burger-4783972_1280

Comparing Plant-Based Burgers + Recipes

How Do the Newer Meat-Like, Plant-Based Burgers Compare Nutritionally?

By Casey Brown, RD

Casey Brown practices as a clinical dietitian in Charlottesville, VA, and is a former VRG intern. She still volunteers by doing Instagram posts for VRG and staffing booths at events.

Written for The Vegetarian Resource Group

 

The new meat-like, plant-based burgers are now widely available at supermarkets and quick-service chains like Burger King. Anecdotally, many omnivores like them equally to meat burgers. We often hear they are good alternatives environmentally, as well as for animal welfare and flavor reasons. But how do they stack up nutritionally?

Veggie burgers offer a lot of variety since the base of the burger can range from soy products to beans to quinoa to mushrooms, and more. The ingredients used offer different flavors, textures, and nutrition. For this article, in the early part of 2020, we compared meat-like, plant-based burgers with more traditional veggie burgers bought in stores, with recipes made at home, and with foods such as falafel and black beans and rice. Note that meat-like burgers are constantly being reformulated, so read labels and look for updated nutrition information on websites. Also, be aware that in restaurants serving meat, cross-contamination may occur. Use your judgment for your specific needs.

Fat and Saturated Fat
While plant foods are generally lower in fat and saturated fat than animal products, many of the new veggie burgers contain high amounts of both. The burgers higher in protein tend to also be high in fat and saturated fat. These products may contain either palm or coconut oil, which contributes to their higher saturated fat content. Burgers based on grains, beans, and vegetables tend to be lower in fat and saturated fat.

Sodium
Many veggie burgers are higher in sodium than meat burgers, with some veggie burgers containing up to 650 mg of sodium in one burger. In addition, people often add sauces and condiments to their burgers, further increasing the overall sodium content. Thus, many purchased veggie burgers can contribute a significant amount of sodium to one’s diet. An advantage of making burgers from scratch is that you can control the amount of sodium by using spices in place of some or all of the salt or soy sauce and by rinsing canned beans. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend limiting sodium intake to fewer than 2,300 mg per day.

Fiber
One benefit of veggie burgers is that they contain fiber. Animal products are devoid of fiber, so by choosing more plant-based foods including veggie burgers, an individual can easily increase their fiber intake. The recommended fiber intake is 25 grams per day for women or 38 grams per day for men.

Protein
A 4-ounce (raw weight) beef hamburger contains about 19 grams of protein. The amount of protein in veggie burgers can vary significantly from 3 grams to 27 grams of protein per burger. The veggie burgers that are lower in protein, such as Hilary’s World’s Best Veggie Burger or Dr. Praeger’s Black Bean Quinoa Veggie Burger, are made from ingredients such as whole grains, beans, and vegetables. In addition, the size of some of the burgers is smaller than others, contributing to their lower protein content per serving. The meat-like burgers tend to have the same or more protein than a beef burger. Meat-like burgers include the Beyond Burger, Impossible Burger, and Morningstar Meat Lovers Burger. These burgers contain soy, pea protein, and/or wheat protein, which contribute to their higher protein content. The serving size of these burgers is about 4 ounces. (Note that it is not necessary to eat higher protein burgers to obtain adequate protein. See: www.vrg.org/nutrition/protein)

Vitamin B12
Vitamin B12 is an essential nutrient. Sources include some nutritional yeast, some plant-based milks, and some meat analogues that are fortified with vitamin B12. However, most veggie burgers are not fortified with vitamin B12. The exception is the Impossible Burger/Whopper, which is fortified with vitamin B12.

If you want a homemade burger to contain B12, you can add B12-fortified nutritional yeast to the recipe. The amount of vitamin B12 in the recipe varies based on the brand of nutritional yeast being used. It is important to pay attention to the labels when purchasing nutritional yeast to be aware of how much vitamin B12 it contains.

Iron
Many brands of veggie burgers supply generous amounts of iron — as much as a quarter of the daily recommendation for iron. One meat-like burger (Impossible Burger) contains heme iron, which is more readily absorbed than the non-heme iron found in the other burgers and products based on beans, grains, tofu, or vegetables. One doesn’t have to eat veggie burgers to get iron, however. Many vegan foods supply iron. See: www.vrg.org/nutrition/iron.php

Thoughts about Veggie Burgers
Compared to animal-based diets, plant-based diets and vegan diets (the two could be the same or different) are usually characterized by lower fat and saturated fat content and higher fiber and phytochemicals content, which help to reduce one’s risk of chronic disease. Although veggie burgers contain higher amounts of fiber, some options, namely the meat-like burgers, are high in fat and saturated fat. While veggie burgers can be enjoyed in moderation, it is important to include a variety of grains, legumes, fruits, and vegetables as part of a healthy plant-based diet. If you eat burgers frequently, read labels to choose less processed burgers with healthful ingredients, including beans, grains, and vegetables. Veggie burgers are an alternative to meat burgers for individuals who avoid animal products for ethical reasons. Some veggie burgers offer a similar taste and texture to animal burgers, so individuals can enjoy these products while abstaining from animal-derived ingredients.

