Switching to a vegan diet can be difficult to adjust to, especially when it comes to meeting your protein and iron goals. Whether you are going fully vegan or just implementing vegan days into your week, it is important that you enjoy the diet in a healthy way. It is well known by now that veganism is great for the environment and beneficial for animal welfare, so many of us are trying to expand our diets to incorporate more plant-based meat alternatives instead of meat.
As a result, it is important you know how to eat healthily on a vegan diet! Plant-based chicken is a staple item that can replace your chicken consumption. With so many plant-based chicken options available, we have dedicated this blog post to establishing the best and healthiest choices when it comes to vegan chicken.
What is Plant Based Chicken?
Plant-based chicken is a chicken substitute prepared with a mixture of plant materials to imitate the taste, texture, and appearance of real chicken. Mostly wholesome plant proteins are used to mimic the protein in real chicken and provide the same, or better nutritional benefits.
These vegan chicken options seek to replace the bulkiness of real chicken in dishes, in order to fulfill hunger and reach nutritional guidelines. For example, vegan chicken is available as veggie burgers, deli slices, and plant-based buffalo wings to name just a few options. Most manufactured plant-based options can be found in the freezer aisle in nearly all grocery stores around the world.
Is Plant Based Chicken Healthy?
Plant-based chicken has more nutritional benefits than real chicken, making it the healthier option! However, this does depend on the quantity you eat, what the plant-based chicken is made out of, as well as how you choose to cook it. Generally, plant-based products contain less saturated fat than meat, which will be beneficial to those suffering from certain types of cancers, heart disease, and high blood pressure.
Nowadays, most plant-based chicken options are made using pea protein as opposed to soya, the former main ingredient in the vegan versions of meat products. Pea protein is much healthier than both soy and chicken due to its high iron and protein content. It also differs from soy as it contains nine essential amino acids, showing that some plant-based forms of chicken can be healthier than others despite both being vegan.
What Does Plant Based Chicken Taste Like?
Chicken as a flavor is very easy to imitate due to its mild, savory flavor. Due to this, most companies use a combination of protein, wheat, gluten, and soya to create the meaty texture of the chicken. Ultimately, the taste of plant-based chicken often depends on how it is seasoned as many cite plant-based chicken alternatives as rather plain tasting in their original form. As a result of this, plant-based food companies often add spice or smokiness to their products to emulate the meaty taste of eating chicken.
Does Plant Based Chicken Help the Environment?
There are various ways by which consuming plant-based chicken instead of real chicken affects the planet and people.
- A study by the United Nations Environment Assembly concluded that plant-based burgers need a lot less water to make when compared to beef burgers. In fact, plant-based burgers require between 75 – 99% less water!
Reduces Carbon Footprint
- As the demand for meat reduces, so will the need for slaughterhouses. Poultry slaughterhouses often have large carbon footprints due to their release of nitrates and harmful emissions into the environment.
Reduces Impact of Climate Change
- Plant-based chicken helps to reduce the impact of climate change by using less water and emitting less toxic gases into the environment.
- Reducing demand for animal products is important as studies show that animal farming and agriculture contribute around 18% of all greenhouse gases.
Minimizes Agricultural Land Use
- If fewer people eat meat, the demand for it falls. This means that less land is being disturbed to make room for agricultural use - allowing nature to run its course.
Saves Lives (Literally!)
- Throughout the year, around 74 billion animals are bred to be slaughtered for human consumption. Most of these animals are chickens and some live in horrific conditions before they are killed.
- In the US alone, around 9 billion chickens and turkeys are killed every year. By not buying as much meat, the demand for this slaughter decreases.
Risks of Consuming Meat
The following are the risks associated with consuming chicken and meat in general. These are as follows:
High Cholesterol, Heart Disease, and Diabetes
- A study in the US found that in comparison to people who ate less meat, men consuming the highest amount of meat were 27% more likely to die from cardiovascular diseases. For women, the highest meat consumers increased their risk by 50% compared to women who ate little to no meat.
- There are several microbes in meat that can be toxic to the body if they are not cooked out properly. Most notably, escherichia coli and salmonella are found in meat products. These can cause a massive disturbance to the microbes in your body and can make you very sick. In some severe cases, death may occur.
- Processed meats are considered to be high-class carcinogens, which are groups of food that are known to cause cancer. These types of meat, including sausages, ham, and bacon, have been linked to increasing the risk of bowel cancer.
- Meats have a high level of saturated fat, which when consumed in large portions, can lead to weight gain and obesity.
- If meat is not cooked correctly, it can cause food poisoning. Food poisoning can include vomiting, nausea, dehydration, and diarrhea. Most plant-based foods do not cause food poisoning like meat can!
Might Contribute to Erectile Dysfunction in Men
- The more that a person eats meat, the more likely their arteries will become clogged. This affects how blood is transported around the body and can slow this process down. Due to this, there is medical research that suggests that eating meat does contribute to erectile dysfunction in men, as there is a lack of blood flow.
