Today it seems like you can’t go to any of your local fast food joints without seeing either the word IMPOSSIBLE or BEYOND in big letters outside their doors. Either it’s Burger King’s “Impossible Whopper” or KFC’s “Beyond Fried Chicken,” you’ve seen most chains pushing meat alternatives front and center.
If you have a meal kit delivery service, you may have Beyond Burgers in your Blue Apron box.
And, if you aren’t one to eat fast food or get a delivery service, you likely see many forms of Beyond Meat or Impossible Meat right in your meat section at the grocery store.
For vegetarians and vegans who miss the taste of meat, it’s a great time to be alive. Same goes for those who are looking to limit their carbon footprint by eating less meat.
But is eating these alternative plant-based meat replacements actually healthier for you?
This article will address:
- the benefits of these meat alternatives
- the differences between the brands
- and also provide some tips for you to make your own plant based meat alternatives. (1)
What Are the Most Popular Meat Alternatives?
Today, the top two brands of meat alternatives are Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods. Both have similar but different recipes to achieve the same goal: make plant-based products taste like real meat.
Beyond’s burgers come from a pea-based protein while Impossible’s comes from soy. They both look and taste like real meat due to various chemical compounds, and they even have a bloody red look on the inside from beet juice.
But in order for something to look and taste like meat, you have to wonder how healthy it actually is for you. (1)
Fact is, while helping reduce a carbon footprint or use of animals, these burgers and other products aren’t exactly the healthy option that comes with a vegan or vegetarian diet.
Beyond Burgers and Impossible Burgers have 6 and 8 grams of saturated fat, respectively. When compared to a lean beef burger of the same size with 9 grams of saturated fat or a turkey burger with 4 or 5 grams of saturated fat, you can see that there isn’t that great of a difference between eating fake meat or the real thing.
When it comes to calories, you’ll see that you aren’t eating any less than when you are eating a beef or turkey burger (all of them average around 240 calories). What’s worse is that both Impossible and Beyond have way more sodium than the average burger or turkey burger. They are cholesterol free though, which is definitely a benefit. (1)
Now, if you compare these brands with a more traditional veggie burger, you will find that there are much healthier meat alternatives than the big brands. A grain- and veggie-based burger that isn’t trying to mimic the taste of meat will have much less calories (around 150) and saturated fat (about 1 gram).
By going through less processing in order to trick your mind, they are able to be tasty and also be healthier for you than either of the big brands that you see everywhere. It is worth noting though that these options are considerably higher in sodium due to salt being a main ingredient. (1)
We’re not saying there’s anything wrong with enjoying any of these products as a replacement for your burger or other meats of choice. But, if you are looking for a healthier diet, you should probably look elsewhere.
9 Meat Alternatives
If you are looking to lighten up your meat intake and would like a healthy alternative, here are some other foods you can enjoy in order to get your protein in while enjoying a vegetarian or vegan diet. (3)
- Tofu – This soybean based protein is high in calcium and an excellent replacement for pork, chicken, beef, or seafood.
- Tempeh – Made from fermented soybeans, tempeh is similar to tofu but with a grainier texture and nutty flavor. It’s loaded with protein, fiber, calcium, and vitamins.
- Seitan – This processed wheat gluten has a more meat like texture than tofu or seitan. It can be seasoned to taste like chicken, beef, or pork. Due to its dense, chewy texture it is great for multiple forms of cooking.
- Textured Vegetable Protein (TVP) – This is dehydrated soy that comes in granules or chunks. Once you hydrate it, TVP can be used to replace ground beef or chicken cutlets.
- Jackfruit – A healthy tropical fruit, this has a texture and mild taste that surprisingly works as a stand-in for meat. It has a sweet taste – similar to pineapple – but with the right seasoning can work for most dishes.
- Mushrooms – If you are looking for a savory taste more similar to meat, then mushrooms are usually the right move. They are healthy, filling, and loaded with nutritional value. Mushrooms can be used to replace most meats.
- Lentils – Lentils are a great vegan option for replacing ground beef. They are easy to cook, and a small amount goes a long way.
- Beans and Legumes – There are as many beans and legumes as there are ways for them to replace meat. Either in chili, soup, tacos, or made into patties, you can use them in a lot of forms.
- Vegetables – Various vegetables can sub in for meat. You can fry up cauliflower to replace chicken wings. Eggplants have a rich meaty taste that can be used in many dishes. Potatoes, beets, and coconuts are also great options.
Recipe: Vegan Mushroom & Black Bean Burgers
Let’s face it, many times vegetarian burgers leave a lot to be desired, whether it is the texture or the taste. Brittany at ilovevegan.com has an excellent recipe that is great in both flavor AND texture! (2)
- 1 cup cooked brown rice
- 1 1/3 cups canned black beans, drained and mashed
- 1 Tbsp olive oil (plus extra for frying)
- 6–8 -medium mushrooms (cremini/white button), finely chopped
- 1 stalk celery, finely chopped
- 1 small carrot, finely chopped
- 1/4 red onion, finely chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 1/2–2 cups bread crumbs
- 1 Tbsp ground chia seeds
- 2 Tbsps nutritional yeast
- 2 1/2 Tbsps soy sauce
- squeeze lemon juice
Check out all the Vegan Mushroom & Black Bean Burgers instructions at ilovevegan.com.