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Top Meat Alternatives: 25+ Nutritious Picks for Health

Whatever your reasons – ethical, environmental, or personal health – there’s never been a better time to cut your meat consumption. Plant-based diets have increased in popularity over the years, and now vegetarians and vegans have more choice than ever when shopping for groceries or eating out. 

Luckily, cutting down on meat and fish doesn’t have to mean cutting out taste or nutrition. There are plenty of plant-based proteins out there – if you know where to look – and the selection of tasty meat substitutes is growing fast, with more options than ever to replace meat in your favorite dishes.

So, what should you be swapping in? I’ve rounded up 25+ of the best healthy plant proteins and meat alternatives, so you can keep on creating the meals you love without sacrificing flavor. 

Vegans, veggies, and flexitarians…read on for some plant-powered inspiration!

Natural Plant-Based Meat Alternatives

Plant-based protein sources are a great way to keep full and stick to your nutritional goals without meat in your arsenal.

I’ve created the following list of plant proteins that are typically high in protein and fiber to bulk out your meals, while still providing lots of the vitamins and minerals your body needs. These are among some of the healthiest options on my list as they’re completely unprocessed and can be used in their natural form when cooking. That means you’ll get your protein fix while adding to your 5 a day at the same time.

Rather than mimicking meat products, such as steaks, sausages, burgers, or mince, these natural plant proteins include plenty of leafy greens, pulses, nuts, seeds, and soy.


Lentils may look small, but they're little protein powerhouses. They’ve got about 25g of protein packed into every 100g, and they only clock in at about 115 calories. Not only that but they're also loaded with fiber and slow carbs, which keep your energy up and running. They’re loaded with good stuff like iron and potassium while staying super low in fat. 

You'll find them hanging out in the dry food or pantry aisle at your local grocery store. They come canned in water, dry, or even frozen (which I find the handiest). If you're going for the canned option, try to pick the ones in unsalted water, it's a smart way to keep your sodium levels in check.

One of the best things about lentils is that they’re so versatile. They come in different colors, each with its own unique flavor. You can mix them into a tasty curry, chuck them into a shepherd's pie, or, if you're feeling particularly creative in the kitchen, try whipping up your own lentil burgers!


Black-eyed, black, kidney, cannellini – there's a whole world of beans out there waiting for you. They’re a great way to bulk out dishes like chilis and stews where you’d usually reach for ground mince – or you can add them to soups and salads for a little extra texture.

You'll usually find beans in the dry goods section. They come canned, dry, or frozen, which gives them a really long shelf-life compared to a lot of meat. If you pick up the canned ones, you'll need to drain them before you get cooking. A pro tip: don't toss the drained water! You can often use it as a broth to create a tasty sauce.

Beans aren’t just versatile (and affordable), they're super healthy, too. Like most legumes, beans are packed with a ton of fiber and nutrients. With a high protein and low-fat content, beans are the perfect way to amp up the nutritional value and flavor in your go-to recipes.


Chickpeas are another perfect pantry staple. Although probably most well known as the main ingredient of hummus, chickpeas can be used in various ways. Think curries, burgers, falafel, and even brownies.

Compared to other legumes, chickpeas are considerably higher in calories. When canned, they’re also much higher in sodium than other options, so probably not best if you need to keep your salt intake low. However, they’re very high in fiber and protein, helping keep you fuller for longer.

Most chickpeas contain around 20g of protein per 100g. If you’re a regular gym-goer and still need your protein fix, they’re a reliable option for your meals. 


When cooked the right way, Jackfruit falls apart to create a similar texture to “pulled” meats like pulled pork and chicken. The texture is ideal for dishes where you want to feel like you’re eating meat. 

As its name suggests, jackfruit is a fruit, not a vegetable, but it’s not sweet. I don’t find it has a particularly strong flavor, so it works best when you’re cooking dishes with powerful spices and sauces. It’s perfect in curries, burritos, fajitas, and slow-cooker meals that you’d usually make with chicken.

Being a fruit, Jackfruit is quite high in carbohydrates and sugars, so it might not be suitable for those with diabetes. Per 100g, you’ll get around 38g of carbohydrates and 32g of sugar. These are natural rather than refined sugars, so you can still work jackfruit into your meals as part of a balanced diet.


Edamame is a type of soybean that’s often found in Asian cuisines, such as stir-fries and ramen. They make an excellent low-carb snack with a side of soy sauce. If you’re eating out and they’re served in the pods, simply squeeze the beans out and discard the tough, chewy exterior. 

