Beef is in retreat. That’s good news for the planet, because raising beef uses far more land and water and emits far more greenhouse gases than growing plants.
Meanwhile, Beyond Meat, Gardein, MorningStar Farms, and others are closing in on matching meat’s taste, texture, and aroma.
And it’s not just burgers. There’s porkless sausage, chick’n cutlets, crabless cakes, and beefless tips. Here are six tips to help you figure out which deserve a place on your plate.
1. Maximize protein. If your aim is to replace meat, fish, or poultry, look for at least 10 grams of protein in a serving (roughly 3 oz.). That’s about half what you’d get from the same amount of cooked chicken or beef. Look for at least 5 grams of protein for breakfast sausage and bacon, because their serving size (roughly 1½ oz.) is smaller.
2. Minimize salt. Most companies go heavy on the salt. Aim for just 350 milligrams per serving (250 mg for breakfast sausage and bacon). The good news: some veggie meats deliver a dose of potassium from their soy—or sometimes from added potassium—which helps counter their blood-pressure-boosting sodium. For example, a 3 oz. Lightlife Original Chick’n Smart Cutlet has 430 mg of potassium, and a 4 oz. Beyond Meat Beast Burger patty has 720 mg. Add a salad or a side of veggies for even more.
3. Don’t fear soy. “Soy free” or “no soy,” boast some veggie meats. But there’s no need to skip soy, which supplies plenty of plant protein. And don’t fret over online scare stories that soy raises the risk of breast cancer, harms your thyroid gland, weakens your memory, threatens males’ masculinity, or keeps you from absorbing minerals. The evidence is shoddy (see “Soy Oh Soy!” September 2014).
4. Check the oil. Most veggie meats are made with polyunsaturated oils, which lower LDL (“bad”) cholesterol. But a few burgers—like Hilary’s and Beyond Meat’s The Beyond Burger—have enough coconut oil to deliver at least a quarter of a day’s saturated fat (5 grams). Look for veggie meats that have no more than 2 grams of sat fat.
5. Beware of Quorn. Quorn’s “nutritious mycoprotein” is a mold grown in a vat. In some people, it triggers allergic reactions like nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and occasionally hives or breathing trouble.
6. Taste around. Veggie meat brands vary. Our advice to newcomers: start with MorningStar or Gardein. They were the most reliable in the taste department. We’ll feature some of our tasters’ favorites in an upcoming post.
Let us know in the comments: What’s your go-to veggie “meat”?
Photos: © Brett Hofacker/fotolia.com
Find this article interesting and useful? Nutrition Action Healthletter subscribers regularly get sound, timely information about staying healthy with diet and exercise, delicious recipes, and detailed analyses of the healthy and unhealthy foods in supermarkets and restaurants. If you don’t already subscribe to the world’s most popular nutrition newsletter, click here to join hundreds of thousands of fellow health-minded consumers.