May Increase Resistance to Antibiotics
- Research shows that the more you handle and eat meat, the more chance you have of picking up bacteria from the animals. As most farmed animals are fed antibiotics to prevent diseases, it is likely that once this bacteria has transferred to humans, they become increasingly resistant to antibiotics. This can have a devastating impact on your health, as antibiotics will not work to cure you in the same way as they once did.
How to Choose the Best Alternative To Chicken?
There are many great plant-based alternatives to eating chicken, but which one best suits you depends on your individual tastes and preferences. We have listed below the most commonly used vegan chicken alternatives that are found in grocery stores and used in vegan restaurants!
Tofu is a low-calorie source of protein that works well with a wide range of spices, which makes it extremely adaptable for nearly every type of meal. Tofu is available to buy in smoked and marinated flavors, as well as pre-mixed with a range of spices. Made out of dried soybeans, tofu has less saturated fat than chicken. In terms of nutrition, 100 grams of tofu contains a healthy 8 grams of protein and 4.8 grams of total fat with only 76 calories.
Tofu is often used in stir-fries to replace the chicken, and can also be deep-fried for a makeshift plant-based version of more traditional chicken nuggets.
Did you know that seitan is actually the protein found in wheat? Seitan is a very popular chicken alternative due to its texture and looks which, in its final form, is very similar to actual meat. Seitan is often found in stores in a burger patty form, but can also come as lunch meat as well as vegan-friendly fried chicken.
100 grams of seitan contains 370 calories, 1.9 grams of fat, and 75 grams of protein. Seitan is also a great source of iron - an essential vitamin that many vegans initially lack when they first give up meat and animal products. As seitan is essentially wheat, it is not suitable for anyone who is gluten-free.
Tempeh is a great chicken substitute for those who are particularly health-conscious or suffer from symptoms of IBS. Tempeh is made from fermented soya beans and is very light on the digestive system. This is due to its high nutritional content, with 100 grams of tempeh containing a great 19 grams of protein. Tempeh also contains approximately 20% of your desired daily intake of magnesium and 15% of your daily iron intake.
With just 157 calories in 100 grams of jackfruit, tropical fruit is a very healthy meat substitute. Many have likened the texture of jackfruit to meat, so it is a very popular plant-based meat alternative especially in burgers and steaks. Most companies add a smoky and lightly seasoned flavor to jackfruit to add an essence of BBQ-style meat.
Jackfruit is also great for people with high blood pressure, as it contains 2.84 grams of protein and 1.06 grams of fat. As well as being a fantastic source of vitamin C, 100 grams of jackfruit also contains 48 mg of magnesium and a whopping 739 mg of potassium!
Eggplant is another healthy alternative to meat due to its bulkiness and low-calorie content, making it great for those wanting to lose weight. As eggplant is a vegetable that is high in fiber, it will be more filling throughout the day. As it is non-starchy, eggplant can be great plant-based food for those following a vegan keto diet. Many vegan recipes use eggplant too, so you will never be unsure about how to incorporate it into your diet!
Mushrooms are a very common vegan chicken substitute and are used in a range of ways to replace meat. From mushroom-based burgers to mushroom curries, this vegetable can offer many healthy meals suitable for a vegan diet.
Mushrooms contain a wealth of minerals and are a great source of B12 and B6, which are often found to be lacking in people following a vegan or plant-based diet. With their high levels of zinc, mushrooms are also great for replenishing your hair, skin, and nails!
Cauliflower is an incredibly versatile ingredient for vegan people, from replacing chicken in curry-style dishes to being the main ingredient for vegan-friendly pizza bases - there are even recipes out there for cauliflower steaks! With only 25 calories per 100 grams of cauliflower, it is a great food to eat when trying to lose weight. It also has just 5 grams of carbohydrates with no fat content. Instead, cauliflower boasts 100% of your daily recommended dose of vitamin C which is important for improving your immune system.
Cauliflower is most notably used in popular culture as the main vegan alternative to chicken wings. As such, they have been dubbed as cauliflower buffalo wings with a crispy and golden finish.
Plant Based Proper Good Meals
While Proper Good may not sell plant-based chicken meals, it does sell a range of delicious plant-based "meat" meals. These meals are quick and easy to make, providing a great burst of energy that will keep you satisfied throughout the day. Our packs will ensure that you have enough plant-based meals to keep you motivated on your vegan journey.
In summary, plant-based meat alternatives are great for reducing your consumption of animal products whilst helping the environment as well as your own health! If you need some help on your vegan journey, Proper Good provides delicious plant-based ready-to-eat meals in 90 seconds with minimal effort required. Our products use functional clean ingredients and zero sugar! Proper Good also provides various subscriptions and several other programs that offer discounts.