Meat Alternatives: How Do They Stack Up?

September 20, 2021 | Jody Gatewood

Last week I wrote about milk alternatives and how they compare to cow’s milk. This week, we will look at meat alternatives. There are lots of meat alternatives available but how do these meat alternatives stack up nutritionally? And what about cost? Let’s take a look. We have chosen ground beef as a comparison since it is a very commonly chosen animal protein.

 AmountProtein (grams)Saturated Fat (grams)Iron*Sodium*Cost
Ground beef (85/15)4 oz21715% 3%5.99/16 oz
Beyond Meat Beyond Beef®4 oz20520% 15%9.99/16 oz
Impossible™ Burger4 oz19820%16%9.99/12 oz
Tofu4 oz11.611%0%2.99/16 oz
Canned Jackfruit½ cup2020%37%3.49/14 oz

*5% is considered a low source, 20% is considered a high source

Beyond Meat®, which is gluten- and soy-free, is very similar to ground beef in protein content, as is the ImpossibleTM Burger, which contains soy. Tofu is lower in protein than ground beef, but still provides 11 grams in 4 ounces. Jackfruit is low in protein so should not be eaten as main source of protein.

Looking at saturated fat:

  • Beyond Meat® contains 25% of the daily value of saturated fat, similar to 90/10 ground beef.
  • The ImpossibleTM Burger contains 40% of the daily value of saturated fat, similar to 80/20 ground beef.
  • Tofu and jackfruit are both very low in saturated fat.

There are other nutrients that are important to consider, too. Meat is a main dietary source of iron. Iron is not present in most meat alternatives unless they have been fortified (like the ImpossibleTM Burger), so check the label. Finally, most meat alternatives have higher levels of sodium than ground beef. Both Beyond Meat® and the ImpossibleTM Burger are higher in sodium. Tofu is very low in sodium. The jackfruit used in the comparison is canned, so it has a high level of sodium. Other sources of jackfruit may be lower in sodium.

In addition to nutrition, cost also varies among meat alternatives. Beyond Meat® and the ImpossibleTM Burger are both more expensive than ground beef, while tofu and canned jackfruit are less expensive.

As you can see, there are many nutritional differences between meat alternatives. Therefore, it is important to check the Nutrition Facts label when considering meat alternatives or other foods that are new to you. This way, you can choose the best option for your health needs.

Written by Anna Lauterbach, ISU Dietetics Student

Jody Gatewood

Jody Gatewood is a Registered Dietitian who enjoys spending time in the kitchen baking and preparing meals for her family. She does lots of meal planning to stay organized and feed her family nutritious meals.

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