Meat and meat substitutes equally satiating

Satiation through meat alternatives is no longer a hurdle for protein transition.
Researchers substituted every gram of meat by an equal weight in meat alternatives to establish whether the alternatives satiate to the same degree as meat. Photo Shutterstock.

‘Consumer studies conducted several years ago show that consumers remain sated shorter after having eaten plant-based meat substitutes’, says Liesbeth Zandstra, professor of Food Reward and Behaviour by special appointment. A new study shows that the current alternatives are equally satisfying as meat.

‘In previous consumer research, people indicated they would eat two vegetarian patties as a substitute for one meat patty, to achieve the same level of satiation’, says Zandstra, who also works for the Unilever Foods Innovation Centre Wageningen as a Science Leader. ‘We wanted to know whether meat alternatives are indeed less sating than meat. Should this be the case, it poses a hurdle we must take for the necessary protein transition.’

Gram for a gram

Zandstra conducted a study on the sense of satisfaction obtained when eating meat and meat alternatives. In the study, she attempted to remain as close to consumer reality as possible. ‘We made both a meat and a meat-alternative curry with chicken and vegetables and pasta Bolognese. We replaced each gram of meat with a gram of meat substitute without taking the nutrient composition into account. After all, the average consumer will not match the macro-nutrients; they will simply substitute a serving of ground beef with a serving of vegetarian minced meat substitutes.’

We invalidate more and more presumptions about meat substitutes

Liesbeth Zandstra, professor of Food Reward and Behaviour by special appointment

Test subjects were served meals on four separate days. The meals were take-away lunches that could be heated up at home. They would reply to questions at different times before and after the meat. The questions related to how hungry they were and how satisfied they felt after eating the meals. ‘We also asked them to record what else they ate that day to monitor whether they would be more prone to grabbing a snack.’

No differences

In terms of feelings of hunger and satiation, Zandstra found no differences between vegetarian meals and those containing meat. ‘Meat alternatives have improved considerably over the past decade’, she clarifies the difference with previous consumer studies. ‘Both in terms of flavour and texture, as nutritional value. They contain more protein and fibres than before, which play a significant role in satiation.’


‘On the one hand, our conclusion is not all that exciting’, Zandstra admits. ‘But in this case, that is a good result, as it signifies that satiation need not prevent consumers from opting for meat substitutes.’

‘Another recently published study conducted by our group shows that meat-eaters do not become bored with meat alternatives if they are served once a week. And a third study shows that both flexitarians and meat-eaters feel “proud” and “cool” when they choose a veggie burger, so the image is okay’, says Zandstra. Thus, we invalidate more and more presumptions about meat substitutes and address barriers related to the consumption of meat alternatives.’

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