By Garth Davis, MD
I used to be a hamburger fanatic. I could eat one daily (in fact, there was a Wendy’s in the hospital where I trained!).
Alas, my burger addiction caught up with me. I transitioned to larger scrub pants, and was diagnosed with high blood pressure and high cholesterol. As a doctor who is supposed to be an expert in weight management, I felt like a hypocrite. I decided to really study nutrition, and to completely change my lifestyle. I learned that the healthiest diet was a diet very high in fruits and veggies, and very low in meat.
At first, this news was shocking. I had to drop my favorite meal, but then I found the veggie burger.
Virtue of the veggie burger
Technology has made veggie burgers taste almost exactly like the real thing, if not better. When GQ magazine went looking for the best burger in America, they chose a New York restaurant that served only veggie burgers.
So were veggie burgers my ticket to health? Not really. But I got a little healthier, and it allowed me to transition from meat. The average frozen veggie patty has only half the calories of a meat patty, and one-third the fat. In addition, the veggie patty does not have saturated fat or cholesterol, but does have fiber, unlike the meat burger.
However, the common store-bought veggie patties are very high in salt. Many have eggs in them, which raises the saturated fat and cholesterol. They also often use texturized vegetable protein or soy isolate. Soy is actually very good for you, but soy isolate can have issues because they use hexane to extract the isolate. Now, trust me that there are tons of chemicals involved with the beef burger too, but the typical veggie patty is not the complete savior I had hoped. The real answer to health is a real whole-food diet heavy in fruits, veggies and legumes. But man I want a burger from time to time.
Times are changing
The frozen, hockey puck-like generic veggie burger is being replaced by some truly organic, natural-ingredient veggie burgers. Brands like Good Seed are offering great tasting and healthy alternatives that I never feel guilty eating. In the store, look for USDA organic veggie burgers and avoid the ones that claim “high protein” or contain soy isolate.
Many restaurants are now making their veggies burgers in house by combining wholesome ingredients such as oats, beans and other veggies. Of course, when you eat out you have no idea how much oil you are getting.
The best solution is a homemade veggie burger on the grill. A few tips, all veggies and grains you use should be cooked before making the patty. Try to keep them as dry as possible. You will need a binder. Oats and flax work well. The new binder of choice is called “aquafaba,” which is the water you find inside a can of chickpeas. It has the consistency of egg. Beans and mushrooms are great additives. There are many recipes online, and it is certainly fun to mix and match and try and create your own.
I love the Minimalist Baker, and would recommend her recipe. To check it out for yourself, click here. Bon appetit!
Garth Davis, MD, FASMBS, is the Medical Director of Mission Weight Management.