For breakfast you'll find soy pancake and muffin mixes in banana nut and blueberry flavors, and even soy-based coffee using 100% organic roasted soy. The coffee, available from the California company Rocamojo, boasts a healthy dose of protein, fiber, nutrients and reduced caffeine — or even caffeine-free.

At lunch, consider a convenient, microwaveable entrée like grilled chicken with vegetables or meatballs with penne marinara. From Gardenburger, the creator of the original veggie burger, these are two of six new 100% natural, soy protein-based, meatless meals that are low in calories, fat and net carbs.

For snacking, Getmor Soy Snacks, a Minnesota-based food manufacturer, is touting healthy soy snacks low in sugar and carbohydrates that contain no trans-fatty acids or cholesterol, but are big on flavor — such as jalapeno/cheese and herb/garlic varieties. Or, Tasty Eats offers five flavors of its vegan Soy Jerky. At dinnertime, the options are endless: new soy-based pastas from Crum Creek Mills — including mac and cheese; and several meat analog products such as Sloppy JoFu from Iowa-based Wildwood Natural Foods, and Nutri Soy Next from Archer Daniels Midland. Archer Daniels Midland says the flavor and texture of its meatless products simulate whole-muscle meat so closely that the fibers flake with a fork just like perfectly tender muscle meat.

Finally, for dessert consider Joelle's Choice, a soy pudding made by Joel Health Industries in Fairfield, IA. It boasts up to six times more protein than leading brands and 20% less sugar.

Of the continued momentum in soyfood development and marketing, Linda Funk, executive director of the Soyfoods Council, says, “It's exciting to see food manufacturers, both large and small, continue to develop new products or add line extensions with soy protein — and these products taste great and have good nutritional attributes.” She adds, “The future looks bright for the soybean industry as more and more products appear on restaurant menus, supermarket shelves and via the Internet.”

Fighting Obesity

As healthy soyfood options like these evolve, Keith Cadwallader, director of the Illinois Center for Soy Foods at the University of Illinois (U of I), believes they will become an essential component in the battle against obesity.

The Illinois Center for Soy Foods has also launched ISOY, a pilot program to battle obesity that demonstrates the benefits of including soy in the state's school lunch program. The program, a joint effort with the Illinois Soybean Checkoff Board and Archer Daniels Midland, is adding soy to school lunches to reduce the overall fat content of the meals, according to Barbara Klein, co-director of the Center and professor emeritus in the U of I Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition.

Klein says the pilot program is geared to demonstrate consumer acceptability of soy and show how it can easily be incorporated into school lunch programs. For instance, through the program many popular entrees, like spaghetti sauce or taco filling, now include a mixture of soy and ground meat.

Cadwallader says if the program works, it could be a huge impact to get soy into school lunch menus. He says, “The future is getting soy into markets so it is used large scale.” As an example, he says if soymilk were added to school lunch programs the growth would be phenomenal.

Versatile Varieties

Also notable in the expanding development of soy-enriched foods is the continuing availability of better soybean varieties.

Most recently, several varieties of low linolenic soybeans are being brought to the marketplace, which produce soybean oil that does not need to be hydrogenated — meaning trans fat is eliminated in foods created with this oil product. This is especially being championed by the food industry since the FDA will require food manufacturers to report the amount of trans fat in food products on nutrition labels by 2006.

Trans fats are often created in the food supply in the hydrogenation process, which is used to extend shelf life and stabilize flavor. But it has been shown that trans fats may raise blood cholesterol levels and contribute to heart disease.

Research for hypoallergenic soybean varieties is also under way. Because soybeans are commonly used in baby formula, a hypoallergenic soybean would help reduce the percentage of infants who have allergic responses to soy formula.

Researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have identified soybean varieties that don't contain the P34 protein that is responsible for allergic reactions and are working to develop a high-yielding, disease-resistant soybean cultivar.

Soy Goes Low Carb

Further proof of the versatility of soybeans can be found in several new low-carb soyfoods that have been introduced to the marketplace. These products have been developed by removing the carbohydrates from the soy and using only the soy protein isolate as the food ingredient.

UTZ Quality Foods and Snyder's of Hanover have created soy-based low-carb products such as Soy-Teins and Carb-Fix Pretzel Sticks that meet Atkins and South Beach diet requirements. The Low-Carb Crunch snack bars from GeniSoy Products Co. come in chocolate, chocolate chip, peanut butter, lemon and raspberry and tout 2 g. of impact carbohydrates, 15 g. of protein, and 19 vitamins and minerals.

And from the Solae Company, a specialty line of low-carb nutrition bars have been developed to meet the accelerating demand for lower-carbohydrate, higher-protein products. Solae is also testing low-carb neutral and low-carb acidic beverages, and low-carb pizza, pasta and snacks such as chips and crackers.