Research has shown that Americans are eating far more animal products than daily recommended guidelines suggest. In the 1970s, Americans were hovering at around 120 percent of the recommended intake for meats, and more currently, hover at 140 percent. This might be of concern since meat consumption could potentially increase the risk of antibiotic-resistant infections, certain types of cancer, high cholesterol and obesity.
As an alternative, faux meat has come a long way, making excellent strides in recent years. While there can be some drawbacks to these foods as well (we’ll get to those), if you know what to look for, you can replace all or most of the protein usually found in meats and still feel satisfied as you preserve your health.
Shortcomings to be aware of
One thing to look out for when buying faux meat products is a super long ingredients list. The world of faux meat can fall victim to over-processed items that, while removing meat from your diet, introduce ingredients that affect wellness. For instance, look out for products loaded with sodium, which can cause hypertension. Problematic oils such as soybean or corn oil (linked to obesity and diabetes) can also be common in faux meat products, so keep an eye out for those as well and favor products that use healthier choices like olive or avocado oil.
Beware of allergens
While many manufacturers of faux meat products have begun to acknowledge and address this issue, it still persists in many of the faux meat items you’ll find at your local grocery store. Many recipes rely on soy and gluten to offer protein and give the food a good consistency. The trouble is that many individuals are sensitive to these ingredients or even allergic. Do check the ingredients list to insure you aren’t accidentally loading up on soy to avoid beef, if you’re allergic to soy. Because nuts are an excellent source of protein, they can also commonly be found in faux meat products. But, again, nuts are a common allergen and can be problematic for many consumers.
Review the protein content
The biggest fear for many when switching to an all- or mostly-plant-based diet is the lack of protein. It’s a valid concern, since a protein deficiency can lead to real health issues. Be sure to check that your faux meat products offer a good protein content. Many do not. While some veggie patties and faux meat crumbles may taste good and have a texture, like the real thing, you may turn over their packaging to see that one serving offers little more than a few grams of protein. That means you’ll have to consume many servings to gain adequate protein and accidentally overdo it on your calorie count. Research from the National Institutes of Health has found that increasing protein intake is an effective way to decrease overall caloric intake for women specifically. So if you’re trying to cut calories, make sure you get that protein.
Dr. Praeger’s Perfect Burger
Dr. Praeger’s Perfect Burgers earned its name because of its consistency, flavor that is very similar to real beef, and offer of 20 grams of plant protein per patty, so it will leave you feeling full. They are gluten-free, soy-free, and vegan, and boast an ingredients list full of foods you’ll recognize like sweet potato puree, carrot puree, fruit juice, and oat fiber. They get their protein from peas, and their flavor from a nice blend of spices. These are a must-have for BBQ season this summer and taste great with all the classic toppings like pickles, ketchup, grilled onions, and mayonnaise.
Dr. Praeger’s Cauliflower Burgers
Dr. Praeger’s earns a second place on this list thanks to their limited-ingredients items. When you want a patty that’s a bit less “beefy” than the Perfect Burger, this cauliflower burger is light but satisfying. And even though its name relies on a cruciferous veggie, each patty offers a generous nine grams of protein, packed into just 210 calories. This burger is also gluten-free, soy-free, and vegan. It has a gorgeous green color thanks to the kale, zucchini, peas, and fava beans, and also gets its protein content from pea protein. The flavor profile is zesty, with scallions, chili powder, roasted garlic, and other spices.
Beyond Meat Beyond Beef Crumbles
If you’re looking for a meat-free way to keep Spaghetti night or Taco Tuesdays going, this is a great product. It’s also perfect for faux sloppy joes or three-bean chili. These crumbles have an authentic ground beef texture, and are free of soy and gluten. Their ingredients list is short and sweet, with little more than pea protein, rice flower, canola oil, and tomato powder. One serving offers a whopping 14 grams of protein in less than 100 calories, so feel free to load up on the stuff. Plus, they cook up in just three minutes in a pan with a little oil on medium heat.
Beyond Meat Beyond Sausage Brat Original
If you’re firing up the grill this summer but trying to avoid the highly-processed traditional hotdogs and the like, try these plant-based bratwursts. Each hefty link offers 16 grams of filling protein and has an authentic texture, including the casing which has that satisfying crunch when you bite into it. They maintain their shape and consistency well on the grill and go great with the classic toppings like relish, jalapenos, mustard, and ketchup. These also boast a short, easy-to-read ingredients list, consisting mainly of pea protein, rice protein, and sunflower oil. They are soy- and gluten-free, non-GMO, and certified kosher.
Lily Vegan’s Pantry May Wah Chicken Nuggets
You can support a small business and enjoy flavor-packed vegan foods when you order from this NY-based shop. This convenient frozen snack is easy to heat up quickly when you need a dose of protein. The nuggets have a very short ingredients list, containing nothing beyond soybean protein, soybean oil, soy fiber, and vegetarian seasonings. It does, naturally, contain soy so it’s not appropriate for those with a soy allergy. Just one serving offers 15 grams of protein, and there are three servings per $6 bag, so this is a budget-friendly, high-protein snack option. Plus, the nuggets can go in the oven, deep fryer, or microwave.
Sweet Earth Mindful Chik’n Strips
Because these faux chicken strips are very basic in flavor, they can be easily added to everything from wraps to salads to pasta dishes to stir fry. These faux chicken strips are not only high in fiber but also in protein, and contain just a few ingredients such as soy protein, distilled vinegar, and yeast. These are another food not safe for those with a soy allergy. They can be made in the microwave or on the stove, and taste good with essentially any seasoning you typically use in your chicken recipes. Their texture is also very authentic to real chicken.
Plant Provisions Plant Based Deli Slices
Those who rely on quick sandwiches for their mid-week lunches can struggle to know what to eat on a plant-based diet. These faux turkey slices come in three flavors – Tuscan, Chipotle Chili Carrot, and Black Pepper Beet – and are perfect for making sandwiches in a hurry. Its protein comes from peas, and each variety offers seven grams of protein per every five slices. They’re gluten- and soy-free, and you don’t have to cook them. Just pile them onto your favorite bread. These contain natural ingredients you can pronounce, like chickpeas, tomato puree, and apple cider vinegar, so you know exactly what you’re eating.