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Veggie ready meals with as much fat as a McDonald’s burger

Veggie ready meals with as much fat as a McDonald’s burger

Veggie ready meals with as much fat as a McDonald’s burger.. how healthy are these meat alternative products?

  • More of us are eating less meat and UK sales of meat alternatives are rising 
  • Many will choose a meat-free diet thinking it’s inevitably ‘healthier’ 
  • But don’t be hoodwinked into thinking that all meat choices are worse 

More of us are eating less meat and UK sales of meat alternatives such as Quorn are predicted to reach £225 million within three years.

Many will choose a meat-free diet thinking it’s inevitably ‘healthier’ as meat tends to be high in saturated fat and calories. Indeed, plant-based or vegetarian diets can be more virtuous, says dietitian Helen Bond.

‘But don’t be hoodwinked into thinking that all meat choices are worse — some meat substitutes are loaded with saturated fat and calories.’

Here, she assesses a selection of meat alternative products; we then rated them.

Aunt Bessie’s Toad In The Hole

Aunt Bessie’s Toad In The Hole. Rating: 3/10

Rating: 3/10 

190g, £1.50, most supermarkets

Per 100g: Calories, 165; saturated fat, 0.7g; protein, 11g; sugar, 2.6g; salt, 0.5g; fibre, 1.6g

Pork is replaced with wheat protein and flour — the result is a meal with 70 per cent less saturated fat than the standard toad in the hole.

A serving provides less than 5 per cent of your daily limit of saturated fat. It also has a decent amount of satiating protein — 23g per serving — and is lower in salt than the meat version. But it’s high in refined carbohydrates such as white flour which, in excess, disrupt blood sugar levels. Overall, not particularly nutritious.

Taste: With gravy, tastes just like a meaty toad in the hole.

Quorn Classic Burgers

Quorn Classic Burgers. Rating: 5/10

Rating: 5/10

Two burgers (180g), £2.50, most supermarkets

Per 100g: Calories, 182; saturated fat, 3.2g; protein, 18g; sugar, 1.9g; salt, 1.5g; fibre, 3.9g

Quorn products are made with mycoprotein — a protein from a fungus grown in sterile fermentation tanks. These burgers have less than half the saturated fat of beef burgers and are a good source of gut-healthy fibre — one has more than a slice of wholemeal bread (meat has none).

But like many plant proteins, it’s not high in iron — needed for energy — and doesn’t provide vitamin B12, important for a healthy nervous system. A Quorn burger has a quarter of your daily maximum salt, twice as much as a supermarket beef burger.

Taste: Slightly musty flavour.

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Clive’s Nut Roast

Clive’s Nut Roast. Rating: 8/10

Rating: 8/10

280g, £5.25, Waitrose

Per 100g: Calories, 238; saturated fat, 1.6g; protein, 5.1g; sugar, 5.9g; salt, 0.5g; fibre, 1.3g

This is made from 50 per cent vegetables, including sweet potato, carrot, onion and celery, so if you eat the entire pack it will count as almost two of your five-a-day — and 29 per cent chestnuts, among other nuts, which provide iron, magnesium and B vitamins for energy.

Though it’s a healthy option it’s not a good meat replacement as it’s low in protein: 7g per portion — roast beef provides four times that. We need a minimum of 50g protein daily.

Taste: Soft, nicely seasoned, with chunky nuts.

Tesco Monterey Jack BBQ Bean Burgers

Tesco Monterey Jack BBQ Bean Burgers. Rating: 2/10

Rating: 2/10

Two burgers (280g), £1.50

Per 100g: Calories, 238; saturated fat, 2.1g; protein, 6.1g; sugar, 6.3g; salt. 0.93g; fibre, 5.6g

These are made with haricot and black beans, not a manufactured meat substitute, so gain points for naturalness. However, the 6 per cent cheese means one burger supplies around 15 per cent of your daily saturated fat, not far off the amount in a McDonald’s burger.

Pulses do provide a decent hit of protein and fibre, but you’d be better off with baked beans on wholemeal toast to skip the breadcrumb coating, which offers little nutritionally.

Taste: Quite cheesy.

Sainsbury’s Sweet & Smoky BBQ Jackfruit

Rating: 4/10 

350g, £3

Per 100g: Calories, 72; saturated fat, trace; protein, 1.6g; sugar, 11.7g; salt, 0.75g; fibre, 4.9g

Jackfruit, though technically a fruit, has an unripe texture similar to pulled pork, plus a neutral taste.

Here, it’s steeped in tomato puree, sugar and vinegar to create a barbecue ‘pork’ dish. The fruit is a good source of blood pressure-regulating potassium, and supplies some vitamin C — and this is a good low-calorie option.

But it’s low in protein and doesn’t provide much iron, zinc or vitamin B12, so it’s not an adequate replacement for meat. It also has more than two teaspoons of added sugar per serving.

Taste: Very sweet.

