Whether you’re choosing plant-based alternatives to meat because of food safety issues, GMO concerns, human health, the environment, conservation issues, or saving animals lives and reducing their suffering—the sale of meat replacement products is on the rise. Meat substitute products have vastly improved from the early pioneers that first entered the market, and the pure number and quality of products available has significantly increased in recent years.
There are whole food, plant-based alternatives to animal meat that replace animal protein with whole plant protein. These meat alternatives are much lower in saturated and total fat, lower in calories, higher in protein and fiber, lower in cholesterol and better for your health. But with mock meats or meat substitutes always check the ingredient list for food additives, nitrates and other chemicals used for preservatives, salt content and flavor enhancers. Processed food of any kind has risks, whether it’s processed meat or processed meat substitutes. And avoid GMO in soy protein by checking the ingredients for non-GMO soy protein, soy fiber and oils. Many of the brands listed below are non-GMO, all-organic and preservative-free.
There are many good reasons to choose plant-based alternatives over animal products, including:
- Improves animal welfare by reducing the suffering of animals
- Improves human health by reducing the risk of heart disease, stroke, hypertension, cancer, obesity and many other chronic illnesses
- Protects from exposure to and ingestion of antibiotics, growth-promoting drugs, industrial pollutants, hormones, and GMO and glyphosate-contaminated grains commonly fed to factory farm animals
- Protects from exposure to and ingestion of other drugs, including drugs banned in other countries including Ractopamine, Zilmax and other Beta-agonist drugs fed to cattle in the U.S.
- Reduces the impacts of global climate change by reducing greenhouse gas and carbon pollution
- Reduces water pollution in rivers, streams, lakes and ocean dead zones due to manure and nitrogen runoff
- Reduces the destruction of wildlife habitat and the killing of wildlife, endangered animals, and species extinction by the U.S. Wildlife Services department, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the Department of Fish and Game, all to support livestock grazing on U.S. owned public lands
- Reduces deforestation of old growth forests and rainforests that are being cleared for cattle ranching
- Prevents food poverty by diverting grains that are fed directly to livestock that could instead be fed directly to people to address human starvation and food deprivation
Plant-Based Meat Alternatives
Legumes, Beans, Peas and Whole Grains
Legumes include kidney, black, navy, pinto and garbanzo beans; peas include chickpeas, black-eyed and split peas; and lentils—are all high in protein, fiber, B vitamins and zinc. Add cooked rice, carrots, potatoes, and celery to beans and you have a hearty stew, soup or chili that is filling with loads of flavor.
Made from wheat gluten derived from wheat. It has a high amount of protein and is used often as a chicken substitute.
Derived from soy, and made from cooked and fermented whole soybeans and grains. It’s dense and firmer than tofu, and can be broken up, sliced or diced and cooked in a vegetable broth, miso broth, in soup, or in a stir-fry. It has a grainy, nutty flavor and is packed with protein as well as fiber, calcium, and vitamins. You can also blend it into a green drink or shake to add healthy plant protein.
Tofu is made from soybeans, is unfermented, and has been around for over 2000 years. It is high in protein, iron, and calcium and can easily be used for baking, steaming, frying or sautéing. It can be purchased in two ways: water packed that holds its shape and must be refrigerated, or silken that does not need to be refrigerated and is used for puréeing or baking.
Textured Vegetable Protein (TVP)
Textured Vegetable Protein is a highly versatile j or is an inexpensive, easy to use ingredient. It’s dehydrated soy, and once you rehydrate it, you can do just about anything with it. It comes in granules or chunks. You can use it for ground beef dishes, to make cutlets, or delicious burgers and meatloaves. It is also listed sometimes as TSP or texturized soy protein.
Vegan, Plant-Based Roasts for the Holidays
Instead of a turkey or ham for the holidays, serve one of these delicious vegan, plant-based roasts for your holiday dinner. They are readily available at most major grocers including Whole Foods, Trader Joes, Publix, Target, Krogers and more.
