When you think of the words "plant-based," you probably think that these food items would be healthier than their meaty counterparts.
However, a recent analysis by Daily Mail shows that isn't the case at all.
Looking at items sold at popular chains with plant-based options such as McDonald's, KFC, Subway, and Burger King, Daily Mail found that these options are saltier, more sugar-laden, and fattier than their traditional counterparts.
In fact, plant-based burger options contained up to a third more salt, 20% more sugar, and 60% more fat than the meaty originals.
Burger King's plant-based Whopper contained 22% more salt and 20% more sugar than its traditional beef burger. Both Burger King and KFC's meat-free sandwiches contain half of the daily recommended salt intake for adults.
Professor Gunter Kuhnle, an expert in nutrition and food science at the University of Reading, told the UK-based news outlet the "big problem" when making plant-based food is creating a comparable taste to the original version, which is why companies add a ton of salt and fat.
"Most foods are made in a way that the consumer likes them–and these plant-based foods are no exception and they should not be seen as some kind of health food," Kuhnle told Daily Mail. "People who want to follow a vegetarian (or vegan) diet for health reasons should really look carefully at their diet–also to make sure that they avoid deficiencies. Those who want to enjoy it should do so without worrying."
Eat This, Not That! recently spoke with Amy Goodson, Amy Goodson, MS, RD, CSSD, LD, to see how you can enjoy a burger without setting you back a whole day's worth of calories.
"While a hamburger can fit into a healthy diet, many fast-food chains have taken the concept of 'burger' over the edge by increasing the portions sizes and piling on high-calorie additions like bacon and creamy sauces," says Goodson, a registered dietitian and certified specialist in sports dietetics.
A burger can actually be made much healthier with a few simple tweaks at home. For example, choose a lean cut of beef for your patties—ideally 90% lean with 10% fat, she advises. "Lean ground beef is a nutrient-rich source of high-quality protein, providing you with ten essential nutrients," says Goodson.
If you're looking for a truly healthy plant-based alternative, check out the one vegan fast-food burger that beat out all the others.