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Fake meat less healthy than traditional vegetarian food, study finds

Many vegetarian meat products are less healthy and more expensive than traditional options, such as legumes and vegetables, new research has found.

A study by University of Auckland public health dietician Leanne Young looked at the nutritional value and cost of plant-based products that mimic meat, such as vegetarian mince and sausages.

Only 12 percent of the meat alternatives surveyed had a 3.5 star health rating or higher, compared to 91 percent of the legumes, tofu and falafel products, Young said.

"These meat alternative, or meat analogues, were quite high in salt generally, and products like the meat free sausages were quite high in salt and saturated fat," she said.

The fake meat products were highly processed.

"The level of processing is also a concern, because it goes against what we're recommending with plant-based eating, we're encouraging people to eat more whole and less processed foods."

Meat alternative products are generally expensive, raising concerns given the cost of living crisis.

The researchers found that 100 grams of meat-free burger cost $2.70, more than three times the price of the same quantity of canned legumes, which was 70 cents.

Young said the health-star rating was a good indicator for consumers and she would like to see it on more products.

Currently, the rating is on about 30 percent of products in supermarkets.

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