- Field Roast Celebration Roast With Traditional Bread Stuffing and Porcini Mushroom Gravy
- Field Roast Hazelnut Cranberry Roast En Croute
- Field Roast Classic 1 Pound Celebration Roast
- Vegetarian Plus Vegan Whole Turkey
- Vegetarian Plus Vegan Ham Substitute
- Quorn Meatless Turkey Roast
- Trader Joe’s Turkey-less Stuffed Roast With Gravy
- Gardein’s Holiday Roast
- Gardein’s Savory Stuffed Turk’y
- Tofurky Holiday Vegetarian Roast and Gravy
- Homemade Vegetarian Tofu Turkey With Stuffing
Meat Substitutes & Meat Alternatives
Backed by Twitter founders and Bill Gates, Beyond Meat launched in 2012 after three years in development. It’s made from a proprietary process using 100% plant proteins—mainly pea proteins, without the saturated and trans fats, cholesterol, gluten, dairy and GMOs. Beyond Meat makes several beef products (Beyond Beef) and multiple chicken products (Beyond Chicken), that are excellent for salads, wraps, pasta and stir-fried dishes. 100% vegan. Available in Whole Foods Market, Safeway, many health and specialty stores and more.
Boca Foods Company
Owned by Kraft Foods. Kraft makes a line of vegetarian foods ranging from burgers to links to chik’n and ground crumbles. They offer two product lines including the original product line with 13 offerings and another line made with non-GMO Soy with six offerings. Some products contain MSG and hydrolyzed corn protein. Ten products across both lines are vegan, which is noted on the package. Widely available.
Dr. Praeger’s Sensible Foods
A cardiothoracic surgeon Dr. Peter Praeger, and his medical partner, Dr. Eric Somberg, launched Dr. Praeger’s Sensible Foods to create healthy, vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, all natural food products. The company’s wide-ranging line of products includes veggie burgers, home-style veggie cakes, breaded fish items and more. Products are available in the freezer section at Whole Foods Market, Trader Joe’s, Costco and many grocery stores.
Engine 2 Plant Strong
Engine 2 is about a complete healthy and fit lifestyle that advocates for a diet of no animal meat or products, no dairy, and no refined and processed foods. Engine 2 produces tasty, nutritious, whole plant-based veggie burger and humus products, while also teaching people how to cook, eat and live in a way that’s truly healthy. Veggie Burger products include: Curried Lentil, Tuscan White Bean Kale, Poblano Black Bean and Thai Basil Edamame burgers. Available in Whole Foods Market and many other grocery stores.
All vegan grain meat. The high protein in Field Roast products comes from vital wheat gluten. Field Roast uses whole ingredients from the earth including Yukon gold potatoes, Washington apples, Oregon hazelnuts, butternut squash, mushrooms, red and green bell peppers, eggplant, cranberries, carrots, celery and more; and products are offered with different spice flavorings. Products include: Breakfast Sausage, Roasts, Sausage Links, Frankfurters, Meatloaf, Burger Patties, and Chao Slices (vegan, non-GMO, non-Dairy). Available at Costco, Whole Foods Markets, Lucky’s, Safeway, QFC, Amazon online, and many more stores and restaurants.
Gardein is a Canadian-based company. Products are made from a proprietary blend of soy and pea protein, are gluten-free, non-GMO, and certified vegan. Gardein makes two product lines including frozen and refrigerated, and makes about 30 different products including meatballs, chicken, and pulled pork. Vegan products include: Crispy Tenders, Chipotle Lime Crispy Fingers, Mandarin Orange Crispy Chicken, and Lightly Seasoned Chick’n Scallopini. Available in Safeway, Whole Foods Market, Kroger, Target, Albertsons, Ralphs, Publix, Stop & Shop, BJ’s Wholesale Club, Wegmans and more.
