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Vegetarian Journal May/June 2000

Guide to Burgers and Dogs

by Reed Mangels, PhD, RD


Summer's on the way, there's lots to do, and quick meals are what you're looking for. Maybe veggie burgers and dogs are what you need.

Veggie burgers and dogs have come a long way since we first looked at them 7 years ago. Back then, there was a limited number of brands (we found 7 veggie burgers and 6 dogs, to be exact), many were quite high in fat, and, frankly, some fell short in the flavor department. On a recent quick trip to the supermarket and natural foods store, we found close to 50 different kinds of veggie burgers and more than 10 kinds of dogs. Those we tried were generally pretty tasty, and most were low in fat. But, are all veggie burgers and dogs alike? How do they compare with hamburgers and hot dogs? We'll try to answer these questions.

Veggie burgers and dogs are generally lower in calories and fat than hamburgers and hot dogs. Even extra lean ground beef gets more than half its calories from fat; most veggie burgers have less than 20% of calories from fat. Meat has no fiber; most veggie burgers have at least 3 or 4 grams of dietary fiber per serving. While veggie burgers have little or no cholesterol, a 3.5 ounce hamburger made with extra lean ground beef has 90 milligrams of cholesterol. Veggie burgers, especially those made with soy, contain generous amounts of protein and iron. Vitamin B-12 is added to some veggie burgers. The only negative for veggie burgers is that most are higher in sodium than ground beef.

Veggie dogs are also lower in calories, fat, and cholesterol than hot dogs. Some veggie dogs have more protein and iron and less sodium than do hot dogs. Both hot dogs and veggie dogs contain little or no fiber.

Our top picks, nutritionally speaking, are low in fat and sodium and contain no animal-based ingredients. These are identified in the table accompanying this article. Of course, when you're choosing a veggie burger or dog, think how many you're likely to eat at a time. Eating one of some of the larger burgers and dogs may actually give you less fat and sodium than would eating a couple of the smaller burgers or dogs.

How do veggie burgers and dogs differ from hamburgers and hot dogs? For starters, you probably won't find E. coli or Salmonella in them. Veggie dogs do not contain nitrites, substances which are found in hot dogs and have been shown to increase cancer risk.

Some veggie burgers contain cheese, eggs, or other non-vegan ingredients; others do not. We have indicated in the table accompanying this article which burgers appeared to be vegan. Most veggie dogs we found were vegan; 2 brands had egg whites. To our surprise, very few veggie burgers or dogs were made with organic ingredients. Since organic soybeans are available, why aren't they used more often by producers of veggie burgers and dogs? If you're looking for a veggie burger made with organic ingredients, try Ken & Robert's Veggie Burger, Hearty and Natural Burger, Hempeh Burger, Amy's burgers, Soyboy Okara Courage Burger, or Organic Sunshine Burger. Veggie dogs with organic ingredients are Lightlife Tofu Pups and Soyboy Not Dogs.

Each brand of veggie burger that we tried seemed to have its own cooking instructions—microwave in the package, pan fry in a little oil, microwave out of the package, and/or pop in the toaster. We did find that products tasted best when cooked by the method recommended on the package. In any case, both burgers and dogs are very quick foods to prepare.

Some veggie burgers are made with soy protein and these burgers look more like hamburgers. They often have a chewy texture, a brown color, and a grilled flavor. We tasted several soy-based veggie burgers. Favorites with children were Morningstar Farms Harvest Burger and Whole Foods Vegan Burger. Adults preferred Lightlife Light Burgers and Gardenburger Life Burger. A few other soy-based burgers we tried were dry or had an odd aftertaste. Other veggie burgers are based on combinations of beans, grains, or vegetables. These burgers are more like the kind you can make at home from leftover brown rice or mashed chickpeas. Our tasters liked Amy's California Veggie Burger ("nice crunch from nuts!"), Garden Vegan ("I could eat this every day!"), Soyboy Okara Courage Burger ("doesn't taste like a hamburger and that's good"), and Yves Garden Vegetable Patties ("interesting texture and color").

Veggie dogs are usually based on some sort of soy protein. When served on a bun with mustard and catsup, our tasters found all of the dogs we tried to be acceptable.

When we checked prices for veggie burgers and dogs at supermarkets and natural foods stores in New England, we found that burgers cost between 62 cents and $1.25 each. Dogs were between 33 and 66 cents, with the higher price for larger sized dogs. Most veggie dogs cost around 35 cents each. Products are frequently on sale or you could certainly make your own if you're trying to save money.

There are certainly plenty of products to choose from. Pick up some lettuce, tomatoes, mustard, catsup, and a few packs of veggie burgers or dogs and give them a try.

Products are ranked from lowest to highest fat, then from lowest to highest sodium. Products containing some organic ingredients are indicated by "org" while vegan products are indicated by "v." Top choice veggie burgers (no more than 4 grams of fat and 300 mg of sodium per burger, vegan) and dogs (no more than 3 grams of fat and 200 mg of sodium per dog, vegan) are italicized.

