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, you need to take an up close and personal look at what they’re made of.

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.

YES?

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.

NO?

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.

Recipes to Try:

Toby Amidor, MS, RD, CDN, is a registered dietitian and consultant who specializes in food safety and culinary nutrition. See Toby's full bio »

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