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The Best Meat Alternatives and Veggie Burger for Rapid Weight Loss

You'd think that when choosing vegetarian meat substitutes, finding healthy options would be a cinch. After all, you're swapping fat- and hormone-laden meats for the natural gifts from Mother Earth.

But it's not that simple. Most packaged vegetarian foods are made for newcomers to vegetarianism — or people who haven't quite mastered the art of plant-based cooking. So while eating a plant-based diet is healthy (many studies have found a relationship between vegetarian diets and longer life), eating a lot of processed "vegetarian" foods—as opposed to actual vegetables—isn't always the best option. The majority of meat substitutes are nothing more than disks of water mixed with chemicals and salt—not what you want to be eating if total health and weight loss is your goal.

But fear not veggie-lovers, turning to a veggie burger or faux chicken strip when you're in a pinch doesn't have to throw an otherwise healthy diet off track. We've tracked down a wide breadth of options that have a sound nutritional profile and are free of scary health-harming chemicals. Here are our top picks:


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Sunshine Burgers Hemp & Sage Breakfast Patty, 1 patty

Calories 200
Fat 10 g
Saturated Fat 1 g
Sodium 160 mg
Carbs 21 g
Fiber 6 g
Sugar 2 g
Protein 7 g

If you're looking for a way to add more protein to your breakfast sandwich—or just missing the taste of sausage patties—Sunshine Burger's protein-packed patty is a solid, nutrient-dense bet. Made with organic, whole-food ingredients like brown rice, adzuki beans, hemp and sunflower seeds, onions, green pepper and a mix of spices, this is one morning "meat" we can get behind.


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Dr. Praeger's Super Greens Veggie Burgers, 1 burger

Calories 100
Fat 5 g
Saturated Fat 0.5 g
Sodium 250 mg
Carbs 11 g
Fiber 2 g
Sugar 1 g
Protein 2 g

Collard greens, quinoa, kale, mustard greens (a surprisingly good source of calcium), spinach and hemp protein are just a few of the health-boosting ingredients you'll find in Dr. Praeger's Super Greens Veggie Burgers. With such a wide variety of veggies mixed into one patty, we can't say we're surprised that just one serves up 40 percent of the day's recommended vitamin A, a nutrient that promotes good vision and helps maintain healthy bones.


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Upton's Naturals Traditional Seitan, 2 oz

Calories 100
Fat 1.5 g
Saturated Fat 0 g
Sodium 264 mg
Carbs 7 g
Sugar 0 g
Protein 15 g

If you're wary of eating too much soy, seitan (pronounced SAY-tan) is a solid alternative. It's derived from wheat gluten and is a great source of protein—just not one that Celiacs can enjoy. Though there are a number of seitan options on supermarket shelves, we're partial to Upton's because of its short and straightforward ingredient list. They use a blend of wheat gluten, whole-wheat flour, water, garlic, sea salt, onion and soy sauce. To prepare it, simply pan fry with a small amount of oil and throw into stir-frys, stews, or sandwiches.


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Gardein Seven Grain Crispy Tenders, 3 pieces

Calories 150
Fat 6.8 g
Saturated Fat 0 g
Sodium 360 mg
Carbs 12 g
Fiber 1.5 g
Sugar 0 g
Protein 12 g

Craving something fried but don't want to throw your diet off track? Heat up a trio of Gardein Seven Grain Crispy Tenders. With a mere 150 calories and a whopping 12 grams of satiating protein (from whole-food ingredients like amaranth, quinoa, wheat gluten and pea protein, no less), these nuggets are sure to kick any fast-food craving to the curb. Keep them in the freezer along and stock some organic ketchup in your fridge, so you're prepared for a snack craving anytime, day or night.


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Nasoya Organic Firm TofuPlus , 3 oz.

Calories 70
Fat 3 g
Saturated Fat 0 g
Sodium 0 mg
Carbs 2 g
Fiber <1 g
Sugar 0 g
Protein 7 g

Though becoming a vegetarian can help you live longer, it also increases your risk of B12, calcium and iron deficiency. But thanks to Nasoya's TofuPlus line, filling in nutritional gaps has never been easier. A mere three-ounce serving of the stuff provides 20 percent of the day's calcium and B12, six percent of the day's bicep-building iron and 14 percent of your recommended protein intake. Firm tofu is best enjoyed roasted, grilled, stewed or sauteed—and eaten in moderation. Soy is high in naturally occurring chemicals called phytoestrogens, which may influence our hormones and lead to weight gain if consumed in excess. However, more research on the effects of phytoestrogen is needed before we can draw any definitive conclusions.


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Sunshine Burger Loco Chipotle Veggie Burgers, 1 burger

Calories 300
Fat 16 g
Saturated Fat 2 g
Sodium 320 mg
Carbs 27 g
Fiber 9 g
Sugar 3 g
Protein 12 g

If your go-to veggie burger often leaves your stomach begging for more, Sunshine Burger's Loco Chipotle Veggie Burgers are about to become your new BFF. Made with a tasty combination of black beans, sprouted brown rice, carrots, cilantro, metabolism-boosting jalapeños and sunflower, chia and hemp seeds, this is one veggie burger that carnivores will want to eat. Pair the patty with a whole-grain bun, guac and some fresh onion and romaine, for a filling—yet healthy—meal. Bonus: Just one patty provides 40 percent of the day's magnesium, a nutrient that boosts fat burn and lean muscle mass.


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Lightlife Organic Flax Tempeh, 3 oz

Calories 160
Fat 7 g
Saturated Fat 1 g
Sodium 10 mg
Carbs 9 g
Fiber 7 g
Sugar <1 g
Protein 15 g

Unlike tofu, which is made from soybean curd, tempeh is made from fermented whole soybeans and, therefore, is less processed (read: has fewer phytoestrogens) and more protein-packed than its spongy cousin. We're fans of Lightlife's Flax Tempeh (comprised of soybeans, mood-boosting flax seeds and brown rice) because it has 15 percent of the day's iron and a whopping 15 grams of satiating protein. Try it diced in a curry or grilled like a steak.


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Quorn Grounds, 0.67 cup

Calories 110
Fat 2 g
Saturated Fat 0.5 g
Sodium 170 mg
Carbs 9 g
Fiber 5 g
Sugar 0.5 g
Protein 13 g

If you're in the mood to make chili or "meat" sauce, or just looking for a new baked potato topper, Quorn Grounds should be your go-to. Quorn is primarily made from mycoprotein, a fungus-based protein that's grown in vats of glucose. We know, it sounds a little strange, but if you can get past the science-fiction aspect of Quorn, you'll discover a product that's free of many of the health-harming additives found in similar products. Everything from cancer-causing caramel coloring to potassium chloride (a chemical in plant fertilizer) is in similar products.

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