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Thinking of trying a plant-based diet? Our nutritionist weighs in on the health credentials of meatless meat.

Whether you’re a full time vegan, vegetarian or a flexitarian, I'm sure you've all seen the product range of meat free meat expanding at your local supermarket. That's because more of us are moving towards a ‘meatless’ diet or having meat free days, supply and demand right?

So what is meatless meat?

Soy and other plant proteins as well as mycoproteins (fungi) or shiitake mushrooms are used in disguise to mimic meat products, they do this surprisingly well with many people unable to tell the difference. Some products include mince, burger patties, and sausages. Plant proteins are a great base, as after all they are a protein, so, can essentially fill the shoes of meat in that respect and are beating meat when it comes to fibre. However, meat especially red meat offers more than just protein; it is packed with minerals and vitamins and such as iron, zinc and Vitamin B12 ! Luckily there are some products on the market that fortify their products fortified products with vitamins and minerals like those mentioned above. But like anything in disguise, it's a bit of a process to get there. - think about your halloween outfit, you had to put in some work first! This is why we need to keep our eyes peeled for hidden ingredients on the labels of our meatless meat!

What do I need to watch out for?

Like all our food choices we need to read the labels, understand what's in our food and choose an option that only has a handful of ingredients. We can do this by questioning the ingredients, why are there numbers or long sciency words?, why are there SO many ingredients? And so on. This is because a lot of these plant based alternatives are heavily processed so can be full of fat, sugar, salt and preservatives.

So, you can understand that all ingredients listed above are ones to watch, especially salt. Make sure you are checking the sodium content of your chosen product. As a nation we're already over consuming our recommended daily intake of salt, which by the way is 6g (2300mg of sodium.) Australia is currently aiming to have a 30% reduction of salt intake by 2025, many food industries in Australia have been targeted and must take part in the salt reduction. The meatless meat market is not one of them and there are no current targets for salt reduction in this industry. Studies have shown there has been no sodium change in meatless meat products from 2010-2019. So when looking for the best meat free snag this summer lookout for the sodium content, the heart foundation recommends that products with less than 120mg per 100g of sodium are best, and products with 400mg per 100g are okay options too.

Is meatless meat healthier than meat?

People naturally assume ‘plant based’ = healthy, and that's understandable as we are told to eat more veggies, wholegrains and legumes. - because they are good for us. But as previously mentioned a lot of these plant based meatless options are heavily processed and like heavily processed meats for example sausages they come with oils, preservatives, starches and salt. So, as suggested with processed meat, the same goes for processed meatless meat they all should be consumed in moderation. Just think whole foods are always the best option, and if you have the time, then get creative and make your own veggie burger patties or kebabs. That way you’ll always know what exactly is in your food!

Team Nutritionist - Alicia McIntyre