Edamame beans are a great source of soy protein, with around 11g of protein per 100g. Aside from plenty of essential vitamins and minerals like antioxidants and vitamin K, edamame soybeans contain around 20% of your daily recommended fiber intake.

Nuts & Seeds

Nuts, nut butters, and seeds are an easy way to increase the nutritional value of your foods and keep your energy levels high. Sprinkle over your breakfast to add some extra crunch, or stir some peanut butter into a curry for extra texture and flavor.

For more protein, opt for peanuts, walnuts, and almonds, as these contain more per gram than other options. 

Nuts and seeds are notoriously high in fat and calories, however, so it’s important not to overconsume them. Try to stay away from nuts that have added salt, too. Or, if you do buy salted nuts, eat them in moderation rather than making them a staple part of your meals.

Nut butters can also be full of extra preservatives and sugar, so make sure you go for healthier options. Look for nut butters that are 100% natural and palm oil-free. 

Green Spelt

Spelt is a cultivated grain that’s harvested early and dried over a wood fire to give it an earthy, smoky flavor. 

It’s similar to quinoa in appearance, and is an excellent source of protein, fiber, and carbohydrates. Green spelt is also full of vitamins, especially vitamin B and phosphorus. 

If you’re a lover of soups and stews, green spelt makes an excellent addition to add nutrients. You can also eat green spelt as a side dish, in salads for extra crunch, or crushed to make patties and burgers.

Green Vegetables

Many of us may have memories of being forced to “eat our greens” as kids, but there’s a good reason! Certain leafy greens like spinach and kale are ideal ingredients for adding nutrition and bulk to dishes. They’re not just packed with goodness, they’re incredibly low in carbohydrates, too, which is ideal if you’re following a ketogenic diet.

Leafy greens can taste a bit bitter if eaten raw, but they can be a delicious addition to a variety of sweet and savory dishes. For example, try blending with fruit in an early morning smoothie or stirring into stews and curries.

Other greens such as broccoli are another excellent source of nutrients. It’s best to lightly boil or steam-cook broccoli to retain as many nutrients as possible.

Soy Protein

Soy protein is extracted from soybeans and usually sold as chunks, making it a great meat substitute in your favorite dishes. It consists of dehydrated soya and is commonly sold as mince, in cutlets, or even balls.

It’s ideal in meat-heavy dishes such as pasta, burgers, and burritos. Although it’s quite plain, you can easily add marinades and seasoning to suit your palate and create more flavor.

Soy protein is high in nutrients and packed full of protein and fiber. In fact, 100g contains around 15g of protein. 

If you have any allergies or intolerances to soy or wheat, it’s best to avoid soy protein. While it’s gluten-free, other soy protein powders (with additives) and soy foods may contain wheat and other grains. Too much soy also isn’t ideal for anyone with thyroid issues.

Lupin Protein

Lupin protein is made from the lupin bean, and it’s incredibly high in protein and fiber. Per 100g, there’s around 40g of carbohydrates and 36g of protein — more than many actual meat sources.

You can often buy lupin protein as a powder, which is excellent for adding to smoothies or stirring through porridge and yogurt. Your local grocery store may also sell lupin beans that you can blend and smash yourself to create savory dishes, including cutlets, kebabs, and burgers.

Pea Protein

Pea protein is an extract from split peas. You can either buy the split peas themselves in the pantry aisle, or opt for the ground pea protein powder. That also means you can add pea protein to both sweet and savory dishes, whether a smoothie or a veggie-packed curry.

Split peas are low in fat and carbohydrate but high in protein and fiber, making them a perfect meat substitute. It also means they’re ideal for anyone following a low-carb, plant-based diet.

Processed Plant-Based Meat Alternatives

Processed plant-based meat alternatives will appeal to anyone who wants to enjoy a classic dish like burgers or meatballs – but without the meat.

While these products still use plant-based ingredients, these foods are processed to create new food types (i.e., tofu) or sold as imitations of well-known meat products, such as veggie sausages. 

Some of them try to recreate the texture of meat, while others have their own unique taste but are made as a straightforward swap for the meat element in certain dishes.


Tofu is a source of soy protein that’s sold in blocks. It has a firm texture and is typically used in Asian dishes to imitate meat pieces.  

