Plant-Based Alternative Beef? Is it really healthier?

by | Jul 17, 2019 | Healthy eating

Move over beef and make room for plant-based meat alternative beef, both competing for your health and food budget! Have you noticed the influx of plant-based alternative beef as the most recent menu addition to the fast food industry? Have you heard the marketing or seen the commercials? They are quite hard to miss, but in case you did not notice or are wondering which is healthier, here is my opinion of where Beyond Meat (BYM) plant-based meat alternative beef products fit in with a healthy diet. 


Where’s the Beef? 


Beef has become the enemy to the environment and enemy of our health. Beyond Meat’s vision is to create an alternative that is healthy and environmentally sustainable. Free of soy and gluten which are common allergens found in other plant based alternative beef products. As well free from genetically modified organisms (GMOs) which are labelled as bad for our health. Beyond Meat started with the simple question, “can we create “meat” directly from plants? Can we create a true copy cat of beef?”


Yes, they can, and they did.


But is it truly healthier than beef? To answer this question, let’s start by reviewing the nutrition facts.


Comparing Lean Beef to Beyond Meat

plant based alternative beef

1. Always begin with checking the serving size to ensure you are comparing identical amounts. 


In this case, the lean ground beef serving size is 100 grams, and the Beyond Meat Burger (BYM) is 113 grams. If you want to compare numbers accurately, you would have to multiply the lean beef burger by 13% or 1.13.


When servings sizes differ, you can always look at the % of daily value to make your decision. The Percent Daily Value (%DV) is a guide to help you make informed food choices based on either the recommended daily intake for vitamins and minerals or specific nutritient reference standards. It tells you if the serving size has a little or a lot of a nutrient.


2. Scan the numbers to see which nutrients are higher or lower in each product.


Think about what nutrients matter to your health. Which nutrients do you want or need more? And which nutrients do you want or need less in your diet? In this example, let’s compare a few key nutrients:

  • Fat – The lean beef is slightly lower in fat.
  • Carbohydrate – The BYM burger has 6g, which includes 2g of Fibre, and the lean ground beef has 0 carbohydrates.
  • Protein – The beef has more protein because even though both say 20 grams of protein, the serving sizes are not identical.
  • Cholesterol – The BYM has 0 cholesterol, while the Beef has 60 mg.
  • Sodium – The BYM burger has significantly more sodium than the beef. 
  • Iron – BYM has more Iron than the beef, but it is important to note that there are two types of Iron: heme and non-heme Iron, and non-heme Iron is less absorbed. So even though there is more Iron in the BYM burger, it is less available for your body to use since plant-based Iron is the non-heme type. To help increase absorption, consume plant-based products with a good source of Vitamin C. 
  • Which brings to the next comparison, the BYM burger has 30% of the daily value of Vitamin C, while there is none in the beef. 
  • All other nutrients – the BYM burger has more nutrients listed on the label, but that does not mean that the beef burger has none of those ingredients. The beef label contains the required amount of nutrition facts required by law. The BYM goes beyond the requirements as a marketing tool to show you that it contains many nutrients for your daily health requirements.


3. Check the ingredients list. 


Beef has one ingredient, so there will not be a list of ingredients. The BYM has several ingredients. It is important to always review the ingredient list if you have any food allergies or sensitivities. Beef may be simple, being only one ingredient and its substitute has several, but in reality, unless you are preparing a burger from scratch, you always want to check the ingredients.


What’s the verdict? Which product is “healthier” for you? 


It depends on your version of health. BYM has created a plant-based product that is comparable in terms of the taste and nutrition profile to beef. The answer to which one is truly better for you will depend on your nutritional needs and taste preference. The macronutrient (protein, fat, and carbohydrate) profiles are fairly close, as is the calorie count. The most significant difference is the amount of sodium and cholesterol. If you are watching your sodium level because of your blood pressure or medical condition, then you want to keep an eye on your daily sodium and cholesterol intake. If not, then, in my opinion, both burgers are comparable and can be interchanged in a “healthy diet” from purely the burger patty perspective.


Comparison of BYM products as an alternative to Beef or Pork in some fast-food chains.  


1. A&W BYM and the A&W Teen Burger 


BYM BurgerTeen BurgerDifference
Calories (kcal)500500
Fat (g)29263
Carbohydrate (g)4039
Protein (g)2225-3
Cholesterol (mg)070
Sodium (mg)1110910200


When comparing A&W’s BYM Burger to the beef Teen Burger, the calorie amounts are identical in the two products. The differences in macronutrients are not significant. The question here is whether the small differences in the number of protein is an issue for your health. If so, I would choose that way. If not, then I would suggest choosing based on taste preference. Either way, both products are fast food, highly processed, and high in sodium and should be consumed less frequently. 


Tim Horton’s sausage, egg and cheese breakfast sandwich: Sausage patty versus BYM patty


Tim Horton’s Sausage, egg and cheese breakfast sandwich
Calories (kcal)430500 -70
Fat (g)2433-9
Carbohydrate (g)3133-2
Protein (g)24195
Cholesterol (mg)18017010
Sodium (mg)8301030-200


When comparing the two breakfast sandwiches, you will notice there are more differences. The BYM burger has fewer calories, less fat, more protein, less sodium, and more Iron. Based on the nutrition profile comparison, the BYM looks like a healthier choice. If you wanted a balanced breakfast sandwich that is lower in calories and fat, then this would be the better choice for you. But, if you already eat a balanced diet and are enjoying this breakfast sandwich as a treat or infrequently, then I would say go for the real thing. 


Plant-Based Alternative Beef Versus Animal Beef – The Bottom Line


  1. Is BYM healthy? Yes. But, as always, everything in moderation. The plant-based alternative industry is still “manipulating” plant-based ingredients to achieve the nutrition profile comparable to beef.  Do you need that much Iron?
  2. Do I need to stop eating beef burgers? No. But if you are a frequent eater of fast food meals or even someone who finds themselves at a food chain, let’s say on a road trip, it is refreshing to know that there is an appropriate alternative.
  3. Variety and balance are key. I know people hate when dietitians say “eat in moderation.” What we have seen through research is that diet trends become cyclical. When a diet focuses too much on one food group or extreme restrictions, health is compromised, and it can’t be sustained long term. 
  4. Is BYM better for your cholesterol? If you need to reduce your meat cholesterol, then yes, switch to BYM. If beef is a food that you sometimes enjoy and indulge in, then please continue to enjoy it. 
  5. Is food from scratch still better? Always go for whole foods and cooking from scratch. But when that is not available, BYM has given us a new alternative to plant-based substitutes to red meat that is neither chickpea, lentil, wheat or soy-based. 
  6. Always be skeptical of food marketing. There is a lot of money behind claims with the intention of manipulating you to buy their product. I am not saying BYM is not a good product, but they are a HOT product riding a HOT trend in the food industry. There is a lot of money behind marketing to encourage you to make that change. The fast-food industry knows this, which is why they have joined the BYM bandwagon, to not lose your business should you want to stop eating red meat.


If integrating plant-based meals or expanding on your plant-based menu is something you would like to know more about, let’s chat. My plant-based meal plans contain 100% plant-based recipes that are rich in antioxidants and phytonutrients. My recipes are full of Fibre, vitamins, minerals, and plant proteins, making them nutritious as well as delicious. Check it out for free!

Get in touch with Keren and book a free 15-minute discovery call today!

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