Whether you’ve chosen a plant-based diet for environmental reasons, health benefits or just to switch up your traditional beef burger, the meatless trend continues to grow with a number of alternative options. While plant-based meats mimic the juicy sizzle of their counterparts, with any processed food product, it’s important to understand exactly what you are consuming.
While many meat-alternatives have similar nutritional content to beef, they do contain a long ingredient list. Katie Johnson, a registered dietitian and board-certified health and wellness coach, shared what may make up a meatless patty:
- Rice, peas, beans, soy or potato (protein)
- Canola oil, coconut oil, sunflower oil or cocoa butter (fat)
- Vitamins and minerals, like B12 and zinc are added to some options
- A binding agent, like methylcellulose (commonly used in ice creams, jams and sauces), is often used
The health breakdown
Just because it’s plant-based doesn’t mean it’s necessarily healthier for you. There are some health and diet considerations to make when switching to meat alternatives, Katie said.
Some processed burger-alternatives contain higher saturated fat and sodium, which may contribute to heart disease, stroke, obesity, blood pressure, high cholesterol and Type 2 diabetes.
To help lower your risk of these diseases, look for veggie burgers made of beans, grains and seeds, Katie said, and make sure you’re still getting the vitamins and minerals you need.
“Be careful to compensate for the loss of nutrients when you go from meat to alternatives,” she said.
Especially when it comes to protein. For example, tofu contains about 8 grams of protein per 100 grams, where ground beef contains 19 grams for that same amount. Federal dietary guidelines recommend women and men eat 46 and 56 grams of protein per day.
You’ll also want to ensure you are consuming enough iron and vitamin B12. Katie said iron from beef absorbs better than from plants, adding that vitamin B12 only comes naturally from animal products, so if you aren’t supplementing for it, anemia may become a concern. The key is having a nutrient-dense diet containing a variety of whole foods. Similar to if you’re eating a beef patty, you’ll also want to fill your plate with healthy sides, like vegetables, fruits and whole grains that contain iron and other key nutrients.
With that in mind, here’s a healthy, vegan-approved recipe you may want to try:
- ½ cup red quinoa
- 2 tablespoons homemade tzatziki
- 1 teaspoon lemon vinaigrette
- 4 ounces meatless-beef crumbles
- ½ cup cherry tomatoes, halved
- ¼ cup carrots, sliced
- ½ cup cucumbers, sliced
- ½ cup spring mix lettuce
- 1 tablespoon dill, garnish
- 1 cup Greek yogurt
- 1 teaspoon garlic, minced
- 1/8 teaspoon paprika
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 1/8 teaspoon pepper
- ½ teaspoon dill
- ¼ cup cucumber
- Cook quinoa.
- Peel and slice carrot and cucumber. Cut cherry tomatoes in half. Set aside.
- Pour Greek yogurt, garlic, paprika, salt, pepper, dill and cucumbers into a bowl. Mix until combined. Set aside.
- Heat oil in a frying pan. Brown both sides of the plant-based patty. Then break it apart into crumbles.
- Combine the lettuce with a lemon vinaigrette. Add quinoa, cucumber, carrots, tomatoes and meatless crumbles into the bowl.
- Top with homemade tzatziki and garnish with dill.