It’s low-calorie and very porous, making it ideal for seasoning and marinades. You can actually buy tofu in many different flavors and styles, including smoked and breaded.

While primarily used for stir-fries and rice dishes, and nuggets, and can be added to salads. At around 8g of protein and 2g of carbohydrates per 100g, it’s an excellent meat alternative. It’s also quite low fat, with about 6g per 100g.


Tempeh is similar in texture to tofu and is also made from soybeans. However, it’s more poignant in flavor, so it’s better for eating on its own than for seasoning. It’s also higher in protein, fat, fiber, iron, and potassium than tofu, with around 20g of protein per 100g.

Pair tempeh with salads, pasta dishes, tacos, stir-fries, and grain bowls to make the most of its nutty flavor. You can also fry, grill, and bake tempeh, so it gives you plenty of variety in the kitchen.


Seitan is commonly known as “wheat meat,” and unlike tofu and tempeh, it’s made with wheat rather than soy. For that reason, it’s best avoided if you have celiac disease or any gluten intolerances or allergies.

It’s incredibly high in protein, perfect for anyone needing to up their daily intake while cutting out meat. There’s around 75g of protein per 100g, yet less than 1g of fat, making it a lean option, too.

Seitan is perfect in meaty dishes, including chili, gyros, fajitas, and burgers. You can even season seitan and serve it on its own as a steak-style dish.

Veggie Burgers & Sausages

Veggie burgers and sausages are typically a blend of different plant-based foods, and can either be homemade or shop-bought. Usually, they include a mixture of ingredients such as black beans, sweet potato, tofu, greens, soy protein, and others.

They’re an excellent alternative to meat, so you never have to miss out on enjoying sumptuous burgers. Most veggie burgers are quite high in protein, typically containing around 11g of protein per 100g. Depending on the ingredients used, they can also be low carb or low fat.

Sausages usually have an even higher protein content, but can be heavy in carbohydrates.

Vegetarian Bites

Like burgers, vegetarian bites are designed to substitute another meaty favorite — chicken nuggets.

You can make these yourself with tofu and coat them in breadcrumbs, or buy them from your local grocery store. Usually, they include plenty of greens and other vegetables, alongside a protein ingredient such as lupin or soy.

Vegetarian bites are typically higher in carbohydrates, and lower in protein and fat, thanks to the breadcrumbs or other coatings used. 

If you buy rather than home bake, be sure to check the ingredients list first. Sometimes they can come with hidden preservatives and additives. While this might add some taste, it’s not ideal for your health.

Imitation Meat Products

For those that still want to enjoy the taste and texture of meat while swapping it out for plant-based alternatives, imitation meat is a viable option.

Imitation meat substitutes are designed to taste, look, and even smell like meat, so much so that you could be eating the actual meat itself. They’re more processed than natural, plant-based ingredients, but still come with high protein content and a variety of other nutrients. And there are plenty of different, well-known brands on the market.


Quorn meat alternatives have been around for a long time. And they’re probably one of the most popular imitation meat options.

There’s a huge variety of products, including everything from substitute meat slices and nuggets, to sausage rolls, mince, and burgers.

In some grocery stores, you can even buy Quorn ready meals already prepared for you, which saves you some hassle in the kitchen, too. The majority of foods are also frozen.

Quorn ingredients are typically high in protein and soy-free, but some options are also fairly high in fat and should be enjoyed in moderation. Some Quorn products are also not vegan, so check the labels before buying. 

*Beyond Meat

Beyond Meat is a plant-based meat substitute that’s fast-growing in popularity. It offers a variety of meat options, including mince, sausages, and burgers, all of which are frozen for ease.

One of the best things about Beyond Meat is that all ingredients are kosher and gluten-free. They also use pea protein rather than soy, with extra vitamins and minerals such as vitamin B, zinc, and calcium to give you more nutrients.

As with most imitation meat options, Beyond Meat includes plenty of protein, moderate fat content, and lower carbohydrates. While not as much fiber as purely plant-based ingredients, you can still get 2g of fiber from one burger.


If you favor white meat over red, Tofurky is an excellent substitute. It offers a range of sausages, deli slices, seasoned “Chick’n,” and much more — all of which you can buy frozen or refrigerated, depending on the product.

Tofurky caters to different allergies and sensitivities, so you can buy gluten-free, wheat-free, and nut-free products. It uses soy protein in most of its products, and even offers some tempeh-based ingredients.

