Iโ€™m a Registered Dietitian, and These Plant-Based Meats Are Just As Good as the Real Thing

With the Well+Good SHOP, our editors put their years of know-how to work in order to pick products (from skin care to self care and beyond) theyโ€™re betting youโ€™ll love. While our editors independently select these products, making a purchase through our links may earn Well+Good a commission. Happy shopping! Explore the SHOP

If youโ€™re a plant-based eater, then you know that all of your protein needs can be met through a diet of delicious whole foods like legumes, nuts, seeds, veggies, and whole grains. But that doesnโ€™t mean nostalgic thoughts of burgers off the grill, crispy chicken tenders, and snappy sausage links donโ€™t pop up from time to time. Enter: Plant-based meat, the scrumptious substitute for all your favorite dishes.

While the taste and texture of many of these products are eerily similar to the real thing, how do they measure up nutritionally? Which ones *actually * taste the best (not like rubber or middle-school mystery meat) and are worth a spot in your cooking repertoire? Great questions. Find the real deal on fake meat below, plus 10 plant-based options I, a registered dietitian, recommend for getting as close to the real thing as possible.

The best plant-based meats, at a glance

What is plant-based meat?

Plant-based meat products are vegan or vegetarian substitutes for real meat. Typically, theyโ€™re made from plant-based ingredients like legumes, grains, vegetables, and seasonings to mimic the texture, appearance, mouthfeel, and flavor of the real thing.

Often, alternative meat brands also try to imitate the nutrition of real meat, providing similar amounts of protein, vitamins, and minerals. A big bonus with these substitutes, however, is that they usually are free of (or very low in) dietary cholesterol2 and saturated fat, which have both historically been linked to increased risk for heart disease1.ย Despite budding research3 disputing this direct correlation, itโ€™s still best to approach these nutrients with caution.

Research has also found plant-based diets to be linked with increased longevity, 4as well as reduced risk for cancer5, heart disease6, type 2 diabetes7, and kidney disease8, only increasing its allure.

What to look for

Of course, taste and texture are importantโ€”you want to enjoy your meal, after all! But you want it to be nutritious, too, especially if you’re swapping plant-based meat in for your normal daily helping of protein. To help you better understand how popular meat alternatives stack up to the real thing, below are the nutritionals for two of the most mimicked cuts of meat (chicken breast and ground beef) for comparison to keep in mind while you’re shopping. Or, skip ahead to our list of best plant-based meatsโ€”the products I’ve curated are comparable on most fronts (and taste great, too.)

Boneless skinless grilled chicken breast (3 oz.)

  • Calories: 128 calories
  • Protein: 26 g
  • Fat: 2.7 g
  • Saturated Fat: 0.8 g
  • Cholesterol: 88 mg 29 percent of Daily Value (DV)*
  • Sodium: 44 mg, 2% DV

*Daily Value is based on the average adult needs for males and females without pre-existing conditions per the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Ground beef, 85% lean, 15% fat (3 oz.)

  • Protein: 16 g
  • Fat: 13 g
  • Saturated Fat: 5 g
  • Cholesterol: 58 mg, 19% DV
  • Sodium: 56 mg, 2% DV

The 10 best plant-based meats for every meal

Whether you’re craving a juicy steak, simmering fajitas, classic nuggets, or a good ol’ fashioned sandwich, there’s a meat substitute for all your hankerings.

Sweet Earth Frozen Vegan Mindful Chik'n

Best chicken: Sweet Earth, Frozen Vegan Mindful Chikโ€™n โ€” $7.00

Boneless, skinless chicken breast is a go-to protein for so many, and this product is the perfect substitute. Sweet Earth does an excellent job mimicking the mild flavor and signature meaty texture of real chicken in its Vegan Mindful Chikโ€™n pieces, which can be cooked up in just about anything. The plant-based pieces also stay intact really well for applications like sandwiches, salads, and stir-fries where they otherwise might fall apart.

Serving size: 3/4 cup

Protein: 18 g

Fat: 4 g

Saturated fat: 0 g

Cholesterol: 0 mg, 0% DV

Sodium: 250 mg, 11% DV

  • Great texture and flavor
  • High protein
  • Moderate sodium levels
  • Contains more additives than other options
  • Contains soy, which can be a con for some shoppers

Abbotโ€™s Plant Based Vegan Ground Beef

Best ground beef: Abbott’s Plant-Based Vegan Ground Beef โ€” $8.00

When looking for a delicious meat-free ground beef alternative, look no further than Abbotโ€™s. This super high-quality, whole-food product is a seamless swap-out with ground beef, chicken, or turkey in pasta sauce, tacos, or sloppy Joeโ€™s. Your guests may not even notice itโ€™s vegan with its umami flavor and beefy texture, itโ€™s that good. The best part? It has super high protein contentโ€”more than the same amount of 85 percent lean and 15 percent fat ground beef!

Serving size: 3oz.