Gardenburger is made by Kellogg Company. Products include a Black Bean Chipotle Burger, Portabella Veggie Burger, Sun-Dried Tomato Basil Veggie Burger, The Original Veggie Burger, and Veggie Medley Burger. Available at Whole Foods Market, Sprouts, Raley’s, Albertsons, Fred Meyer, Safeway, QFC and more.
Helen’s Kitchen products are made with certified organic vegan protein and are GMO free. The brand makes a variety of products including Organic Veggie Ground Beef, Vegetarian Black Bean Burrito Bowl, Indian Curry Entrée With Tofu Steak Over Rice, Organic Spinach Lasagna Melt Bowl, Thai Yellow Curry Entrée, Organic Veggie Potstickers Bowl, Veggie Fajita Burrito Bowl, Thai Red Curry Entrée, Organic Pinto Bean Burrito Bowl and an Organic Pizza Pasta Melt Bowl. Available at Whole Foods and online at Amazon.
Hodo Soy is a newer addition to the plant-based meat alternatives market. Their mission is to craft the highest quality tofu and create innovative and delicious tofu-based artisan foods made from organic, non-GMO, U.S.-grown, whole soybeans. All products are ready-to-eat and only need to be heated up in a frying pan or microwave. Products include: Hodo Sesame Yuba Noodles, Spicy Yuba Noodles, Hodo Five-Spice Tofu Nuggets and Hodo Thai Curry Tofu Nuggets. All products are high in protein, negligible in fat, and low in calories. Available at Costco and Whole Foods Markets, and many other retailers.
Impossible Food’s Impossible Burgers
The Impossible Burger is animal-free and made from all-natural ingredients including wheat, coconut oil, potatoes and “heme.” Heme is a basic building block of life on Earth, including plants, but it’s uniquely abundant in meat. Impossible Foods discovered that “heme is what makes meat smell, sizzle, bleed, and taste so meaty.” Impossible Burgers are 0% cows, use a fraction of the Earth’s natural resources, use 95% less land, 74% less water, and create 87% less greenhouse gas emissions. And they are 100% free of hormones, antibiotics, and artificial ingredients. The burgers are available in restaurants across New York, Nevada, California and Texas and many states to come! Here’s the list of restaurants.
Lightlife started in 1979 in an old, converted car wash and was called Tempeh Works originally. In 1983 they introduced Fakin’ Bacon®, one of the first meatless bacon products on the market. Today they produce a wide range of vegetarian and vegan meat substitute products including Smart Dog®, Smart Deli®, Gimme Lean Sausage®, Smart Ground®, Smart Strips® and Smart Bacon®. All products are GMO free. Lightlife contributes 5% of their annual profits to organizations that support the earth. Available at Raley’s, Safeway, Sprouts, Whole Foods Market, Andronico’s Market, Fred Meyer, Albertsons, QFC and more.
Match Meats is a St. Louis-based company that sells its vegan meat alternative products primarily in the state of Missouri. Match Meat products contain all natural plant proteins and contain no GMO ingredients. Products include MATCH® Ground Pork, Italian Sausage, Ground Chicken, Ground Beef, Crab, Mediterranean Stuffed Chicken, Stuffed Pork Chops, and Mushroom Burgers.
Founded in 1974, and now owned by Kellogg Company, Morningstar Farms makes about 30 products for breakfast, dinner, and appetizers that include burgers, dinner entrees, breakfast sausage, and hot dogs. Some products contain MSG. Available in many mainstream, health and specialty stores and more.
Nates is produced by ADF Foods and makes meatless meatballs made from non-GMO soy. Products come in three flavors including Classic, Zesty Italian and Savory Mushroom. Available at Whole Foods Market, QFC, Thriftway and more.
