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Vegetarian Journal Nov/Dec 1999

Guide to Poultry Alternatives

By Reed Mangels, PhD, RD

Not long ago I was giving a talk to a County Health Department. The organizers had told me that food would be served, but assured me that it would be vegetarian. Vegetarian? The first thing that caught my eye when I walked in was a large platter lined with lettuce leaves, garnished with tomato slices, and filled with slices of something that looked like turkey. Luckily I checked more closely before protesting. The organizers had kept their promise. The slices were Tofurky, a completely vegan product made from soybeans.

Products like Tofurky are becoming increasingly common in the frozen and refrigerated foods sections of stores. I found products which resembled chicken nuggets, chicken patties, chicken chunks to add to stir-fries and other dishes, mock chicken salad, sliced turkey, and even drummettes. How good are these products?

Nutritionally speaking, most are quite high in sodium, a common complaint with processed foods. Nuggets and patties have a sodium level which is similar to that of products containing chicken, and roast Tofurky is higher in sodium than roast turkey. The sodium content of deli slices is actually lower than that of turkey-based luncheon meats. Fat content is generally quite low and is comparable to the amount of fat in similar poultry-containing products. The exception is chicken-free nuggets and patties, which are much lower in fat than products made with poultry. Most poultry-free products have no saturated fat or cholesterol, compared with around 75 milligrams of cholesterol in 3 ounces of chicken. They are fairly high in protein and some products contain significant amounts of iron. A serving of Health is Wealth Chicken-Free Patties or Lightlife Smart Deli Roast Turkey Style or MorningstarFarms' Chix Nuggets has 15% or more of the US RDA for iron.

These products are often made from various combinations of soy protein, wheat gluten, and tofu. Many products are vegan. Those which are not may contain either egg whites or whey protein and dried milk (Hearty and Natural Chicken Patties, Boca Nuggets and Tenders, and Worthington Foods' Fri Chick, Diced Chick, and Turkee Slices).

Surprisingly few products use organic ingredients. Gloria's Kitchen Orange Peel Chicken contains organically grown brown rice, and Tofurky products are made with soybeans "grown without herbicides, pesticides, or chemical fertilizers."

Cost is a factor for many people. Vegetarian poultry substitutes, like many processed foods, are expensive. They are convenient, however, and many people will opt for their familiar taste and appearance. Other options for make-your-own poultry alternatives include those using tofu or wheat gluten. The Vegetarian Resource Group carries a number of cookbooks with recipes for poultry alternatives (also see our website,

Certainly vegetarian poultry alternatives represent a more compassionate alternative to poultry products. Their nutrition profile is often better. If you're looking for a quick meal, try some of these products.

Nutritional Comparison of Poultry Alternatives

Vegetarian products are listed from lowest to highest sodium within a category. Italicized products are made with meat and are included for comparison purposes only. (Thanks to Megan Royer and Sarah Ellis, MS, RD for assistance with this article.)
Product Calories Protein (gm) Fat (gm) Sodium (mg) Vegan?

Deli Slices (2 oz. serving):
Worthington Foods LowfatSliced Chix 45 9 0.5 290 no
Vegi-Deli Slice of Life 100 19 2 340 yes
Worthington Foods Turkee Slices 100 8 7 350 no
Tofurky Deli Slices 160 17 2 354 yes
White Wave Sandwich Slices Chicken-Style 120 18 0 390 yes
Lightlife Smart Deli Roast Turkey Style 60 14 0 435 yes
Yves Turkey Slices  90 16 0 550 yes
White Wave Sandwich Slices Turkey Style 120 20 0 600 yes
Worthington Foods Meatless SlicedTurkey 140 10 10 620 no
Turkey Breast Slices 70 14 1 900 no

Patties (1 patty) and Nuggets (3 oz. serving):
Hearty & Natural Veggie Chicken Patties (2.3 oz) 80 14 0 350 no
Health is Wealth Chicken-Free Patties (3 oz) 120 14 1.5 440 yes
Morningstar Farms Chix Patties (2.5 oz.) 150 9 6 570 no
Chicken Patties (3 oz) 250 12 16 570 no
Health is Wealth Chicken-Free Nuggets 120 13 1.3 440 yes
Boca Nuggets 180 15 6 580 no
Veat Nuggets 145 15 5 590 no
Morningstar Farms Chix Nuggets 160 13 4 670 no
Loma Linda Meatless Chix-Nuggets 240 12 16 710 no
Chicken Nuggets 225 13 13 360 no

Products to be Added to Stir-fries, etc. (3 oz. serving):
Worthington Foods Diced Chick 210 7 0 200 no
Harvest Direct Chiken Strips and Chunks 41 9 0 275 yes
White Wave Chicken-Style Seitan  83 13 0 300 yes
Chicken-Style Wheat Meat 194 32 0.6 420 yes
Boca Tenders 140 20 3 440 no
Canned Chicken Chunks 96 20 1.4 300 no

Gloria's Kitchen Orange Peel Chicken (5 oz) 160 6 2.5 150 yes
VEAT Vegetarian Breast (3 oz)  237 13 7 170 no
Asmar's Mediterranean Foods Vegetarian Chicken Salad (2 oz) 120 9 5 194 yes
Now &Zen Breast of Unchicken (3.5 oz.) 139 23 4 236 yes
HarvestDirect ChikenBreast (2 oz.) 104 20 0 240 yes
Tofurky Stuffed Roast (4 oz) 193 26 5 310 yes
Now & Zen Great Unturkey (4 oz.)  224 17 4 420 yes
Roast Turkey (4 oz) 122 21 4 75 no
Tofurky Drummettes (3 oz) 105 11 2 350 yes
Turkey Drummettes (3 oz) 164 25 7 62 no
Worthington Foods Lowfat Fri Chix (3 oz.) 80 10 3 430 no
Worthington Foods Fri Chick (3 oz) 120 10 8 430 no
Loma Linda Meatless Fried Chik'n (2 oz.) 180 11 15 500 no

Excerpts from the Nov/Dec Issue

The Vegetarian Journal published here is not the complete issue, but these are excerpts from the published magazine. Anyone wanting to see everything should subscribe to the magazine.

This article was converted to HTML by Jeanie Freeman

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