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The Healthiest Plant-Based Meat Alternatives You Can Find in Supermarkets

The fridges and shelves of your local grocery store are filling up with a range of plant-based meat alternatives, which are far more appealing than a plain block of tofu. From meat-free to plant-based patties, these products are made from a range of plant proteins including soy, wheat, pea, rice, hemp, beans and chickpeas.

It’s an exciting and accessible time to be a vegan, vegetarian or flexitarian, but it’s important to note not all meat replacements are created equal. If you’re swapping out a steak for a black bean burger, take the time to read the nutritional panel of the product. Does it, like meat, contain a good amount of protein? Is the product low in saturated fat? Does it claim to be a good source of iron, zinc or vitamin B12, without being loaded with too much salt or too many additives?

Here’s our guide to purchasing the best plant-based meat alternatives on the market.

Firstly, what nutrients should we be aware of when swapping protein sources?

Clearly, protein should be top of mind. Current Australian nutrition guidelines for daily protein are 0.84g/kg of body weight for men (19-70 years) and 0.75g/kg of body weight for women (19-70 years) for healthy, normal-weight individuals. Therefore, an average weight man (85kg) requires 71g protein/day and an average weight woman (71kg) requires 53g protein/day.

Meat can also be a significant source of iron, zinc, vitamins (especially B12) and essential fatty acids.

Best plant-based products in supermarkets

1. The Alternative Meat Co Plant-Based Mince

The New Zealand-based food manufacturer making inroads in Australian supermarkets produces a range of plant-based mince, burger patties, sausages and “chicken” tenders, made from a mix of vegetable proteins and fibres.

Per 100g serving it contains:

  • 670kj
  • 2g saturated fat
  • 410mg of sodium
  • 22g of protein
  • 4.3 grams of dietary fibre

Whilst nutritionally speaking, this product ticks the boxes, the top ingredient is water, followed by 29% vegetable proteins (a mix of soy, wheat, pea and hemp). The rest is thickeners and colours. In comparison, a generic brand ‘Heart Smart’ beef mince provides more kilojoules (550 kj), slightly more fat (5g and 2g saturated), less protein (20g) and no fibre. However, it contains far less salt (60mg sodium) than the plant-based alternative.

2. V2 Plant-Based Mince

Made in Australia, V2's mince also has a 4.5 star health rating. Their main ingredient is also water, followed by soy protein, vegetable oils, thickeners and flavours. It is, however, fortified with iron, zinc and B12, which is a plus. It also has a solid amount of protein. The downside? It has a lot of salt.

Per 100g serve it contains:

  • 873kj
  • 13g of fat (5g saturated)
  • 18g protein
  • 270mg sodium

3. Bean Supreme Beetroot Burger

The 5-star health star-rated Bean Supreme Beetroot Burger patties are a good plant-based alternative, made up of 49% black bean and 23% beetroot. While they contain roughly half the amount of protein as a beef burger, they have more fibre, less fat and less salt.

Per 100g serve it contains:

  • 624kj
  • 5.7g of fibre
  • 4g of fat (0.6g saturated)
  • 5.7g of protein
  • 340mg of sodium

4. Wildly Good Black Bean & Beetroot Burger

The Wildly Good Black Bean & Beetroot Burger patties are another winner, packing a bit more protein and fibre. They fall down in salt content.

Per 100g serve it contains:

  • 744kj/100g
  • 7.1g of protein
  • 6.8g of dietary fibre
  • 2g fat (0.3g saturated)
  • 688mg of sodium

Wildly Good also offers a cauliflower-based and chickpea-based burger patty. Their protein content varies from only 3.6g and 5.9g protein respectively, and they also contain double the carbohydrate of the Bean Supreme product.

5. Vegie Delights Sausages

The Vegie Delights sausages fare well in comparison with similar sodium and far more protein.

Per 100g serve it contains:

  • 874kj/100g
  • 19g protein
  • 10g fat (1g saturated)
  • 9g carbohydrates
  • 480mg of sodium

6. Bean Supreme Sausages

These 4-star health star-rated meat free sausages are made from 30-40% tofu and a range of natural thickeners and flavours. Nutritionally, they offer a good amount of protein and similar fat content to their beef counterpart.

Per 100g serve it contains:

  • 700kj
  • 15-18g of protein
  • 6-8g of fat (3-5g saturated)
  • 6-9g carbohydrates
  • 400-800mg of sodium depending on the flavour you choose - the rosemary, tomato and basil sausages have double the sodium compared to the red onion flavour.

Are plant-based meats healthy?

When it comes to their ingredients and nutritional profile, plant-based meat alternatives differ significantly between brands, products and even flavours. The overall protein content of meat alternatives varies significantly, and their energy/carbohydrate, sodium and fat content can often be higher when compared to meat-based counterparts.

Our advice would be to choose products with the least amount of ingredients and least amount of fillers, colours and flavours. Basically, the less processed the product and the shorter the ingredient list, the better! If the product isn’t fortified with iron and vitamin B12, ensure you’re getting an adequate amount elsewhere in your diet.

These meat alternatives are still processed foods, much like store-bought meat sausages, mince and patties, which should really only be an occasional food regardless. Lean meat in its natural form is always the healthiest option, and the same goes for whole plant foods.

Wholefoods in general, whether it's meat or vegetables, are always the best choice for your health as well as the environment. There are many reasons why you should stick to your regular vegetarian or flexitarian diet, but if you do wish to try these meat alternatives, handpick the products that are high in protein, but low in saturated fat and sodium.

Always seek the guidance of your doctor, dietitian or other qualified health professional prior to starting a new eating plan.

Explore more content like this in our series, Ask a Dietitian.

Health & Performance Collective is the brainchild of Sydney Dietitians Jessica Spendlove and Chloe McLeod. They use their 20 years of combined knowledge and skills as dietitians to work with motivated people to live and perform at their best.

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