Considerations When Selecting Veggie Burgers

Cost: Some veggie burgers tend to be similar in cost or slightly more expensive than beef burgers. At time of our survey, the Impossible Whopper cost $5.59 at Burger King, while a beef-based Whopper cost $4.19. Though some options like the Impossible Burger, Beyond Burger, and LightLife Plant-Based Burger cost more than a beef burger, preparing veggie burgers from scratch significantly reduces cost compared to a beef burger.

Allergens/Labels: While veggie burgers are options for individuals avoiding meat and other animal-derived ingredients, they often contain soy, wheat, or other common allergens. In addition, some vegetarian burgers contain eggs or milk as ingredients. When searching for the right veggie burger, carefully read the label to ensure that it does not contain any ingredients you are hoping to avoid. Homemade burgers allow you to avoid problematic ingredients.

There is currently a wide variety of meat substitutes on the market. The increasing options and availability of veggie burgers make it easier to find products to suit your preferences. While veggie burgers vary significantly from a nutrition standpoint, they generally have more fiber and sodium than animal meat burgers. Veggie burgers are a great way to add variety to a plant-based diet rich in whole grains, legumes, fruits, and vegetables.

If you would like to try preparing healthier veggie burgers from scratch, check out the recipes for Garbanzo Bean Burgers and Multi-Veggie Tofu Burgers.

Garbanzo Bean Burgers
by Debra Wasserman from Simply Vegan
(Makes 6 burgers)

2 cups chickpeas, rinsed, drained, then mashed
1 stalk celery, finely chopped
1 carrot, grated
1/4 small onion, minced
1/4 cup whole-wheat flour
Salt and pepper to taste
2 teaspoons oil

Mix all ingredients (except oil) together in a bowl. Form 6 patties. Cook in oiled pan over medium-high heat until golden brown on each side.

Cook’s Note: Sodium content can greatly vary, depending if you are using cans of chickpeas with less, more, or no added sodium.

Variation: Replace 1/4 cup whole-wheat flour with 2 Tablespoons nutritional yeast plus 2 Tablespoons whole-wheat flour.

Total calories per burger: 120 Fat: 3 grams
Carbohydrates: 18 grams Protein: 5 grams
Sodium: 244 milligrams Fiber: 4 grams

Comparison of Plant-Based Burgers, Vegan Burgers, and Similar Foods

Brand Cost ($) Serving Size Calories Fat(g) Saturated Fat (g) Sodium(mg) Fiber(g) Protein(g) Iron (mg) B12 (g)
Meat-Like Plant-Based Burgers
Beyond Burger (supermarket) 3 4 oz 260 18 5 350 2 20 4 0
Beyond Burger from Veggie Grill 9.95 4 oz 300 23 8 650 3 19 4.5 0
Impossible Burger (supermarket) 3 4 oz 240 14 8 370 3 19 4.2 7.8
Impossible Whopper from Burger King 5.59 3.5 oz 210 12 7 330 2 17 3.7 6.8
LightLife Burger 3 4 oz 270 17 2.5 540 2 20 3.8 0
Morningstar Meat Lovers Burger 1.85 4 oz 280 18 2.5 580 4 27 1.9 0
Worthington Xburger 3.25 4 oz 250 19 9 270 4 21 4.5 0
Burgers Based on Beans, Grains, and/or Vegetables
Boca Original Turk’y Veggie Burger 0.95 2.5 oz 70 1 0 450 4 13 1.8 0
Dr. Praeger’s Black Bean Quinoa Veggie Burger 1 2.5 oz 150 7 0.5 290 7 5 1.2 0
Gardein Chipotle Black Bean Burger 1.12 3 oz 140 6 0 420 7 6 1.4 0
Hilary’s World’s Best Veggie Burger 1.80 3.25 oz 160 7 0.5 260 3 3 1.3 0
Yves Kale and Root Vegetable Patty 1.50 2.5 oz 170 11 1 290 4 4 1.8 0
Homemade Burgers
Recipe: Garbanzo Bean Burger 0.21 1 burger 120 3 0 244 4 5 6 0
Recipe: Multi-Veggie Tofu Burger 0.73 1 burger 211 3 0 113 5 9 1.6 0
Burger-Like Products Based on Beans, Grains, Vegetables
Amy’s Black Bean Burrito 2.49 1 burrito (6 oz) 290 9 1 680 5 8 1.8 0
Boca Original Falafel Bites 1 4 falafels 150 5 0.5 550 7 6 1.8 0
Taco Bell Black Beans and Rice 1.49 1 serving 170 3.5 0 320 4 4 0.7 0
Taco Bell Bean Burrito (with onions and red sauce, no cheese) 1.29 1 burrito 325 6.9 2.3 959 11 11 3.6 0
Animal Meat Burgers (for comparison)
Beef Burger 1.27 4 oz, uncooked weight 290 23 9 75 0 19 2.2 2.44
Lean Beef Hamburger (93% lean) 1.25 4 oz, uncooked weight 170 8 3.5 75 0 24 2.6 2.52

