With more and more plant-based alternative foods popping up in stores, I wanted to look at some of the plant-based versions of popular foods to find out the difference between the meat and the plant version.
In this article, I’m going to be comparing plant-based nuggets against chicken nuggets to find the truth on whether the plant-based versions are any healthier than the meat version.
Read on to see comparisons on nutrition, cost, flavor, and take part in our poll to tell us which is your favorite.
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Chicken Nuggets Vs. Plant-Based Nuggets Nutritional Comparison
The first and foremost comparison that we’ll look at is a nutritional comparison between a chicken nugget and a plant-based chicken nugget to determine which is best for calorie content, carbs, protein, dietary fiber, and sodium.
To make a like-for-like comparison, I’m comparing two nugget types with a similar breadcrumb coating based on a weight-for-weight comparison.
For information, the brands I’m comparing are MorningStar Farms Chik’N Nuggets (meat-free) vs. Tyson Chicken Nuggets (a popular US brand).
Please note nutritional information will vary slightly between various brands and nugget types depending on their ingredients.
Best for Calorie Content
For the first category, I’ve compared chicken nuggets against meat-free nuggets for calories per 100g of product.
The nuggets with the least calories were the meat-free nuggets which contained 79kcal fewer calories per 100g when compared to the chicken meat version.
|Nugget Type||Calories Per 100g of Product|
Best for Carbohydrate Content
If you’re keeping track of the number of carbs you’re consuming, then chicken nuggets are the lower-carb choice when compared to meat-free nuggets.
The meat-free nuggets I compared contained 4.3g more carbs per 100g than chicken nuggets and also had some added sugar.
|Nugget Type||Carbohydrates Per 100g of Product||of Which are Sugars|
Best for Protein Content
As you would expect, the meat chicken nuggets contain more protein per 100g of product; however, it’s worth pointing out that there’s only a slight difference and meat-free nuggets contain protein-rich soy, which helps keep protein at a level that rivals the meat version.
|Nugget Type||Protein Per 100g of Product|
Best for Fat Content
Moving on to fat content, meat-free nuggets win this category because they contain half the fat of the meat version and have less saturated fat.
|Nugget Type||Fat Per 100g of Product||of Which is Saturated Fat|
If cholesterol is a consideration for you, it’s worth knowing that chicken nuggets contain 44mg of cholesterol compared to meat-free nuggets, which have no cholesterol per 100g.
Best for Fiber Content
When it comes to chicken nuggets, fiber isn’t something you associate with this kind of food, but opting for a meat-free version will provide you with some dietary fiber compared to the meat version, which contains no fiber.
|Nugget Type||Dietary Fibre Per 100g of Product|
Best for Sodium/Salt Content
In the sodium category, meat-free nuggets were the winners with 173mg less sodium per 100g compared with chicken nuggets.
To put this into context, with the nuggets I compared, a serving of chicken nuggets contains 20% of the daily allowance compared to meat-free nuggets, which have 13%.
|Nugget Type||Sodium/Salt Per 100g of Product|
Best for Vitamins/Minerals
Meat-free nuggets are the winner of the vitamins and minerals category with more per serving than the meat version.
This makes sense being plant-based, but it’s also worth noting that there is some missing or unclear data regarding the daily value for all nutrients in chicken nuggets.
|Vitamin/Mineral Type||Daily Value % For Chicken Nuggets||Daily Value % For Meat-Free Nuggets|
|Vitamin B6||No data||10%|
Best for Price
Prices vary between brands, and also, both types of nuggets are sold in different pack sizes, so to keep things as fair as possible, I’ve based the cost on an average price per serving.
Please note that prices will vary between brands, and this information is correct at the time of writing (March 2022).
The average cost of breaded chicken nuggets is around $0.64 per serving, compared to meat-free nuggets, which cost an average of $1.19 per serving.
Based on this information, chicken nuggets are currently the lower cost option per serving.
Using all of the information above, I can now confirm which type of nuggets has won the most categories, and the winner is… meat-free chicken nuggets!
It was a close contest, but with the nuggets I compared, the meat-free nuggets are the winners based on nutritional factors, including being lower in calories, fat, sodium while being higher in fiber, vitamins, and minerals than the chicken version.
Read on to see more information on ingredients and take our poll to tell us which is your favorite nugget.
|Comparison Category||Winner (Chicken Nuggets or Meat-Free Nuggets)|
|Best for Calorie Content||Meat-Free Nuggets|
|Best for Carbohydrate Content||Chicken Nuggets|
|Best for Sugar Content||Chicken Nuggets|
|Best for Protein Content||Chicken Nuggets|
|Best for Fat Content||Meat-Free Nuggets|
|Best for Fiber Content||Meat-Free Nuggets|
|Best for Sodium Content||Meat-Free Nuggets|
|Best for Vitamins/Minerals||Meat-Free Nuggets|
|Best for Price||Chicken Nuggets|
|Overall Winner||Meat-Free Nuggets|
Best for Flavor/Texture
I’ve not included flavor and texture in the overall comparison because this is a subjective opinion that requires a poll across a broad demographic to get an accurate answer.
You can help out by voting in the poll below to tell other readers and us which is your favorite, and once you vote, the results so far will be revealed.
For information, the table below shows the ingredients comparison for each type of nugget I used in this article.
As a reminder, the chicken nuggets brand I reviewed is Tyson Breaded chicken nuggets, and MorningStar Farms produce the Meat-Free Nuggets.
|Chicken Nuggets Ingredients||Meat-Free Nuggets Ingredients|
|Chicken, Water, Wheat Flour, Contains 2% Or Less Of The Following: Brown Sugar, Corn Starch, Dried Garlic, Dried Onion, Dried Yeast, Extractives Of Paprika, Natural Flavor, Oat Fiber, Salt, Spices, Wheat Starch, White Whole Wheat Flour, Yellow Corn Flour. Breading Set In Vegetable Oil.||Water, wheat flour, soy protein concentrate, vegetable oil (corn, canola and/or sunflower), soy protein isolate.contains 2% or less of wheat gluten, yellow corn flour, methylcellulose, potato starch, cornstarch, yeast extract, sugar, salt, natural flavors, wheat starch, dextrose, spices, onion powder, potassium chloride, yeast, glutamic acid, paprika (color), leavening (sodium acid pyrophosphate, sodium bicarbonate), garlic powder, citric acid, xanthan gum, barley malt extract.|
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References Used for this Article
To ensure the nutritional information used in this article is accurate, I have used data from both the original producers and the USDA; the links below contain the source information:
MorningStar Farms Meat Free nuggets nutritional information