Consumers are seeking healthier food options and manufacturers are responding. Plant-based burgers are a booming category meeting this demand. What once was a niche market plant-based burger options are now going mainstream. They can be found in grocery stores, fast food chains, restaurants like TGI Friday’s, and even Disney World.
Types of Plant-Based Burgers
Due to the diverse offerings in this food category, it is helpful to break it down into two main types: 1) veggie-based and 2) meatless “meat-like burgers.” The veggie-based burgers have been around since the 1970s. Found in the freezer section, they typically have a lengthy list of ingredients with a foundation of vegetables, grains, and/or black beans. Meatless burgers are a newer item that made their debut in 2016. They start with a foundation of processed protein isolates, followed by many flavorings, artery-clogging saturated fats, and binders. These ultra-processed alternatives can be found in the refrigerator case next to real beef.
This begs the question, “Are plant-based burgers healthier than real meat?”
For heart disease risk reduction and curbing many other chronic diseases, limiting saturated fat and limiting sodium are key. Moving away from red meat is a major step towards lowering intake of saturated fat. But first, we need to make sure the alternative is truly a better choice.
In the chart below, you will see how beef and bison compare to meatless burger alternatives.
Black Bean Burger(100 grams)
Grass Fed(100 grams)
Ground Beef80% lean, 20% fat
Black Bean(67 grams)
Boca All-American(71 grams)
|114 calories||179 calories||270 calories||114 calories||120 calories||230 calories||240 calories|
Burger Nutrition Comparison
Despite numerous “health claims,” I had to place both the Beyond Burger and Impossible Burger in the “Stop” category because they are high in saturated fat and sodium, not to mention many additives. These companies do an excellent job portraying a healthy offering, with claims like made from plants, non-GMO, organic, no soy, no gluten, etc. Foods with these claims can still be loaded with saturated fat, salt, and added sugar.
The Morning Star Farms® and Boca Burgers belong in the yellow “Caution” category. They are low in saturated fat, but extremely high in sodium. Real ground beef and bison are also in the “Caution” category due to their high saturated fat.
The Pritikin recipe featured below is low in saturated fat (none) and sodium, placing it in the green “Go” category. An excellent guideline for sodium is to choose foods that have fewer milligrams of sodium than calories. You will notice that the Pritikin burger recipe contains less sodium than calories.
Eating a plant-based diet may have you thinking, “will I get enough protein?”. While the Pritikin recipe does contain less protein than the others on the chart, there are plenty of other protein-rich foods in a largely plant-based eating plan like the Pritikin Eating Plan. Protein comes from many other sources like beans, legumes, nuts, nut butters, soy, broccoli, nonfat dairy, unsweetened dairy alternatives, and whole grains. If you choose to eat animal protein, be sure to select options like lean white poultry, egg whites, omega-3-rich fish, and nonfat dairy
Burger Bottom Line
Watch out for those meat imposters using claims that do not align with optimal heart health. Choose burgers that make the grade…ones in the “Go” category that are low in sodium and saturated fat. Another option is to eat burgers in the “Caution” category less frequently. For those that do not like to cook, there are some healthier, frozen options available, like Engine 2’s® Poblano Black Bean Burger, Dr. Praeger's Sensible Foods® California Veggie Burger, and Hilary’s™ Black Rice Veggie Burger.
Be cautious with the burgers you flip,
BLACK BEAN BURGERS
Serves 6 – ⅓cup patties per serving
- 1 15-ounce can of no salt added black beans, drained (NOT rinsed)
- 1 teaspoon Pritikin All-Purpose Seasoning*
- ½ teaspoon ground cumin
- ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
- ¼ cup grated white onion (about ¼ of an onion)
- ⅓ cup frozen corn kernels, thawed
- 1 teaspoon minced garlic
- 3 tablespoons liquid egg whites
- ½ cup plus 2 tablespoons unseasoned whole wheat breadcrumbs
- Drain, but do not rinse black beans. The extra liquid in the beans will help as a binder for the burgers. Place beans in a medium-sized mixing bowl with all seasonings and mash with a fork until about three-quarters of the beans are smashed, but some remain intact.
- Grate the onion using the larger shredding holes side of a box grater.
- Add grated onions, thawed corn kernels, minced garlic, liquid egg whites, and ½ cup of whole wheat breadcrumbs to the bean and seasoning mixture. Combine well.
- With water-dampened hands, scoop about ⅓ cup of the black bean burger mixture and shape it into patties. Place patties on a flat surface.
- Evenly sprinkle ½ teaspoon of remaining whole wheat breadcrumbs onto each side of the black bean burgers; gently press breadcrumbs onto the patties.
- Gently mist a large nonstick skillet with canola oil cooking spray and warm over medium-high heat. Sauté black bean burger patties until golden brown and cooked through, about 4 to 5 minutes per side.
- Serve in a low sodium whole wheat burger bun or wrapped in iceberg lettuce with sliced tomatoes and red onions.
PRITIKIN CHEF’S TIPS
- If spicy burgers are more to your liking, add any combination of no salt added spices (e.g. chili powder, chipotle powder, or cayenne powder) to kick up the flavor.
- These Black Bean Burgers may also be cooked in the oven at 400°F for 20 minutes, carefully flipping once halfway through the cooking process.
- Prepare extra and freeze for an easy meal that can be reheated in the air fryer, microwave, oven, or on the stove.