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10 Healthiest Plant-Based Meats—and 3 to Avoid

Plant-based meats aren't always healthy. Here are the best ones to buy, according to a dietitian.
FACT CHECKED BY Samantha Boesch
The product recommendations in this post are recommendations by the writer and/or expert(s) interviewed and do not contain affiliate links. Meaning: If you use these links to buy something, we will not earn a commission.

In recent years, the rise of plant-based meats has marked a significant shift in consumer eating habits and preferences, reflecting a growing concern for health, environmental sustainability, and animal welfare. Crafted from various plant proteins—including soy, pea, and wheat—these innovative food products are designed to mimic the taste, texture, and nutritional profile of traditional meats. Beyond merely serving as a substitute for vegetarians and vegans, plant-based meats are increasingly appealing to a broader audience, including meat-eaters seeking to reduce their meat consumption without sacrificing the flavors they love. This burgeoning industry is not only contributing to a more sustainable food system but is also revolutionizing the culinary landscape, one plant-based burger at a time.

While eating plant-based can be as simple as leaning on lentils, mushrooms, and other single-ingredient foods, there are many options for a plant-based "chicken" nugget or deli meat to appease any craving while on a plant-based journey. However, some are healthier than others based on the nutrition information and ingredients used.

How we chose the healthiest plant-based meats

While hearing a food being described as "plant-based" or "vegan" may sound like a healthier choice, this isn't always the case. While many choices are low in fat and provide some fiber, there are pitfalls to some plant-based meats, as many companies add unhealthy ingredients into their recipe to get that meat-like texture and flavor.

We utilized the following parameters when choosing the healthiest plant-based meats on the market. These factors include low sodium, little to no added sugar, and the addition of essential nutrients such as protein and iron that many plant-based eaters may unintentionally lack.

  • Lower in sodium. Many plant-based meat companies will load their product full of sodium so that, whether or not you're a recent convert to the vegan or vegetarian world, you won't miss the fatty, mouth-filling taste of animal meat. Some plant-based meats that are trying to mimic fattier cuts such as sausage or even a Ribeye steak will really up the sodium counts. It's important to remember that the American Heart Association recommends no more than 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day for the average healthy adult, but it turns out that the average American is eating upwards of 3,400 milligrams per day, according to the CDC. Each of our meatless picks contains less than 500 milligrams of sodium save for one exception, which we explain in further detail.
  • Little to no added sugar. Like any food, certain plant-based meat companies will load their products with added sugars to make them more tasty. Especially in breaded or heavily sauced foods, added sugars can dramatically spike without any serious discernible change in taste. Although you've heard it over and over again, remember that added sugars and naturally occurring sugars are digested differently. Added sugars, when eaten in excess, can be linked to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease and fatty liver disease. Therefore, each of our "healthiest" choices comes with 1 gram or less of added sugar per serving.
  • Protein and additional nutrients. Although there are hoards of criticisms of vegan and vegetarian diets due to a lack of certain nutrients such as protein, iron, and vitamin B12, it's generally safe for the average, healthy individual to follow a plant-based diet, as long as you are eating the right foods to meet your nutritional needs. Nearly all of the options we chose contain protein while also providing numerous other nutrients.

Read on to see our picks for the healthiest plant-based meats to buy, plus a few options that aren't so great for your health. Then, check out the 17 Healthiest Vegetarian Fast-Food Orders.

    10 Healthiest Plant-Based Meats

    Best: Impossible Lite Ground Beef

    package of Impossible ground beef on a white background
    Impossible Foods
    Nutrition (Per 4 ounces):
    Calories: 180
    Fat: 6 g (Saturated fat: 1 g)
    Sodium: 260 mg
    Carbs: 10 g (Fiber: 6 g, Sugar: <1 g)
    Protein: 21 g

    Impossible Ground Beef is one of the best-known plant-based meat substitutes on the market as it was one of the first meat substitutes to really taste like meat. As the ground "beef" is a flagship product for the company, many consumers didn't love the higher saturated fat counts and sodium levels. Therefore, Impossible unveiled their Lite Ground Beef last November, which was officially Heart-Check Certified by the American Heart Association with zero cholesterol and only 1 gram of saturated fat.

     15 Best Vegetarian Sources of Protein

    Best: Prime Roots' Cracked Pepper Koji Turkey

    Prime Roots' Cracked Pepper Koji Turkey
    Prime Roots
    Nutrition (Per 2 ounces):
    Calories: 80
    Fat: 2.5 g (Saturated fat: 0 g)
    Sodium: 380 mg
    Carbs: 8 g (Fiber: 5 g, Sugar: 1 g)
    Protein: 6 g

    For those of us who don't know exactly what Koji is, it's pretty simple: Koji is Japanese fungi with the texture of traditional meat that is free of any soy or gluten. Companies that specialize in meat substitutions have harnessed the power of this gut-healthy food, and with Prime Roots' Cracked Pepper Koji Turkey, you can still have your favorite deli sandwich without eating traditional meat.

    So whether or not you follow a vegan lifestyle, this choice contains a whopping 70% of your daily calcium needs and contains no saturated fat. If you have a hankering for deli meat but are trying to limit or avoid ultra-processed lunchmeats, Prime Roots is for you.

