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The Unlikely Fridge Item Flying Off The Shelves Right Now

With limited foods available at grocery stores, shoppers have uncovered this underrated food—and it's skyrocketing in popularity.
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.

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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.

Eat This, Not That! is constantly monitoring the latest food news as it relates to COVID-19 in order to keep you healthy, safe, and informed (and answer your most urgent questions). Here are the precautions you should be taking at the grocery store, the foods you should have on hand, the meal delivery services and restaurant chains offering takeout you need to know about, and ways you can help support those in need. We will continue to update these as new information develops. Click here for all of our COVID-19 coverage, and sign up for our newsletter to stay up-to-date.

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Olivia Tarantino
Olivia Tarantino is a senior editor of Eat This, Not That!, specializing in nutrition, health, and food product coverage. Read more
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