Six tips for choosing the best veggie meats

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/ doesn’t accept any paid advertising or corporate or government funding. Any products recommended by have been vetted by our staff of nutritionists and are not advertisements by the manufacturers.


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20 Replies to “Six tips for choosing the best veggie meats”

  1. It might be helpful for those of us using lists for you to put the information about brand name and advice on wallet sized information cards so we might take them with us to the store!

  2. I’ve been a vegetarian for over 20 years and I don’t like veggie burgers that “taste like meat”. I look for the more veggie and grain/bean varieties. They are hard to find, especially low sodium ones. So I make my own and they freeze really well for a quick meal. So many amazing recipes online.

  3. We discovered an amazing meat substitute in Italy. It is called Muscolo di Grano and is made of gluten along with dried bean and pea proteins as well as flavorings . The texture and flavors are wonderful and I would stress the quality of the texture as that is so often the problem with meat alternatives. The product is excellent for taking on the flavors you might choose to add so that a beef-less stew or chicken-less ala king don’t seem to be missing a single thing.

  4. My total favorite is the Beyond Meat, “Chicken” grillers. They are fabulous. I can make a chicken and avocado sandwich or top my green salad with a few. I also like tacos using a few slices. I found your article most helpful as I am fairly new to vegan but I was only ending dairy…..otherwise, I have been here for a long time.

  5. I found a nice variety of meatless burgers at Trader Joe’s. Much
    tastier than others from local supermarkets. Also I am not a T.J employee nor work for a company who makes these! Take a look.
    Have bought several kinds and haven’t been disappointed.

  6. I really like Sunshine Burgers, Black Bean South West burgers. They are well seasoned, gluten free, and organic. They have 10g protein per serving, 1.5g saturated fat, 190mg Sodium, and 410mg potassium.

  7. No comments about Dr. Prager’s veggie burgers. Some of my fussy family “customers” like them a lot!

    Since we moved this year, I haven’t been subscribing to Nutrition Action. My good friend sends hers to me. I will return as soon as I am able. Nutrition Action is such a treat for me to read and read to my husband as well. Thanks for your years of honesty and accuracy that supported us on our journey toward good health.

  8. Some of the new hot-dog-size veggie sausages are great, especially LightLife Smart Sausage Chorizo. Great in a bun for a quick meal or to add zing and texture to pasta sauce. Find them near tofu, rather than the freezer.

  9. I am new to veggie meats too and would be interested in knowing about those that are tasty and lower in carbs too. Would be great if you posted at least one tasty veggie burger recipe.

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