    Best: Abbot's Butcher Ground Chorizo

    box of Abbot's plant-based meat
    Nutrition (Per 1/2 cup):
    Calories: 140
    Fat: 6 g (Saturated fat: 1 g)
    Sodium: 570 mg
    Carbs: 6 g (Fiber: 2 g, Sugar: 1 g)
    Protein: 15 g

    Although Abbot's Butcher Ground "Chorizo" contains a bit more sodium than other plant-based meats on our list, we want to point out that this product has far less sodium than traditional chorizo, which can contain over 900 milligrams of sodium per the same half-cup portion.

    Due to the presence of salt within traditional methods of making—and spicing up—chorizo, sodium is simply the nature of the beast. However, by making swaps to plant-based options, you can reduce your sodium consumption drastically. Remember to always drink a lot of water throughout your meal to help you flush out excess salt.

     36 Best Vegan Proteins To Crush Cravings & Feel Full

    Best: Daring Original Plant Chicken Pieces

    Daring Original Plant Chicken Pieces
    Nutrition (Per 2.5 ounces):
    Calories: 90
    Fat: 2 g (Saturated fat: 0 g)
    Sodium: 400 mg
    Carbs: 5 g (Fiber: 5 g, Sugar: 0 g)
    Protein: 14 g

    Whatever your dietary habits, there's no use in arguing that chicken nuggets are delicious. However, if eating chicken nuggets compromises your morals and dietary restrictions, they can become a lot less appealing.

    All-star brands like Daring have introduced their line of Plant Chicken Pieces (we like the original for its versatility) which includes a whopping 14 grams of protein per 2.5 ounce serving and doesn't include any added sugars. Additionally, these nuggets contain 5 grams of fiber and make a great topping on salads or pasta—or you can eat them on their own with fries (we won't judge).

    Best: Upton's Naturals Original Jackfruit

    Upton's Naturals Original Jackfruit
    Upton's Naturals
    Nutrition (Per 2.65 ounces):
    Calories: 25
    Fat: 0 g (Saturated fat: 0 g)
    Sodium: 15 mg
    Carbs: 5 g (Fiber: 3 g, Sugar: <1 g)
    Protein: 1 g

    Jackfruit has skyrocketed in popularity due to its surprising similarity in texture to pulled chicken or pork. Most of us don't know how (or where) to pick a Jackfruit, so it's a great boon that companies like Upton's Naturals sell perfectly portioned jackfruit pieces for your next meal.

    Although jackfruit isn't very high in protein, you do receive 3 grams of fiber, 4% of your daily calcium needs, and 2% of both your iron and potassium needs. Check out their website for mouth-watering recipes such as "tuna" jackfruit and chickpea salad.

     11 Best Vegan Protein Powders for Building Muscle

    Best: Sweet Earth Taco Chik'n Plant-Based Pieces

    Sweet Earth Taco Chik'n Plant-Based Pieces
    Nutrition (Per 3/4 cup):
    Calories: 230
    Fat: 14 g (Saturated fat: 1 g)
    Sodium: 340 mg
    Carbs: 9 g (Fiber: 4 g, Sugar: 2 g)
    Protein: 16 g

    If you follow a plant-based diet but love a good taco, then Sweet Earth's Taco Chik'n Plant-Based Pieces are sure to be your new best friend. These soy-based chicken pieces are tossed with a taco-style sauce blend of cumin, onions, garlic, lime, and jalapeño.

    These plant-based chicken pieces are much lower in sodium than other taco-style brands at 340 milligrams per serving. Additionally, this "chicken" only contains 1 gram of added sugar and a whopping 20% of your daily potassium needs—a nutrient that's critical for fluid balance and proper muscle contractions.

    Best: MorningStar Veggie Original Sausage Patties

    MorningStar Veggie Original Sausage Patties
    MorningStar Farms
    Nutrition (Per 1 patty):
    Calories: 80
    Fat: 3 g (Saturated fat: 0 g)
    Sodium: 230 mg
    Carbs: 5 g (Fiber: 2 g, Sugar: <1 g)
    Protein: 9 g

    MorningStar is available at almost any big-name grocery store, often found nicely tucked between frozen veggies and ready-made meals. Morning Star's Veggie Original Sausage Patties are a great option for your heart-healthy breakfast with 9 grams of protein per patty and a relatively low sodium count of 230 milligrams as compared with pork sausage which can be anywhere up to 663 milligrams per severing for pan-fried Italian link sausages. Additionally, these patties provide 4% of your daily iron needs and no unnecessary saturated fats.

     7 Healthiest White Breads on Grocery Shelves—and 5 to Avoid

    Best: Beyond Burger Patty

    Beyond Burger Patty
    Beyond Meat
    Nutrition (Per 1 patty):
    Calories: 230
    Fat: 14 g (Saturated fat: 2 g)
    Sodium: 320 mg
    Carbs: 8 g (Fiber: 2 g, Sugar: 0 g)
    Protein: 21

    Beyond Meat has a history of controversy in the plant-based community due to its uncanny resemblance to meat in both look and texture. But for those who aren't deterred by Beyond Meat's juiciness, their plant-based burger is an easy alternative for your next cookout with 20 grams of protein per serving and 35% less fat than a 4-ounce patty of 80/20 ground beef.