Protein: 18 g

Fat: 4.5 g

Saturated fat: 1 g

Cholesterol: 0 mg, 0% DV

Sodium: 550 mg, 24% DV

  • Short ingredient list with whole food, recognizable ingredients
  • Great texture and flavor
  • High protein content
  • Available at many large retailers
  • Higher sodium content than traditional ground beef
  • Not organic

Beyond Meat Beyond Burger Plant-Based Patties

Best burgers: Beyond Meat, Beyond Burger Plant-Based Patties โ€” $6.00

Beyond Meat has made headlines for years with its shockingly beef-like productsโ€”including its signature plant-based patties. These patties donโ€™t only taste like beef, but they cook up to be juicy just like a real burger. Theyโ€™re also loaded with protein at 21 grams per patty, thanks to a blend of pea, rice, and lentil protein.

Serving size: 1 patty

Protein: 21 g

Fat: 14 g

Saturated fat: 2 g

Cholesterol: 0 mg, 0% DV

Sodium: 310 mg, 14% DV

  • Great texture and flavor
  • Widely available and reasonably priced
  • Soy- and gluten-free
  • High protein content
  • Contains more food-derivative ingredients than whole foods
  • Contains some additives

Quorn Vegan Meatless Chiqinโ€™ Cutlets

Best chicken patties: Quorn, Vegan Meatless Chiqinโ€™ Cutlets โ€” $5.00

Chicken sammy loversโ€”this product is for you. Not only is it seasoned and breaded to perfection but it actually tastes like chicken. And while it is made from wheat, most of its protein comes from mycoprotein which is a fermented, nutritious fungus (yep, fungus) that is super sustainable to produce. Pro tip: Toss this vegan patty in your favorite hot sauce for a banging spicy โ€œchickenโ€ sando.

Serving size: 1 cutlet

Protein: 8 g

Fat: 5 g

Saturated fat: 0 g

Cholesterol: <5 mg, 0% DV

Sodium: 290 mg, 13% DV

  • Great flavor and texture
  • High protein content
  • Carbon Trust Footprint-certified and sustainable protein production
  • Contains milk, eggs, and wheat, so not a vegan product
  • Contains some additives and preservatives

Daring Foods Original Breaded Plant Chicken Wings

Best wings: Daring Foods, Original Breaded Plant Chicken Wings โ€” $6.00

Whether itโ€™s game day or happy hour, few things are as crowd-pleasing as a platter of wings. Well, thankfully you donโ€™t have to give them up if youโ€™re plant-based, thanks to Daring Foods. Its breaded chicken wings are deliciously crispy and can be shredded just like a boneless wing with an unctuous, savory flavor. This plain variety is perfect for tossing in your sauce of choiceโ€”whether that be buffalo, barbecue, or otherwise!

Serving size: 6 wings

Protein: 9 g

Fat: 8 g

Saturated fat: 1 g

Cholesterol: 0 mg, 0% DV

Sodium: 760 mg, 33% DV

  • Great texture and flavor
  • Convenient and easy to prepare
  • Great value
  • Contains some highly processed ingredients and soy
  • High in sodium

Eat Meati Classic Steak

Best steak: Eat Meati, Classic Steak โ€” $12.00

In the alternative meat world, itโ€™s not often that you find a whole steak but Eat Meati has delivered. The brand prides itself on offering meat substitutes made mostly from mycelium or the root structure of mushrooms. What results is a steak with an astoundingly similar texture to the real deal and a hearty, rich beef flavor. Yum.

Serving size: 1 4.25 oz. steak

Protein: 17 g

Fat: 1 g

Saturated fat: 0 g

Cholesterol: 0 mg, 0% DV

Sodium: 240 mg, 10% DV

  • Great flavor and texture
  • High protein content
  • Short ingredient list of recognizable ingredients
  • Not as juicy as real steak
  • Pricey

Hilaryโ€™s Organic Apple Maple Meatless Breakfast Sausage

Best breakfast sausage: Hilaryโ€™s, Organic Apple Maple Meatless Breakfast Sausage โ€” $4.00

If breakfast sausage is a morning favorite of yours, then youโ€™re bound to love this meat-free organic apple maple sausage. It offers that classic salty, sweet maple flavor found in many meat-containing sausage patties, only thereโ€™s no real pork or chicken. Plus, itโ€™s made with real, whole food nutrient-dense ingredients including millet, lentils, hemp seeds, flaxseeds, apple, and a handful of spices to give it its scrumptious taste.

Serving size: 1 1.75-ounce patty

Protein: 3 g

Fat: 4 g

Saturated fat: 0 g

Cholesterol: 0 mg, 0% DV

Sodium: 200 mg, 9% DV

  • No mystery ingredients, corn, soy, or gluten
  • Certified B Corp company invested in sustainability initiatives
  • Filled with organic superfoods
  • Great taste
  • Texture is a bit crumbly
  • Lower protein content

Gardein Ultimate Plant-Based Vegan Saus'ge Bratwurst

Best bratwurst: Gardein, Ultimate Plant-Based Vegan Sausโ€™ge Bratwurst โ€” $8.00

As summer approaches, so does burger and brat seasonโ€ฆwhich Gardeinโ€™s vegan bratwurst is absolutely perfect for. Though it doesnโ€™t taste exactly like real pork, it offers that satisfying salty bite you look for in a sausage or hot dog without the hefty load of saturated fat and dietary cholesterol.