Most products are highly flavored and seasoned, making them ideal for sandwiches, wraps, and salads. And they’re much higher in protein than some other imitation meat products.


Gardein offers vegan and plant-based meat substitutes for chicken, beef, fish, and others. 

The range includes burgers, meatballs, sausages, nuggets, and fishless fillets. You can even buy plant-based jerky in a variety of different flavors.

Some plant-based, high-protein soups and chilis are available, which come pre-prepared in tin cans that are great for grab n go.

Gardein foods are made with soy and pea protein, alongside various other ingredients, including wheat, cornflour, and gluten. And, as Gardein is a vegan company, all their products are dairy-free, too — ideal if you’re lactose intolerant.


Vivera has a range of fresh, kebab-style meat alternatives that can also be used in shredded meat recipes. It also offers mince, burgers, meatballs, goujons, and other popular meatless products.

All of Vivera’s products use a combination of wheat and soy protein, alongside added nutrients including vitamin B12 and iron to replicate meat. 

The fat content can be quite high in some of Vivera’s products, especially the meatless chicken breasts. But they’re all quite low-carb, so a good option for ketogenic dieters. 


Impossible designed its range of plant-based meat imitation products to taste just like beef, chicken, pork, and sausage. 

Its latest specialty is ground pork, ideal for tacos, burritos, and chili. But you can buy a variety of fresh and frozen meat, from ground meatless mince to patties and nuggets.

Impossible’s products are low in sugar and fat, yet high in protein and fiber. Most contain soy protein as the main ingredient with a mixture of herbs and spices.


Simulate® is best known for its tasty, meatless chicken nuggets. They offer more protein than a typical chicken nugget, plus less cholesterol and fat.

Available in spicy and plain, Simulate® chicken nuggets use soy and wheat-based protein to offer 13g of protein per serving. They are available frozen, so you can order them online and have them delivered to your door.


MorningStar is an excellent option for ex-chorizo lovers. One of its best products is the chorizo crumble, which has the same taste and texture as pork chorizo, minus the meat.

There are also various other products to choose from, including sausage patties, burgers, veggie dogs, and popcorn chick’n. You can even buy a meat alternative to corn dogs.

As with most imitation meat options, MorningStar uses a mixture of soy and pea protein to keep protein content high in its products. While not as high protein as other meat-free options, Morning Star’s meat alternatives are very low fat. Even the patties have less than 3g of fat per serving.

Redefine Meat™

Redefine Meat™ has a great choice of red meat imitation products, including kebabs, burgers, sausages, and ground beef. All products are GMO-free, with no added preservatives, mainly using soy protein to replicate the protein content of meat dishes.

Redefine Meat™ focuses heavily on imitating meat texture and taste, so much so that you can’t actually taste the difference. Each of their products is made using a combination of high-level technology and science, including 3D printing (yes, they 3D print your steaks), to give you the exact same plate of food without the animal protein.

However, most Redefine Meat™ products contain gluten and pine nuts, so be wary if you have allergies or intolerances to either of these ingredients.

Is Cultured Meat the Future?

Cultured meat is the newest innovation on the traditional meat alternatives scene. However, it’s slightly different from other alternatives, and the technology is still in the early stages of development.

Cultured meat is actually meat, but without the slaughter element. It’s grown in laboratories using cultured animal muscle cells, meaning that animals suffer and die in order for us to eat it. For this reason, it’s growing in popularity amongst consumers that want to eat meat more sustainably, but don’t want to cut it out altogether.

Although it’s not yet available to buy, you’ll likely be seeing cultured meat on the shelves in your local grocery store soon. But for now, you’ll have to stick to your plant-based alternatives.

Same Taste, Same Flavor… Or Better?

There are lots of options out there for replacing meat in your diet. You can swap in natural plant proteins to recreate your favorite dishes in a healthier way, or you can trade in imitation meat substitutes that taste and feel just like the real thing. 

Some of the alternatives I’ve recommended have an even higher protein content than the original meat options, not to mention less fat and cholesterol. Many include a range of vitamins and minerals, so you can stick to a balanced diet, even without animal products.

If you don’t fancy scouring the grocery store for these ingredients, you can get plant-based meals delivered straight to your home. We found the best vegan and vegetarian delivery services out there in 2024. They’re great if you’re brand new to plant-based eating, or even if you’re a long-term vegan who needs some new ideas!

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