This “Guide to Gluten-Free Plant-Based Proteins,” may contain affiliate links.
My diet is continually evolving as I figure out what my body needs to be healthy and feel its best.
There are so many different “diets” out there that it can make your head spin.
What’s most important is finding one that is right for you.
I recently changed my diet to eat less meat. Mind you, it’s not a meatless diet, it’s a meat-less diet. I still eat meat, just less of it. I did it for two reasons.
(1) Sustainability: One thing that has become apparent to me is that the production of meat is not a sustainable process. The environmental impact of our worldwide palate for meat is grave.
Animal agriculture is responsible for 14.5 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, consumes 29 percent of our freshwater resources, and is the world’s largest user of land resources, representing 80 percent of all land used for agricultural purposes (both in growing feed and grazing surface area). All of this is due to our world’s insatiable craving for meat.
(2) Health: On top of the environmental burden required to produce the world’s demand for meat, I wanted to see if cutting meat from my diet would net any health benefits.
I had been eating animal products for breakfast (sausage, eggs, lox), lunch (hot dogs, leftovers), dinner (chicken, beef, fish) and even for snacks too (turkey jerky).
I got into the habit of eating more protein and less grains after my Whole30 stint last August. Ten extra pounds a year later, along with a chronic dull tummy ache, I began to question everything I thought I knew.
Instead of eating more meat, I decided to go back to eating a mostly plant-based diet – with grains – and much less meat. I made a conscious effort to no longer make meat meals and to just enjoy meat if it presented itself to me or on occasion, like when my kids asked me to make something.
I found that once I limited my consumption of animal products, my dull stomach aches disappeared. It wasn’t grains or excess veggies that left me feeling stomach pangs; rather it was the excessive meat consumption that had my tummy constantly turning.
I started to reflect on this and realized so much from this experient to eat less meat. I will be writing more about this topic in my article, What is a Flexitarian?
Demand for Plant-Based “Meats”
Demand for plant-based products is growing, and analysts anticipate the market to only continue to grow.
According to Forbes, 17 percent of U.S. consumers eat a mostly plant-based diet; 60 percent say they are reducing their meat intake.
I realize I am not alone – and perhaps even late – to the plant-based, meat-less game.
Unfortunately, as I’ve ventured into this meat-less diet myself, I’ve noticed a lot of potential gluten-free pitfalls when it comes to plant-based proteins.
Wheat protein is a commonly used product in alternative meat products because the fibers in wheat gluten are similar to the fibers in meat products.
You and I both know that wheat protein is not gluten-free. In fact, wheat protein is just another name for gluten!
What’s Gluten-Free and Meatless?
While many plant-based meat alternatives today use wheat gluten, there are plenty that use soy protein and pea protein (both gluten-free) to give their products the desired texture.
Let’s go through some of the most popular plant-based meatless products on the market to understand what’s gluten-free — and what’s not — to help you on your journey to eat less meat.
Are Impossible Burgers Gluten-Free?
I recently tested the Impossible Burger served at Red Robin with my trusty Nima Sensor. The Nima Sensor is a portable gluten-detecting device that I use to test a portion of my food for gluten before I eat it.
I’m excited to report that the Impossible Burger tested a-okay as evident by Nima’s smiley face.
It’s important to note that the Impossible Burger, at one time, was not gluten-free. It contained wheat protein (aka, gluten). The company reformulated its Impossible Burger 2.0 product with soy protein (and ditched all gluten), and now the Impossible Burger (as of February 2019) is 100 percent gluten-free.
I love how the Impossible Burger tastes. It really does mimic the taste, texture and look of real meat.
Impossible Burgers aren’t completely allergy-friendly, however. In fact, Impossible Burgers contain soy, a common allergen.
That said, if you’re okay with soy, Impossible Burgers are a great option for you. A four ounce serving is 240 calories and contains 19 grams of protein, which is the nutrition content of what a regular burger would be.
