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I've heard that not all foods veg*n foods styled to resemble meat are healthy; some are quite processed, high in sodium, etc. What are the main health concerns when eating fake meat? How can I identify healthier meat substitutes?

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    It might be better to call them meat 'replacements', since "fake meat" could mean something attempting to pose as meat. – SuperBiasedMan Feb 6 '17 at 9:39
  • This depends so much on what kind of fake meat. Seitan? Tofu? Lupin? – Turion Feb 6 '17 at 9:47
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    I agree with SuperBiasedMan, since the term fake meat is rather ambiguous. To add to Turion's question, I have heard dried soy cubes called fake meat, as well as Quorn products and even processed wheat that is supposed to taste like meat etc. It might be a good idea to explain a little what kind of "fake meat" you mean. – Alexander Rossa Feb 6 '17 at 10:13
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    Just because something is processed it doesn't mean it's per se unhealthy. It depends so much on the exact type of processing, on the ingredients used and so on. – Turion Feb 6 '17 at 14:02
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    I think this is too broad. There are a lot of factors that can go into "healthy", and that varies from person-to-person. There are a lot of "meat substitutes", ranging from attempting to imitate to just an alternative protein source. That all being said, I think that it could be a great question if narrowed down, since understanding the pitfalls of pretend meats (e.g. "chicken" nuggets, veggie "burgers") is a valuable resource. – Erica Feb 6 '17 at 14:24
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The only way to really know if food is healthy is to cook it yourself. Meat substitutes such as pre-made vegetarian "burgers" or "sausages" in particular are high in preservatives and sodium. They're also very costly compared to other vegetarian options.

I'd recommend trying to cook vegetarian dishes that are not trying to "replace" meat such as lentil curries, Tex/Mex with beans, or Asian stir fries (with Tofu). If you're trying to avoid meat, substituting is rather strange and may actually make it harder to adapt to vegetarianism. Many long-term vegetarians don't remember what they're missing and even find meat (or substitutes) unappealing.

If emulating meat dishes is your thing, I'd recommend trying the recipes of Lukas Volger. I found his cookbook really good and it looks like they've released pre-mix products on the web (although likely only for sale in the US). They're more about preparing burgers and like that have the same style as meat dishes, rather than emulating the flavours.

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  • Using fresh foods such as vegetables would have less preservatives than most pre-made foods. Preparing it yourself, you'd also be able to control how much seasoning (such as salt) are added. This is in particular would address the OP's concerns about Sodium. I've suggested home-cooking over eating out because there is limited vegetarian options where I live, they tend to cost more than home-cooking, and restaurants tend to be very liberal with salts, sugars, and fats/oils. If you're looking to substitute meat long-term cooking from scratch is the way to go. – Tom Kelly Feb 6 '17 at 13:41
  • While I agree with a lot of what you're writing, I find that your answer sidesteps the question. You're basically saying "Just avoid them. Oh, and here are some great recipes." That's all great advice, but you're not answering the question which fake meats are healthy and which aren't. – Turion Feb 6 '17 at 13:44
  • Plus, I've been recently diagnosed with IBS so I can't eat whole soy beans, wheat, lactose, or fructose either so processed foods aren't really an options for me any more. Honestly, I don't really miss them much. They're overpriced junk IMHO. – Tom Kelly Feb 6 '17 at 13:44
  • Does "none of them are" not count as an answer? I figure "here's some alternatives" is better than rejecting the question outright. – Tom Kelly Feb 6 '17 at 13:46
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    Agree that the OP should be more specific on the product. Disagree that in general, processed foods contain sodium and preservatives. Organic, unflavoured tofu usually doesn't contain either. – Turion Feb 6 '17 at 13:51

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