Tofurky Smoky Maple Bacon Tempeh 

Rating: 6/10 

198g, £4.59,

Per 100g: Calories, 115; saturated fat, 0.5g; protein, 12g; sugar, 3g; salt, 0.8g; fibre, 5g

Tempeh is made with fermented soya beans. Here, it’s shaped into rashers and flavoured with soy sauce, maple syrup and artificial smoke flavouring.

It’s higher in fibre and contains less than half the salt of bacon and crucially doesn’t contain nitrites, the compounds used in curing meat and thought to contribute to bowel cancer risk. However, they contain half the protein of bacon with around ¾ tsp of added sugar per serving.

Taste: Not too dissimilar to streaky bacon.

Linda McCartney Vegetarian Chorizo Sausages

Linda McCartney Vegetarian Chorizo Sausages. Rating: 7/10

Rating: 7/10

Pack of six (300g), £2, most supermarkets

Per 100g: Calories, 147; saturated fat, 0.6g; protein, 12.5g; sugar, 3.6g; salt, 1g; fibre, 5.7g

Made with soya protein, red pepper, onions and spices to mimic chorizo, these have more protein than most pork sausages and more fibre: two will provide nearly 20 per cent of your daily 30g. And with 34 per cent red pepper and onion and tomato puree, three sausages count as one of your five-a-day.

But if you’re not avoiding meat, a reduced fat meat sausage (such as Sainsbury’s Reduced Fat Butcher’s Choice, £1.50) is lower in saturated fat with no more salt.

Taste: Could do with a little more spice.

Vivera Veggie Steak

Vivera Veggie Steak. Rating: 5/10

Rating: 5/10

Pack of two (200g), £2.99, Tesco

Per 100g: Calories, 222; saturated fat, 5g; protein, 17g; sugar, 1.9g; salt, 1.4g; fibre, 3.6g

This is made with soya and wheat proteins and coloured with beetroot to simulate the ‘bleed’ of rare steak. The maker also adds iron and vitamin B12 — both important for healthy red blood cells — so it’s nutritionally closer to meat than many other vegetarian alternatives.

However, the added coconut oil makes it higher in saturated fat than actual steak and it contains nearly a quarter of your daily salt.

Taste: Quite peppery with texture similar to steak.

Granovita Veggie Hot Dogs

Granovita Veggie Hot Dogs. Rating: 6/10

Rating: 6/10

250g, £4.15,

Per 100g: Calories, 237; saturated fat, 2g; protein, 15g; sugar, 0.6g; salt, 1.8g; fibre, 1g

These vegetarian frankfurters made with soya protein, egg and sunflower oil have similar amounts of protein and fat to meat hot dogs, but are much lower in saturated fats and higher in the healthier unsaturated type. They are also free from nitrites, which are thought to contribute to processed meats being linked to an increased risk of bowel cancer. But like the meat versions, they are quite salty — there’s a quarter of your daily limit in two hot dogs.

Taste: Just as good as a meaty frankfurter.

Meat The Alternative Beef Style Meatballs

Meat The Alternative Beef Style Meatballs. Rating: 9/10

Rating: 9/10

300g, £3.50, Waitrose

Per 100g: Calories, 164; saturated fat, 2.1g; protein, 22.1g; sugar, 1.3g; salt, 0.82g; fibre, 4.2g

ThESE have the highest protein content of all the products reviewed here — an amount equivalent to beef meatballs.

This is because they use soya protein isolate (a concentrated version of protein) as well as straight soya protein. A half-pack serving also provides a fifth of your daily fibre, needed for a healthy gut, and contains a quarter of the saturated fat of regular meatballs. They are on the high side for salt content though.

Taste: Meat-like texture with a nice hint of onion.

Fry’s Meat-free Sausage Rolls

Rating: 2/10

Pack of four (400g), £3.85,

Per 100g: Calories, 282; saturated fat, 7.1g; protein, 11.2g; sugar, 0.1g; salt, 1.9g; fibre, 4.6g

These sausage rolls, made with soya and wheat protein, have more protein than meat equivalents, but they aren’t much lower in saturated fat and are higher in blood pressure-raising salt (one of these provides nearly a third of your daily limit).

In this case, swapping meat for a vegetarian sausage roll doesn’t make a healthier snack — both are still 50 per cent puff pastry, which has very little to offer nutritionally.

Taste: Flaky pastry with tasty and herby ‘sausagemeat’.

Garden Gourmet Simply Mince

Garden Gourmet Simply Mince. Rating: 10/10 – BEST CHOICE

Rating: 10/10 – BEST CHOICE

480g, £2.79,

Per 100g: Calories, 149; saturated fat, 0.4g; protein, 19.3g; sugar, 3.1g; salt, 0.43g; fibre, 8.8g

Designed to replace beef mince in dishes such as chilli con carne, this does a good job of making them more heart-healthy as it’s only got a trace of saturated fat (0.5g in a 125g portion versus 5.6g in a typical mince). It’s also a good source of fibre with more than a third of your daily recommendation per serving. As with most plant proteins, this soya-based mince won’t provide iron, zinc or vitamin B12 — but using it in a bean-based chilli will boost this.

Taste: More mushy than real mince but great in bolognese sauce or chilli.

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