Serving size: 1 3.5 oz. link

Protein: 16 g

Fat: 10 g

Saturated fat: 3.5 g

Cholesterol: 0 mg, 0% DV

Sodium: 660 mg, 29% DV

  • Great snap and texture
  • Grills up really nicely
  • Available in many grocery stores nationwide
  • Contains gluten
  • Has a longer ingredients list with a handful of processed foods

Jack & Annieโ€™s Crispy Jack Plant Based Chicken Nuggets

Best nuggets: Jack & Annieโ€™s, Crispy Jack Plant Based Chicken Nuggets โ€” $5.00

Chicken nuggets are a fan favorite amongst kids and adults alike, and Jack and Annieโ€™s offers a great alternative with their plant-based nuggets. Thanks to a blend of jackfruit, these nuggets have a nearly identical texture to the real thing and a flavor thatโ€™s just as reminiscentโ€”light and perfectly saltyโ€”ready for any arsenal of dips you love.

Serving size: 4 nuggets

Protein: 7 g

Fat: 7 g

Saturated fat: 0.5 g

Cholesterol: 0 mg, 0% DV

Sodium: 420 mg, 18% DV

  • First ingredient is jackfruit, which is full of fiber and nutrients
  • Bakes up nice and crispy
  • Great taste and flavor
  • Versatile
  • Contains gluten and soy as well as some additives
  • Not many nuggets per package when trying to feed a crowd

Tofurky Hickory Smoked Deli Slices

Best deli meat: Tofurky, Hickory Smoked Deli Slices โ€” $5.00

Meaty deli sandwiches (with a side of potato chips) are both nostalgic and satisfying. But you donโ€™t need to give up this lunchtime favorite if youโ€™re plant-based with products like Tofurkyโ€™s deli slices. Its savory, smoky flavor is reminiscent of deli turkey, as is its delicate texture. Pro tip: Toast your sandwich when using these slices for an even richer flavor.

Serving size: 5 slices

Protein: 14 g

Fat: 3.5 g

Saturated fat: 0 g

Cholesterol: 0 mg, 0% DV

Sodium: 350 mg, 15% DV

  • Great texture and flavor
  • Suitable for cold or hot sandwiches
  • Impressive protein content
  • Higher in sodium
  • Has a longer ingredients list containing soy, gluten, and some preservatives

Still hungry? Find all your burning plant-based burger questions answered in the video below.ย 

Well+Good articles reference scientific, reliable, recent, robust studies to back up the information we share. You can trust us along your wellness journey.

  1. Hooper, Lee et al. โ€œReduction in saturated fat intake for cardiovascular disease.โ€ย The Cochrane database of systematic reviewsย vol. 8,8 CD011737. 21 Aug. 2020, doi:10.1002/14651858.CD011737.pub3

  2. Grundy, Scott M. โ€œDoes Dietary Cholesterol Matter?.โ€ย Current atherosclerosis reportsย vol. 18,11 (2016): 68. doi:10.1007/s11883-016-0615-0

  3. Carson, Jo Ann S et al. โ€œDietary Cholesterol and Cardiovascular Risk: A Science Advisory From the American Heart Association.โ€ย Circulationย vol. 141,3 (2020): e39-e53. doi:10.1161/CIR.0000000000000743

  4. Fadnes, Lars T et al. โ€œEstimating impact of food choices on life expectancy: A modeling study.โ€ย PLoS medicineย vol. 19,2 e1003889. 8 Feb. 2022, doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1003889

  5. DeClercq, Vanessa et al. โ€œPlant-Based Diets and Cancer Risk: What is the Evidence?.โ€ย Current nutrition reportsย vol. 11,2 (2022): 354-369. doi:10.1007/s13668-022-00409-0

  6. Satija, Ambika et al. โ€œHealthful and Unhealthful Plant-Based Diets and the Risk of Coronary Heartย Disease in U.S. Adults.โ€ย Journal of the American College of Cardiologyย vol. 70,4 (2017): 411-422. doi:10.1016/j.jacc.2017.05.047

  7. McMacken, Michelle, and Sapana Shah. โ€œA plant-based diet for the prevention and treatment of type 2 diabetes.โ€ย Journal of geriatric cardiology : JGCย vol. 14,5 (2017): 342-354. doi:10.11909/j.issn.1671-5411.2017.05.009

  8. Adair, Kathleen E, and Rodney G Bowden. โ€œAmeliorating Chronic Kidney Disease Using a Whole Food Plant-Based Diet.โ€ย Nutrientsย vol. 12,4 1007. 6 Apr. 2020, doi:10.3390/nu12041007

Our editors independently select these products. Making a purchase through our links may earn Well+Good a commission.

Source link


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *