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Meatless Burgers, Hot Dogs Not Always Full of Veggies

Read labels to select items with more vegetables, less sodium, experts say

WEDNESDAY, July 8 (HealthDay News) -- Not all vegetarian burgers and hot dogs are alike. It seems that some, in fact, may not offer much at all in the way of vegetables.

"Arguably, if food doesn't taste good, people are less likely to eat it even if it does wear an impressive nutrition label," registered dietitian Dawn Jackson Blatner, a spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association, said in a news release from the organization. "While some veggie burgers are meant to look and taste 'like meat,' many popular brands have visible chunks of vegetables, such as mushrooms, carrots and peppers, suggesting that satisfying meatless fare may not depend entirely on a successful imitation."

So before tossing some on the grill this summer, the association advises, read the labels and know the facts:

  • Veggie burgers with 10 grams of protein or less tend to contain more vegetables and whole grains than those with more protein, which often are made of mostly soy protein and wheat gluten.
  • Nutritionally speaking, veggie hot dogs tend to have many advantages over traditional frankfurters, such as fewer calories, less fat, less sodium and more protein.
  • Though veggie burgers contain far less fat and more fiber than beef or turkey burgers, they tend to contain much more sodium -- an average of 350 milligrams, or 15 percent of the recommended daily amount.
  • Just because a brand is vegan-friendly (meaning it's made without such animal products as eggs and cheese), it doesn't necessarily contain more vegetables.
  • Meatless burgers and hot dogs can be bad for people with certain food allergies. Most contain soy and wheat, and many others contain eggs, dairy and nuts.
  • Some meatless burgers or hot dogs tend to fall apart on the grill so use cooking spray on them and cook over low-medium heat but not over a direct flame, which could dry them out. Baking or broiling in an oven or toaster oven, microwaving or heating in a skillet might prove better cooking options with some brands of meatless burgers and hot dogs.

More information

The American Dietetic Association has details on vegetarian burgers and hot dogs.

-- Kevin McKeever

SOURCE: American Dietetic Association, news release, July 1, 2009

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