Veggie Burger: Is It Healthy?
When ordering a veggie burger at a restaurant, are you really making the healthier choice? It depends. The ingredients vary so widely, it pays to take a close look at what those burgers are made of.
Many veggie burgers are made from vegetables, whole grains, and legumes (like beans or lentils). These are good-for-you ingredients that provide fiber and a variety of vitamins and minerals.
Packaged veggie burgers (like Morning Star Farms or Boca) can also be a part of a healthy eating plan. They're a quick and convenient way to enjoy a meatless meal and typically run from 70 to 130 calories per patty. Pair with a whole-grain bun and pile the fresh veggies high for a well-balanced meal.
Store-bought veggie burgers may have a reasonable amount of calories per serving, but the sodium can be pretty high in some brands. In a recent veggie burger taste test, I found varieties containing as many as 390 milligrams of sodium per patty; that's 17% of the recommended daily amount.
Another issue with the store-bought veggie burgers is the long list of ingredients and preservatives—some have over 20! Read ingredient lists carefully, and look for brands that keep it simple; you can find some varieties with as few as 5 ingredients.
When dining out, it's tough to tell if a veggie burger is the healthiest choice. You have no idea what goes into it and an ingredient list is not typically available. But it doesn't hurt to ask! When I was a dietetic student, the kitchen I worked in would use the veggie and bean leftovers to create their burgers. Although they were delicious, they were different every time. In addition, some chefs will use a ton of oil or higher fat ingredients, which results in a higher calorie burger. Restaurants that provide a calorie count can give you a better idea if the veggie burger you're ordering is a healthier choice.
The Verdict: When it comes to veggie burgers, your best bet is to make your own. This way, YOU control the ingredients. You can even make a double batch and freeze half for later.
Toby Amidor, MS, RD, CDN, is a registered dietitian and consultant who specializes in food safety and culinary nutrition. See Toby's full bio »