You can find Impossible Burgers at many restaurants across the U.S. including Red Robin, CB Potts, Qdoba, Bar Louie, Hard Rock Cafe, Wahlburgers, White Castle, Dog Haus, Burger King, Umami Burgers, and more. Find it near you HERE.
Is Beyond Meat Gluten-Free?
I bought Beyond Meat burger patties at King Soopers (Kroger) a few weeks ago and grilled them on my grill. While I didn’t find the burger to taste exactly like a meaty burger, it came pretty darn close.
Beyond Meat burgers are 100 percent gluten-free and are made with gluten-free pea protein and beet juice extract, among other ingredients. The beet juice extract allows the product to “bleed” so it looks like a real burger.
Beyond Meat, like Impossible Burger, also delivers on protein. A Beyond Meat patty contains 20 grams of plant protein, about the same amount of protein as a similarly-sized meat patty.
You can buy a variety of Beyond Meat products at the grocery store, including meatless “burger” patties, ground “meat,” plant-based sausages and brats, and frozen Beyond Beef Crumbles for making tacos, meat-less meat sauces, or to use as a pizza topping.
Beyond Meat products can be found at 35,000 grocery stores worldwide, including Kroger, Safeway and Walmart, and at restaurants such as TGI Fridays, Del Taco, Carl’s Jr. and Dunkin’.
One major plus in Beyond Meat’s court is that, unlike Impossible Burgers, Beyond Meat products do not contain soy nor employ genetic engineering practices. In fact, Beyond Meat products are Non-GMO Project Verified and soy-free.
Other Gluten-Free Meat Alternatives
It seems like Impossible Burgers and Beyond Meat products are the darlings of the meat alternative industry, however, there are plenty of other meat-less products that are also gluten-free. They include:
Dr. Praeger’s: Dr. Praeger’s has developed an alternative meat burger a la Impossible Burger. It’s soy- and gluten-free and contains four vegetables (sweet potato, butternut squash, beet and carrot). Dr. Praeger’s is the “veggie forward” burger alternative. Learn more HERE.
Hilary’s: Hilary’s makes a variety of veggie burgers free from wheat, gluten, soy, dairy, eggs, corn and nuts. Hilary’s is a GREAT brand, especially if you’re looking to avoid additional allergens beyond gluten. Find ’em HERE.
Atlantic Natural Foods: Atlantic Natural Foods is home to several companies making plant-based “meat” alternatives. Loma Linda offers plant-based franks in a can, Neat offers a meat replacement mix, and Tuno offers plant-based tuna in a can.
Lightlife: These new plant-based burgers are made from plant-protein and are gluten-free. They look a lot like Beyond Meat’s plant-based burger patties. View them HERE.
Gardein: Some of Gardein products are gluten-free. Be VERY careful when selecting one at the grocery store as many Gardein products contain gluten. Learn more HERE.
Amy’s: Like Gardein, only some of Amy’s vegetable protein products are gluten-free. Check labels carefully. Learn more HERE.
Misc.: There are several ingredients that serve as a wonderful meat alternatives in addition to the brands mentioned. Consider foods such as tofu, tempeh (soy protein) and jackfruit in lieu meat of your next dish.
Upton’s Naturals makes a delicious jackfruit treat, however, the company also make products containing seitan (which is basically wheat gluten) and those should be avoided. Read labels carefully.
Avoid these Plant-Based Brands
Finally, always remember that just because something is made of a plant-based protein doesn’t mean it’s gluten-free.
The following brands should be avoided as they typically contain wheat protein (gluten):
- Boca Burgers – contains gluten
- Garden Burgers – contains gluten
- MorningStar Farms – contains gluten
- No Evil Foods – contains gluten
- Quorn – contains gluten
- Worthington X Burger – contains gluten
Also, don’t forget that these plant-based meat alternatives are highly processed and engineered foods. They are better than eating meat, but still are highly processed, no doubt.
Nothing beats eating naturally gluten-free foods (kale, carrots and eggplant) straight from Mother Earth. You could always make yourself a portobello mushroom burger. The taste and texture aren’t quite as spot on, but the health benefits are definitely something to write home about.