Something I’ve been asked about, and have been curious about myself, is how vegan meat substitutes stack up nutrition-wise to the original meat products. I decided to do a little comparison of chicken strips (not breaded, but seasoned) to see. Of course, neither product provided nutrition information based on a food guide serving. Upon first glance, the vegan version appears to be far healthier. However, the nutrition facts panel is based on a 67 gram serving, while the actual meat product uses a 100 gram serving size. If you were wondering, Canada’s Food Guide counts 75 grams of meat, fish, poultry as a serving. Just to keep things simple, and because most people eat a larger portion than the food guide recommends, I converted the vegan chick’n strips into a 100 gram serving. This puts them at roughly 149 calories per serving. The actual chicken is 110 kcal. Score: chicken 1, chick’n 0. The chick’n has 2.24 grams of fat (none of which is saturated or trans). The chicken has 1 gram of fat, 0.3 of which is saturated. I’m calling this a tie, they’re both relatively low in fat. Score remains: chicken 1, chick’n 0. Chick’n has no cholesterol. Chicken has 70 mg of cholesterol. Dietary cholesterol doesn’t have all that much impact on your blood cholesterol, especially if you’re healthy. I’ll still give this one to the chick’n. Score: chicken 1, chick’n 1. The chick’n has 254 mg of sodium per serving. The chicken has 380 mg of sodium. Another one for the chick’n. Score: chicken: 1, chick’n 2. The chick’n has 28 grams of protein per serving. The chicken has 26 grams of protein per serving. Not a huge difference. However, it’s important to note the quality of protein. Does the protein provide you with all of the essential amino acids? I know that the chicken does. The chick’n I’m not so sure about. Because of this, I’m calling this one another draw. Score remains the same. The chick’n provides you with 15% of your daily recommended intake of iron (if you’re the “average” person on which the label is based) while chicken provides you with only 8%. However, as this iron is non-heme iron, it’s not going to be as easily absorbed as the iron in the chicken. Final score: chick’n 2, chicken 1.
Even though the chick’n is the nutritional winner here it was a close competition and I am in no way trying to convince you to start eating chick’n or any other vegan meat substitute. I just think it’s good for us to know if the foods we’re eating are providing us with the nutrients we believe them to be. On the basis of the nutrition label for these two particular products, chick’n is a worthy alternative for chicken. Please bear in mind that there are other nutrients that are not listed on the nutrition label that you may obtain from one product but not from the other. Also, other vegan meat substitutes might differ considerably in their nutrient profile so please read your labels!