How fake meat alternatives compare nutrition-wise to real meat

Chick'n free chicken. Not going to lie, I've tried it, and I love it.

Banana 'ice cream', cashew 'cheesecake', tofu 'turkey' (tofu-key); these substitutes are proving to be as trendy as biodegradable glitter at a music festival.

When I ordered a side of 'chicken' at a vegan restaurant, I was gobsmacked after trying this greasy looking brown thing - it ACTUALLY tasted better than KFC.

Big call as a meat lover, I know.

MP Nathan Guy expressed his disappointment in Air NZ after they launched a "GE [genetically engineered] substitute meat burger". 

The airline announced on Tuesday that for the next three months, it would be serving a fake meat burger to business premier customers on some flights.

Good for them, great for non-meat eaters.

But let's see if this burger offers the same amount of nutrients as real, lean meat.

The Impossible Burger - 85g patty

  • Calories: 220
  • Fat: 13g
  • Carbs: 5g
  • Protein 20g

Beef (ground, 85 percent lean) - 85g

  • Calories: 212
  • Fat: 13g
  • Carbs: 0g
  • Protein: 22g

Beef has slightly more protein and no carbohydrates compared to the impossible burger patty.

Let's unravel their ingredients list:

  • Water

Water is used to keep it moist.

  • Textured wheat protein

Textured wheat protein is an extraction from wheat. It is often processed and used as a plant-based alternative.

  • Coconut oil

Coconut oil is a trendy 'superfood.' Yes, it can be part of a healthy diet, but experts warn it is high in saturated fat (higher than butter).

  • Potato protein

Potato protein is an extracted product of potato starch.

  • Natural flavours

Natural flavours are usually added to make the food taste more appealing, or to potentially replace something that is lost through processing.

  • Leghemoglobin (soy)

Big word, I know. Leghemoglobin (heme) is found in soy roots and acts as a 'meat' colouring.

  • Yeast Extract

Yeast extract produces a salty or 'umami' flavour.

  • Salt

Similar to the above.

  • Konjac Gum

Konjac gum acts as a thickening agent.

  • Xanthan gum

Xanthan gum is another additive that binds food products.

  • Soy protein isolate

Soy protein isolate is a dry powder derived from soybeans.

  • Vitamin E, Vitamin C, Thiamin (Vitamin B1), Zinc, Niacin, Vitamin B6, Riboflavin (Vitamin B2), Vitamin B12

These vitamins and minerals are additional ingredients added to the patty.

Registered clinical nutritionist Natalie Brady says, "It is often difficult to find sufficient levels of vitamins and minerals in vegetarian sources."

Fresh lean beef, on the other hand, contains Vitamin E, Thiamin (Vitamin B1), Zinc, Niacin, Vitamin B6, Riboflavin (Vitamin B2) as well as Vitamin B12, without these additional ingredients.

Meat alternatives are great if you're meat-free and craving the taste of protein. But unfortunately these options don't naturally contain as much protein and nutrients as a piece of lean meat - not yet anyway.