    Additionally, each patty provides 100% of your daily B12 value, an essential nutrient in which it is easy for many plant-based consumers to be deficient, leading to some serious health risks.

    Best: LightLife Smart Bacon

    LightLife Smart Bacon
    Nutrition (Per 2 slices):
    Calories: 40
    Fat: 2 g (Saturated fat: 0 g)
    Sodium: 290 mg
    Carbs: <1 g (Fiber: 0 g, Sugar: 0 g)
    Protein: 5 g

    Bacon isn't traditionally the healthiest choice, as we all know, but with a plant-based alternative made by the likes of LightLife, your morning bacon fix doesn't have to come at a cost to your health. With no sugar, very little fat, and 5 grams of protein, these strips are certified vegan and made by a carbon-neutral company.

    Additionally, these "bacon" strips are much lower in sodium than traditional bacon. You may be asking how these can possibly taste good, but the answer is simple: smoke flavors derived from solely natural sources ( and all colorings are natural, too, as they are derived from paprika).

     15 Healthiest Nut Butters on Grocery Shelves

    Best: Gardein Plant-Based Meatballs

    Gardein Plant-Based Meatballs
    Nutrition (Per 3 meatballs):
    Calories: 160
    Fat: 7 g (Saturated fat: 0.5 g)
    Sodium: 370 mg
    Carbs: 9 g (Fiber: 3 g, Sugar: <1 g)
    Protein: 15 g

    Gardein is not only a plant-based meat company, but they founded the idea of "Meatless Mondays" in an effort to not only save precious resources but to promote health as overconsumption of red meat can lead to health concerns such as cardiovascular disease. These soy-based meatballs are packed with flavor as they're mixed with spices including onion powder, garlic powder, fennel, and crushed red pepper. As a bonus, one serving (3 meatballs) provides 10% of your daily iron needs, a nutrient that is essential to staving off iron deficiency which can lead to a slew of health concerns.

    3 Plant-Based Meats to Avoid

    Worst: Gardein Ultimate Plant-Based "Chick" Wings, BBQ

    Gardein Ultimate Plant-Based Chick'n Wings BBQ
    Nutrition (Per 6 pieces):
    Calories: 280
    Fat: 9 g (Saturated fat: 1 g)
    Sodium: 890 mg
    Carbs: 33 g (Fiber: 1 g, Sugar: 13 g)
    Protein: 17 g

    Although Gardein makes some pretty great plant-based meat products (see the meatballs above), some of their products simply don't make the cut. Gardein's Ultimate Plant-Based "Chick'" BBQ Wings are loaded with sodium at a whopping 890 milligrams, and as the AHA recommends no more than 2,300 milligrams per sodium per day for the average healthy adult, you're nearly using up half your daily allotment in just 6 pieces. Additionally, these wings contain 9 grams of added sugar—or 18% of your daily value—thoroughly diminishing the nutritional value of these wings.

     The 30 Unhealthiest Snacks on the Planet

    Worst: Quorn Meatless Gourmet Burgers

    Quorn Meatless Gourmet Burgers
    Nutrition (Per 1 burger):
    Calories: 130
    Fat: 7 g (Saturated fat: 2.5 g)
    Sodium: 460 mg
    Carbs: 8 g (Fiber: 3 g, Sugar: 1 g)
    Protein: 10 g

    While Quorn's Meatless Gourmet Burgers may not be necessarily "bad," (although we don't love the amount of palm oil therein due to environmental concerns), we want to point out that many of Quorn's products are vegetarian rather than vegan.

    This can be a serious pitfall for those following a vegan diet or for those who have allergies and don't double-check the packaging. Many of Quorn's products contain both milk and eggs with egg white as the second ingredient. Therefore, we want to flag this product as many vegan consumers may opt for these burgers without first reading the fine print.

    Worst: MorningStar Farms Veggie Corn Dogs

    MorningStar Farms Veggie Corn Dogs
    MorningStar Farms
    Nutrition (Per 1 corn dog):
    Calories: 140
    Fat: 2.5 g (Saturated fat: 0 g)
    Sodium: 480 mg
    Carbs: 24 g (Fiber: <1 g, Sugar: 7 g)
    Protein: 6 g

    MorningStar does make some top-quality meatless options, but their Veggie Corn Dogs don't make our A-list due to their low fiber content and simultaneously high sugar count with 7 grams of added sugar. With just one corn dog, which isn't too large to begin with, you're ingesting 480 milligrams of sodium.

    To be fair, no one ever ate a corn dog with the idea that it was healthy for them, so we're certainly not going to judge if you indulge. Just keep in mind that these corn dogs don't have a high nutritional payoff, and other meat substitutes contain far more protein, which will help keep you better satiated.

    Lauren Manaker MS, RDN, LD, CLEC
    Lauren Manaker is an award-winning registered dietitian, book author, and recipe developer who has been in practice for almost 20 years. Read more about Lauren
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