*All costs based on prices at Kroger supermarket in Charlottesville, VA, except Worthington XBurger (Wegmans in Charlottesville, VA) and products from restaurants. Costs based on the time of 2020 survey. Costs for Burger King and Veggie Grill for whole sandwich, but nutrients just for burger. According to Burger King, the Impossible Whopper uses the same patty as the original Impossible Burger but is smaller in size (3.5 oz) than the original Impossible Burger, which is 4 oz. The Garbanzo Bean Burger recipe variation includes nutritional yeast and depending upon yeast brand used may contain vitamin B12. ©The Vegetarian Resource Group, www.vrg.org, 2020

Multi-Veggie Tofu Burgers
by Chef Nancy Berkoff, EdD, RD
(Makes 10 burgers)

5 cups peeled and steamed baking potatoes (start with approximately 8 potatoes)
2 cups diced onions
1 cup finely minced fresh mushrooms
2 cups minced cooked carrots
1 cup cooked green peas
2 cups cooked corn
1-1/2 cups crumbled firm tofu
1 cup dry vegan breadcrumbs
1 Tablespoon dried parsley

Mash cooked potatoes. Set aside.

Steam the onions and mushrooms until soft. In a large mixing bowl combine mushroom mixture with mashed potatoes. Add remaining ingredients, except breadcrumbs and parsley. Mix thoroughly. Add just enough breadcrumbs for mixture to form patties. Mix in parsley. Take half a cup of mixture at a time and form into burgers.

Cook on a nonstick griddle or bake in a 350-degree oven until browned on both sides. Serve hot, or allow burgers to cool, and refrigerate or freeze until ready to use. To reheat, preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spray a baking pan and place burgers on pan. Bake until hot in the middle (approx 165 degrees), about 15 minutes.

Cook’s Note: If you don’t have the tofu needed in this recipe, you can substitute more prepared and cooled mashed potatoes. You can also use this mixture to create meatballs or loaves.

Like it spicy? Feel free to kick things up by adding a teaspoon of Italian or Tex-Mex seasoning.

Total calories per burger: 211 Fat: 3 grams
Carbohydrates: 37 grams Protein: 9 grams
Sodium: 113 milligrams Fiber: 5 grams

Multi-Veggie Tofu Burgers
by Chef Nancy Berkoff, EdD, RD
(Makes 10 burgers)

5 cups peeled and steamed baking potatoes (start with approximately 8 potatoes)
2 cups diced onions
1 cup finely minced fresh mushrooms
2 cups minced cooked carrots
1 cup cooked green peas
2 cups cooked corn
1 1/2 cups crumbled firm tofu
1 cup dry vegan breadcrumbs
1 Tablespoon dried parsley

Mash cooked potatoes. Set aside.

Steam the onions and mushrooms until soft. In a large mixing bowl combine mushroom mixture with mashed potatoes. Add remaining ingredients, except breadcrumbs and parsley. Mix thoroughly. Add just enough breadcrumbs for mixture to form patties. Mix in parsley. Take half a cup of mixture at a time and form into burgers.

Cook on a nonstick griddle or bake in a 350-degree oven until browned on both sides. Serve hot, or allow burgers to cool, and refrigerate or freeze until ready to use. To reheat, preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spray a baking pan and place burgers on pan. Bake until hot in the middle (approx 165 degrees), about 15 minutes.

Cook’s Note: If you don’t have the tofu needed in this recipe, you can substitute more prepared and cooled mashed potatoes. You can also use this mixture to create meatballs or loaves.

Like it spicy? Feel free to kick things up by adding a teaspoon of Italian or Tex-Mex seasoning.

Total calories per burger: 211 Fat: 3 grams
Carbohydrates: 37 grams Protein: 9 grams
Sodium: 113 milligrams Fiber: 5 grams

 

 

Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *