Regular readers will know that I favour Protein over Carbs, and prefer meat over vegetables. I personally practice IF, and divide my eating into two halves, a carb based first meal and a protein based second meal in the evening. However I do have empathy for those who choose a strictly vegan, vegetarian or related type diet. There are many reasons people do this. Health reasons, ethical reasons or simply that they do not liking the taste or texture of meat. I also have friends and relatives that cover all bases in the non-meat world, with some quite vocal when justifying their life style choice!

To meet (not a pun!) this increasing non-meat market, a number of commercial enterprises have jumped on the bandwagon to produce V friendly foods that are a mix of vegetable proteins and other ingredients. How healthy are these and do they tick the boxes to satisfy our macronutrient RDI values. Additionally there are also a range of differing sources used as the protein base for different products.

In truth I have only tried the Vegan sausages and Meatless burger patties that were cooked for me by a well meaning friend, but they still did not do it for me in the taste and texture department.  Vegan friends swore I wouldn’t be able to tell the difference (wrong) but I also kind of question how non-meat eaters would know if the products were like meat or not when they only bat for one side.

As an aside – it mystifies me too why a Vegan sausage is called a “sausage” – according to the Online Oxford Dictionary the definition of a “sausage” is “an item of food in the form of a cylindrical length of minced pork or other meat encased in a skin, typically sold raw to be grill”, hmmmm.

On the other hand there is also plenty of research that shows that red meat will take years off your life. Like all research however, there is also plenty of contrasting views that suggest the link between a diet of red meat and premature death is actually weak.

Nevertheless, being a Non-obsessive eater, I can only make informed decisions when I have looked into the facts for myself. So let’s compare the nutritional facts from the labels on two meatless products with some real meat to begin with:

Serving of 113g (4 oz) THE BEYOND BURGER® BEYOND SAUSAGE® 100% Pure Beef Pattie
Calories 270 247 330
Protein 20g 21g 18g
Carbohydrates 5g 7g 0
                – Sugars 0 0 0
                – Fibre 3g 4g 0
Fat Total 20g 16g 28g
                – Saturated 5g 6.5g 11g
                – Trans Fat 0 0 2g
Cholesterol 0 0 95mg
Sodium 380mg 650mg 80mg
Potassium 340mg 299mg 280mg
Vitamins % Daily Value      
                -A 0 0 0
                -C 6% 0 0
Calcium 2% 8% 2%
Iron 30% 26% 10%
Phosphorus 25%

When you stack the numbers up side by side, there are a couple of interesting facts.

  • The additional CALORIES in the pure beef would appear to come from the extra FAT that is present in it.
  • Surprisingly there is a slightly less PROTEIN in the equivalent amount of beef meat as opposed to the meatless option.
  • There is a large amount of SODIUM in the Beyond ®products – 1/3 a teaspoon in each 100gm sausage and 1/6th in the pattie – 5 times and 8 times more than the beef.
  • Understandably there is no CHOLESTEROL in the Vegan product with the 100g Beef Pattie having around 1/3 of the recommend daily allowance for an adult.
  • POTASSIUM is one of the seven essential macrominerals and we require a bare minimum of 100 milligrams of potassium daily to support key processes. Both products tick this box with around the same levels
  • IRON – Surprisingly the real meat pattie had only 10% of the RDI as opposed to the Beyond Burger that has 30% and the Beyond Sausage with 26%.

Looking at these numbers purely with a “nutritional value” eye, you need to decide which, if any, of the ingredients flag a particular health or nutritional worry for you. Does the high salt content of the meatless sausage concern you? How about the Cholesterol level of the beef? Does the fact that there is more iron in the vegan creation than the real meat, make it attractive choice?

As we all know, eating is complicated! There are good and bad aspects to everything we eat, and we all need to make decisions based on our individual needs. To maintain a healthy way of eating we also need to be comfortable with the choices we make. If it means eating no butter but more brussel sprouts (incidentally I love both), so be it, but if that means eating becomes a bore it will not take long to revert back to your old way of eating.

The list of ingredients in the product is also of paramount importance. However it is not just the individual ingredients that make certain foods important for healthful living, but the combined effects of these working together. More about these in association with meatless meat next time.