No Evil Foods Meat Substitutes
Started by two Asheville, North Carolina cooks, Mike Woliansky and Sadrah Schadel, who found combining wheat gluten, chickpea flour and shoyu soy sauce created protein-rich and savory plant-based food. Choices include Italian sausage, crumbly Mexican chorizo, and “The Prepper”–a seitan or tempeh alternative to meat with the texture of pulled pork, that can be used in everything from Thai curry to vegan chili. All products are cruelty-free, environmentally friendly and are sourced with all organic and non-GMO ingredients.
Founded in 1983, Sunshine Burger makes vegan burgers that are non-GMO, organic, gluten-free, contain no fillers or preservatives, are free of soy, corn, oats, eggs, dairy, peanut, and tree-nuts, and are made with all whole food ingredients. All products are Non-GMO Project Verified, and made without the use of toxic, synthetic pesticides or fertilizers. Burger flavors include Garden Herb, Loco Chipotle, Black Bean Southwest, Barbeque, Falafel, Shiitake Mushroom, Hemp and Sage Breakfast, and Original. Available at Whole Foods Market, Wegmans, Sprouts, Raley’s and more.
Quorn products are made from a fungus-based ferment called a Mycoprotein. The products are originally made from mushrooms. Mycoprotein is a nutritionally healthy protein that is meat free and naturally low in saturated fat and high in protein and fiber. Quorn products have the taste appearance and texture of meat. Products include Quorn Meat Free Chicken Pieces and Quorn Standard Sausages. Plus they have a great holiday roast! Available at Raley’s, Whole Foods Market, Woodman’s, Publix, Safeway, Wegmans, Walmart, Fred Meyer, Target, Albertsons, Shaws, Tops, Kroger and more.
Sweet Earth Natural Foods
Sweet Earth makes a variety of products including Seitan, Veggie Burgers, Burritos and Benevolent Bacon. High quality ingredients are used and sourced. They are 100% plant-based, sustainable, cholesterol free, GMO free, nitrate free, antibiotic free, and of course — cruelty free! Available at Whole Foods Market, Target and online.
Made by Turtle Island Foods, a family owned and operated company, Tofurky makes tempeh and vegetarian turkey replacement products from a blend of wheat protein and organic tofu. Products are made in small batches using all organic and natural ingredients. All products are kosher, vegan, free of preservatives, and artificial ingredients, and are made with organic soybeans and organic tofu. Plus, they make a great holiday roast! Available at Raley’s, Safeway, Sprouts, Lucky, Whole Foods Market, Fred Meyer, Quality Foods Center and more.
Upton’s Naturals uses seitan and Jackfruit for their meat substitutes. Their seitan dishes come in a variety of flavors including Italian, traditional, chorizo, chick, ground and bacon. Their Jackfruit dishes, which has a texture is similar to that of shredded meat, comes in Bar-B-Que, Chili Lime Carnitas, Thai Curry, Sweet and Smokey, and Sriracha. Upton’s Naturals also produces a variety of Thai noodle vegan dishes.
Made by VegeUSA, Vegetarian Plus products are all-natural and made from 100% vegan ingredients and include vegan beef, chicken, fish, lamb, pork, shrimp, tuna and turkey. Products are available in specialized outlets, mainstream grocers, discount retailers, club stores and online.
Makes a variety of products with tofu, baked tofu, tempeh and seitan. Their Seitan products are especially good and come in a variety of flavors. They contain wheat and soy. Available at Whole Foods Market, Sprouts, Safeway, QFC, Fred Meyer, natural health food stores, coops, and online.
Yves Veggie Cuisine
Founded in 1985, and owned by The Hain Celestial Group, Yves products include a wide assortment including a meatless burger, bologna, ham, turkey, salami, pepperoni, hot dog, jumbo dog, Canadian bacon, breakfast patties and ground beef. A new product line includes fish and shellfish. Available in Whole Foods Market and other specialized outlets, mainstream grocers, and online.
This article from George Washington University’s School of Public Health offers some tips that can help when shopping for plant-based meat alternatives and substitutes, Choosing Meat Alternatives That are Healthy and Sustainable (MPH@GW, the George Washington University online Master of Public Health program).