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Fake Meat — Good Idea?

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Fake Meat — Good Idea?

By Kristin Ohlson, Experience Life

When some people decide to eat less meat, they still want something that looks, smells and tastes like meat on their plate — and they want its preparation to be as easy as flipping a ground beef patty. Even mainstream supermarkets now offer dozens of veggie burgers and other protein-rich products (usually made from some combination of textured or hydrolyzed soy protein, wheat gluten, and grains) to fill this savory niche. Great idea, right?

Not necessarily. It may be convenient to rely on “meat analog” products when first making the transition to a plant-based diet, but many of these products also contain industrial-food byproducts, chemically processed soy and grain powders, artificial flavorings, colorings, and other chemicals to make them palatable. Many vitamins and minerals are leached away during their high-heat production. And some people may have trouble digesting them or experience intolerances to ingredients like gluten and monosodium glutamate (MSG).

“I advise people to cut these highly processed things out drastically — even cut them out completely,” says Brendan Brazier, professional Ironman triathlete and author of Thrive: The Vegan Nutrition Guide to Optimal Performance in Sports and Life (Da Capo Press, 2008).

Concurring is Mitzi Dulan, RD, CSSD, sports nutritionist for the Kansas City Chiefs football team and Kansas City Royals baseball team, and coauthor with NFLer Tony Gonzalez of The All-Pro Diet: Lose Fat, Build Muscle, and Live Like a Champion (Rodale, August 2009). If consumers want good sources of non-meat protein, she encourages them to eat beans, lentils, quinoa, legumes, nuts, whole soybeans (edamame) and naturally fermented soy foods like tempeh. Or, she suggests, choose vegan products (e.g., veggie burgers) made primarily from these whole-food ingredients rather than relying on products made from soy protein isolate, hydrolyzed vegetable protein (HVP) and textured vegetable protein (TVP).

Next: A Better Way to Maintain a Vegetarian or Vegan Diet

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Experience Life

Experience Life magazine is an award-winning health and fitness publication that aims to empower people to live their best, most authentic lives, and challenges the conventions of hype, gimmicks and superficiality in favor of a discerning, whole-person perspective. Visit to learn more and to sign up for the Experience Life newsletter, or to subscribe to the print or digital version.


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2:09AM PDT on May 26, 2013

Thank you for info.

2:08AM PDT on May 26, 2013

Thank you for info.

2:07AM PDT on May 26, 2013

Thank you for info.

2:06AM PDT on May 26, 2013

Thank you for info.

7:04PM PST on Jan 26, 2012

Thank you.

3:19AM PST on Feb 12, 2010

I think that they are fine in certain circumstances. Eating out, I've been known to get a veggie burger on the menu, which is usually a Gardenburger or equivalent. And my kids love Quorn chicken nugget-like things. They've never had the evil McDonald's equivalent but maybe it's just part of being a kid?

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8:23PM PDT on Aug 29, 2009

i myself have tried fake meats and while they are good, i don't enjoy eating them because of the concept. Eating fake meat seems like cheating, a vegetarian doesn't eat meat and that is the whole idea. so why eat fake meat when you can certainly go without.

7:11PM PDT on Aug 27, 2009

whoops I meant to say hemp milk

7:05PM PDT on Aug 27, 2009

I like Tofurky products. They are made of real tofu and taste great. They make,roasts, cold cuts, sauages etc. Along with seitan I also like a brand called Original Field Grain Meats. They have wonderful flavoring. Besides beans, avacadoes, nuts and seeds which also have protein we sometines eat Quorn. However, quorn is not vegan it contains eggs, but has a good variety of products. We drink hemp which is also high in protein and contains Omega three oils

5:16PM PDT on Aug 27, 2009

Loli (and any others looking for yummy veg recipe ideas), visit for an amazing assortment of healthy, delicious vegan recipes on cookbook author Bryanna Grogan's fabulous blog.

Meat analogs have a fascinating history. Anyone living in or near a city with a Budhist Vegetarian restaurant should try their variations on this theme...delicious! They were created originally centuries ago, to appease the palates of visitors to Budhist monasteries who were not vegetarian.

Anything made from scratch with organic whole foods is going to be best for us, obviously, but I think commercial meat analogs are fine for folks transitioning as long as they don't make a habit of eating them all the time.

The trick is not to think about needing 'fake meat' to get through a meal, but (as others have said) look for recipes that incorporate other sources of protein into your diet in creative ways.

That said, I make holiday tofu turkeys for people because old habits do die hard! (and there are few good substitutes on the market IMO that are satisfying)

My adivce to new veggies is not to be disheartened if they buy a meat analog that is really disappointing...there are good ones out there! Don't give around, and experiment with recipes. It can seem like a lot of work to make veggie burgers from scratch, but once you have a good recipe you can make a big batch and always freeze a couple dozen! Same with homemade seitan, 'neat'balls, etc!

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