Ask a Nutritionist: Plant-Based Burgers Better than their Fast Food Counterparts?
The invention of fast food had a lot of unintended consequences on the diet of worldwide populations. American’s especially. It has become a quick and easy staple of the American diet. So much so, that it has become the cornerstone of American diets, especially among the impoverished. And it makes sense somewhat. Our capitalistic business model combined with the addictive substances that are in fast food makes people keep coming back. Even if it created the most dangerous health crisis in North America now. Because it is so addictive, most people are trying to get that same level of satisfaction, without obesity, horrible nutrition, and heart disease.
But just how healthy are the burger and its substitutes? Is there any sort of certainty that frozen plant-based burgers will actually improve the health of fast-food eaters? Or does it doom you to the same fate? Let’s examine the contents of burgers and their alternatives.
Beef, Fast Food Patties, and Poor Nutrition
It is no secret that the way we fry and process beef is the unhealthiest thing on the planet. The ingredients and the process of making them both have to come and go fast. So, they rely less on ingredient quality and buy low-grade beef for the sake of quantity. The same can be said of the cooking process. Frying/grilling them with quick and compressed heat and little regard for grease. Also, the large serving sizes don’t help.
The caloric range of fast food burgers goes from 720 to 490, based on the average “quarter pounder” size. The fat content and sodium intake also leave much to be desired. It also doesn’t help, however, most burgers that make the quarter pounder mark, or higher have too much beef. The average serving size of beef with 80% lean meat is three ounces. That translates to 209 calories. A number that is lower than the 288 calories of 4 ounces of meat.
So, it goes without saying that if you want a beef burger that badly, you should make one on your own at home if you want to decrease the risk to your health.
But do the veggie and soy patties at the store, or on offer as an alternative, measure up? Not really.
Veggie and Soy Burgers Aren’t that Much Better for Nutrition
If you look at the comparison conducted by Barclay’s research, you will notice that there isn’t much of a difference between beef burgers, and their plant-based counterparts. In fact, if you look for the highest carbohydrate, sodium, and caloric content, it isn’t in the fast-food burgers. It is literally in Beyond Famous Star, a meatless substitute for Carl Jr.’s Famous Star.
And frozen patties for veggie burgers are not much better. A lot of them have lower serving sizes but large amounts of chemical additives. The most popular veggie burger brand, Morningstar, literally has wood pulp as an additive for their burgers.
The presentation of the nutritional content of these veggie burgers is also deceitful in nature. Here is an example of what I mean.
Compare and Contrast
Dr. Praeger’s All American Veggie Burger
Per 4 oz patty (113 g): 240 calories, 2 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 460 mg sodium, 7 g carbs (4 g fiber, 0 g sugar), 28 g protein
Gardenburger The Original Veggie Burger
Per 2.5 oz patty (71 g): 110 calories, 3 g fat (1.5 g saturated fat), 490 mg sodium, 16 g carbs (4 g fiber, 0 g sugar), 5 g protein
At first glance, it would look like the Gardenburger would be the better choice. It has fewer calories and only slightly more in sodium and fat.
Then you look at the size of servings in ounces. The Gardenburger is only 2.5 ounces. If you were to double it to match the same size as the first burger, you realize that you wind up with 6 grams of fat, over 900 grams of sodium, 32 carbs, and only 10 grams of protein.
To put that in perspective, that is just as much protein from a White Castle slider and almost as much sodium as you can get from a Whopper!
Does it mean to avoid all veggie burgers in lieu of beef? Not necessarily. Homemade veggie burgers have more protein and less sodium than the average frozen patty. All the evidence points to it being a case of processing vs homemade foods.
The preservatives in both fast food and frozen meals are terrible for your health, whether you are trying to eat more health-conscious by giving up beef or not.
The best thing to do for the sake of nutrition is to just avoid things that have excess preservatives in general, beef or not.