I remember when I went vegan 14 years ago, they had Lightlife products at my local Walmart. It was one of the only meatless brands I could find. I’ve had it many times over the years. But how does this classic brand stack up nutritionally? Is Lightlife healthy?
Lightlife products are lower in calories, saturated fat, and cholesterol than real meat. However, they are still processed food, primarily made of processed protein and oil. Some Lightlife product lines are healthier than others based on their saturated fat, fiber, and sodium content.
Below, I look closely at three popular Lightlife products—their burgers, ground, and Gimme Lean sausage. I’ll dig deep into the ingredients and nutrition facts, all to see just how healthy Lightlife really is!
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What Is Lightlife Made Of?
Let’s start by looking closely at some Lightlife ingredients. Since they have many different products, let’s check three different ones, to get a diverse sample.
First, the burgers. This is a relatively new product. They’re packaged in the same style as Beyond Burgers and sold in the same part of the store:
Lightlife Plant-Based Burger Ingredients: Water, Pea Protein, Canola Oil, Coconut Oil, Natural Flavors, Less Than 2% Modified Cellulose (from Plant Fiber), Sea Salt, Vinegar, Beet Powder (Color), Cane Sugar, Cherry Powder (to promote color retention).
I’ll analyze all the ingredients below. But let’s take a look at the other two ingredients lists first. The next product is Lightlife’s “Ground”—this is a vegan replacement for ground beef:
Lightlife Plant-Based Ground Ingredients: Water, Pea Protein, Canola Oil, Coconut Oil, Natural Flavors, Less Than 2% Of Modified Cellulose (From Plant Fiber), Sea Salt, Vinegar, Beet Powder (Color), Cane Sugar, Cherry Powder (To Promote Color Retention).
And finally, let’s look at the Gimme Lean Sausage ingredients. This is a classic vegan product that’s been around since I first went vegan (in 2007)!
Lightlife Gimme Lean Sausage Ingredients: Water, Soy Protein Concentrate, Soybean Oil, Soy Protein Isolate, Spices, Salt, Cane Sugar, Natural Flavors, Caramelized Sugar, Beet Powder (Color), Canola Oil, Soy Sauce (Water, Soybeans, Salt, Wheat, Alcohol), Contains Less Than 2% Of: Wheat Gluten, Methylcellulose (From Plant Fiber), Apple Fiber (Color), Potato Starch.
Here’s what I notice about these ingredients:
- Lightlife is mostly processed protein and oil. The newer products have pea protein, canola oil, and coconut oil. The sausage has soy protein and soybean oil instead. These are not the worst ingredients… but in both cases, they’re processed protein and oil.
- Lightlife Burgers and Ground are basically the same. The burgers come as patties, while the ground can be broken into crumbles. But they have the same ingredients.
- Lightlife uses natural coloring. There are no artificial colors like Yellow 5 or Red 40 here. Instead, they use beet powder, apple fiber, and other such natural ingredients for color.
- Lightlife has other potentially high-glycemic ingredients. Potato starch, cane sugar, and methylcellulose are processed carbs. They seem to be minor ingredients in Lightlife, so their impact is likely small. But I still view these ingredients as a bit negative.
Overall, Lightlife doesn’t have any ingredients that are too horrible… But the processed oils are present in high quantity—so personally, that’s my biggest concern.
Lightlife Nutrition Facts
Now let’s take a look at the nutrition facts label to get a sense of the balance of nutrients in Lightlife. We’ll be looking at the same three products as above:
|–||Lightlife Plant-Based Burgers||Lightlife Plant-Based Ground||Lightlife Gimme Lean Sausage|
|Serving Size||1 patty||4 oz (113g)||2 oz (56g)|
Here are my takeaways from these nutrition labels:
- Lightlife Burgers and Ground are the same thing. Again, the burgers are just a specific pre-made shape. But the Burgers and Ground are the same, nutritionally.
- All these Lightlife products are cholesterol free and have 0g trans fat. Trans fat is the worst kind of fat, so it’s good we’re avoiding that entirely. Dietary cholesterol is also not great according to some evidence. Vegan products like Lightlife are cholesterol free.
- The Gimme Lean Sausage has less saturated fat than the Burgers and Ground. The Burgers and Ground have saturated fat from their coconut oil. But Gimme Lean has less total oil, and only uses soybean oil—so there’s 0g of saturated fat per serving. That means the Gimme Lean may be better for heart health. (source)
- The Gimme Lean Sausage has more fiber than the Burgers and Ground. Especially when you consider the serving sizes. The Gimme Lean is actually a decent source of fiber, with about 9g fiber per 240 calories. The Burgers and Ground only have ~1g fiber for the same amount of calories.
- All these Lightlife products are very low in sugar. You might be concerned to see “cane sugar” listed in some of the ingredients above. But here you see these products all have 1g or less of sugar per serving—not bad at all.
- The Gimme Lean Sausage has more sodium than the Burgers and Ground, when you consider serving size. The sausage is actually quite high in sodium. If you wanted 320 calories of vegan sausage, you’d be up to 1,280mg of sodium in one meal! That’s approaching the 1,500mg ideal daily limit suggested by the AHA for most adults.
Overall, I would say the Gimme Lean Sausage is healthier than the Burgers or Ground. Why? It has less saturated fat and more fiber. Unfortunately, the sodium is quite high—and of course, it’s still mostly just processed protein and oil.
New vs Old Lightlife Products
My sense is that the new Lightlife Burgers and Ground were made to compete with Beyond Meat. The ingredients and nutrition are quite similar. This new style of mock meat is delicious—but unfortunately, it’s higher in saturated fat and lower in fiber.
Meanwhile, Gimme Lean Sausage is more of a hold-over from the earlier days of the vegetarian movement. A lot of those early products—like Boca’s vegan burgers—were made to be higher in carbs and lean protein.
Overall, here are my takeaways:
- Any of these Lightlife products are healthier than real meat. Even when you compare the new Lightlife burgers to Bubba burgers (a leading brand of frozen real burgers), Lightlife is much lower in saturated fat and calories.
- All of these Lightlife products are less healthy than whole foods. It will always be healthier to eat beans, whole grains, vegetables, fruit, nuts, and seeds. Lightlife is mostly processed protein and oil. It’s not really health food.
- The Gimme Lean Sausage seems healthier than the new burgers and ground. I think the saturated fat and fiber content make the Gimme Lean a better choice.
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