • Overall Taste: general pleasantness and tastiness. You think: YUM!
  • No Aftertaste: Clean. No coconut, metallic or unwanted lingering taste
  • As good as the real thing: or better! 
  • We’d Buy It! Would the editors purchase it again? Recommend to a friend
  • Pleasant Texture. Is it an enjoyable texture?
  • Pleasant Smell: Is the aroma pleasant, like natural, with no other smells detected?
  • Normal Color: is it the right color for the item? Milk should be white, not grey.
  • Good Consistency. Is it too thick? Too thin? Just right? 
  • Tastes Healthy: Not processed, clean, and full of goodness. Not too rich.
  • Would non-vegans like it? Enjoy it as a substitute. Could you fool them?

Scoring: This is a 10-point system. Each check is worth half a Beet on the 5 Beet Meter Scale.

How to Use the Beet Meter While Shopping

The Beet Meter is a fantastic tool that provides a simple product grade for consumers to evaluate their food choices. It would be tough to navigate the grocery store without a tool or guideline to assist us with making the best choices possible.

I tested out using the Beet Meter at the grocery store recently, to evaluate plant-based yogurts. The Beet Meter was helpful in identifying yogurts that have filling qualities (fiber and protein) but also yogurts that could be considered a dessert in disguise (way too much sugar) or that would not be heart-friendly since they contained a large amount of saturated fat or sodium.

Mush Oat Yogurt: Beet Meter Health Rating –  9 out of 10 points or 4.5 Beets

This yogurt checks all of the boxes, except it isn’t a good source of micronutrients. I would like my yogurts to have at least 15-30% DV calcium, as it can be harder for plant-based diets to get enough calcium. I also would like a bit more protein in my yogurt, personally.

Harmless Harvest Coconut Yogurt: Beet Meter Health Rating – 7 out of 10 or 3.5 Beets

This yogurt is fairly low in protein and has a lot of added sugars (10 g/serving) and isn’t a good source of micronutrients. Surprisingly, saturated fat was low, which is rare for a coconut product.

Siggi’s Coconut Blend: Beet Meter Health Rating – 5 out of 10 points of 2.5 Beets

This yogurt is fantastic for protein, as it has 11g per serving! If this is important to you, then this may not be a bad choice, however, it also has a lot of added sugars (9g/serving) and a lot of saturated fat (8g/serving).  I would also like more calcium as well.

Kite Hill Greek Style Yogurt: Beet Meter Health Rating – 9 out of 10 points or 4.5 Beets

I LOVE this yogurt! It has an impressive 17g of protein per snack serving, which comes primarily from the soy protein isolate, and only has a few simple ingredients. It’s amazing how there are 0 grams of sugar and it contains some iron! This yogurt lost a point because it didn’t contain enough fiber, but that can easily be made up by mixing in some chia/flax or berries with the yogurt. This one is my top pick!

So Delicious Dairy-Free Coconut Yogurt: Beet Meter Health Rating – 5 out of 10 or 2.5 Beets

This yogurt has a TON of added sugar (17g) so I wouldn’t recommend it, even though it has some calcium and is lower in calories. The saturated fat is too high as well (4g) and it has less than 1g of protein. I don’t think this yogurt would be too filling.

Forager Project Soymilk Yogurt: Beet Meter Health Rating – 7 out of 10 or 3.5 Beets

Due to the fact that this yogurt is made from soy protein, it has a good 10g of protein per serving. The ingredient list is on the longer side, however, this is partially due to the added vitamins and minerals (calcium and B12) which are important to us plant-based eaters! This one is a bit higher in sugar (9g of added sugar) so I would prefer an option that didn’t have as much added sugar.

For more product ratings based on health and taste, visit The Beet's Beet Meters

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