Plant-based ‘meats’: Are they tasty, healthy?

Consumer Reports checked out 32 burgers, nuggets, sausages, filets

SAN ANTONIO – The next time you’re shopping the meat aisle of your grocery store, you may notice more plant-based products. How do they taste? And are they a healthier option than real meat? Consumer Reports analyzed 32 faux burgers, nuggets, filets and sausages to find out.

“Our panel of tasters thought none were identical to real meat, but some came close. We actually found at least one in each category to be very good,” said Consumer Reports Nutritionist Amy Keating.

Consumer Reports’ taste-testers found the Impossible and Beyond brands to be the most meat-like among the burgers. Impossible’s Chicken Nuggets came the closest to tasting like a typical chicken nugget.

As for faux pork, Consumer Reports’ panelists say, “Beyond Meat’s breakfast and sweet Italian sausages and MorningStar’s breakfast links were reminiscent of the real thing.”

One reason people might consider switching to plant-based meats is because they think they’re healthier. So, is that true?

“While many of the products we tested had fewer calories and less artery-clogging saturated fat, most had more sodium than real meat. And Americans already consume too much sodium,” said Keating.

A closer look at the ingredients will reveal that even though these foods are plant-based, they are still ultra-processed.

“The evidence supporting “plant-based” diets points to eating more whole foods like fruits, vegetables, grains, tofu and beans, and these mock meats are more processed and are not whole foods,” Keating said.

Many of these plant-based meats are also said to be better for the environment. While that may be true, Consumer Reports points out that eating grass-fed animals raised on sustainable farms may also be beneficial for the environment.

As for price, you may not be saving a lot of money by buying plant-based products instead of conventional meat. However, if meat prices continue to rise, certain plant-based items could be more budget-friendly in comparison.

Bottom line: These plant-based meats are a mixed bag. While they aren’t the healthiest of foods, they can be a good thing if you need to curtail the red meat and are having trouble.

About the Author:

As a consumer reporter, Marilyn is all about helping people stay safe and save a buck. Since coming to KSAT in 1985, she’s covered everything from crime to politics, winning awards for her coverage of the Mexican Mafia, Oklahoma tornadoes, children’s transplants, an investigation into voting irregularities and even a hit-and-run Santa Claus.