 
Vegetarian Burgers			Calories   Protein   Fat   Sodium
							(gm)	  (gm)	   (mg)


Boca Burger Vegan Original (2.5 oz) v	  	80	13	0	 270	
Whole Foods Vegan Burger (2.5 oz) v	  	80	13	0	 270
Yves Garden Vegetable Patty (3 oz) v	 	 80	 8	0	 310	
Gardenburger Sautéed Onion (2.5 oz) v		100	15	0	 320
Gardenburger Life Burger (3 oz) v		100	16	0	 360
Morningstar Farms Better 'n Burger (2.8 oz) v	 80	13	0	 360
Natural Touch Vegan Burger (2.5 oz) v	 	 70	11	0	 370
Nature's Chef Soybean Burger (3.6 oz) v		120	19	0	 380
Seenergy So Delight (3.5 oz) v			100	19	0	 380
Yves Black Bean & Mushroom Burger (3 oz) v	 90	11	0	 520
Gardenburger Roasted Garlic (2.5 oz) v	 	90	13	1	 200
Whole Foods 365 Garlic Burger (2.5 oz)	  	80	12	1	 240
Garden Vegan (2.5 oz) v				110	 9	1	 260
Ken & Robert's Veggie Burger (2.5 oz) org	130	 5	1	 260
NewMenu VegiBurger (3 oz) v			110	13	1	 320
Natural Touch Spicy Black Bean Burger (2.8 oz)	110	11	1	 330
Freedom V.G. Burger (2.5 oz) v			165	 7	1	 342
Advantage\10 SoWest Vegetable Burger (3 oz) v	140	 8	1	 380
Lightlife Lightburgers (3 oz) v			130	16	1	 410
Miyi Burger (5 oz) v				190	 7	1.5	 387
Franklin Farms Portabella Burger (3 oz) org	120	15	1.5	 460
Advantage\ 10 Mushroom Burger (3 oz) v		130	 7	1.5	 680
Boca Burger Chef Max's Favorite (2.5 oz) 	100	13	2	 290
Hearty and Natural Veggie Burger (2.5 oz) org	110	14	2	 290
Whole Foods 365 Gourmet Burger (2.5 oz)		100	13	2	 290
Franklin Farms Veggie Burger (2.5 oz)		100	12	2	 380
Natural Touch Garden Veggie Patty (2.4 oz)	100	10	2.5	 280
Hempeh Burger (3 oz) org, v			110	11	2.5	 310
Fantastic Foods Nature's Burger Roasted Red Pepper
     & Garlic (2.5 oz) v			130	 6	2.5	 350
Morningstar Farms Garden Veggie Patty (2.4 oz)	100	10	2.5	 350
Gardenburger Savory Mushroom (2.5 oz)		120	 6	2.5	 370
Amy's California Veggie Burger (2.5 oz) org, v	100	 4	3	 290
Gardenburger Original (2.5 oz)			130	 7	3	 290
Nature's Chef Fajita Burger (3.6 oz) v		150	 9	3	 290
Fantastic Foods Nature's Burger (2.5 oz) v	140	 7	3	 440
Amy's Chicago Veggie Burger (2.5 oz) org 	100	 6	4	 190
Morningstar Farms Harvest Burger (3 oz) v	140	18	4	 370
Garden Gourmet Veggie Patty (2.5 oz)		 90	 7	4	 430
Garden Gourmet Burger (2.5 oz)			100	14	4	 440
Mudpie Veggie Burger (3 oz) v			180	6.5	4.5	 160
Soyboy Okara Courage Burger (2.3 oz) org, v	130	13	5	 280
Natural Touch Okara Patty (2.3 oz)		110	11	5	 360
Zoglo's Tender Meatless Burger (2.6 oz)		131	15	5.5	 225
Morningstar Farms Grillers (2.3 oz)		140	15	6	 260
Worthington FriPats (2.3 oz)			130	14	6	 320
V.G. Burger (2.5 oz)				154	 7	6	 344
Morningstar Farms Hard Rock Cafe (3 oz) v	170	 6	8	 340
The Original Sunshine Burger (2.5 oz) v		250	10	15	 230
Organic Sunshine Burger (2.5 oz) org, v		250	10	15	 230
 
Vegetarian Dogs			Calories   Protein   Fat   Sodium
							(gm)	  (gm)	   (mg)

SoyBoy Leaner Wiener (1.5 oz) v			55	12	0	 140
NewMenu VegiDog (1.5 oz) v			45	9	0	 170
Lightlife Smart Dog (1.5 oz) v			45	9	0	 230
Yves Veggie Wiener (1.6 oz) v			55	11	0	 340
Yves Veggie Chili Dog (1.6 oz) v		50	10	0	 360
Yves Jumbo Veggie Dog (2.7 oz) v		90	17	0	 570
Lightlife Jumbo (2.7 oz) v			80	16	0	 590
Yves Tofu Wiener (1.4 oz) v			45	9	0.5	 240
Morningstar Farms Veggie Dog (2 oz)    		80	11	0.5	 580
LightLife Wonder Dog (1.5 oz) v			60	9	2	 230
LightLife Tofu Pup (1.5 oz) org, v		60	9	2.5	 140
Zoglo's Meatless Frank (1.4 oz)			57	6.5	2.6	 114
SoyBoy Not Dog (1.5 oz) org, v			95	7	3	 200


Excerpts from the May/Jun 2000 Issue


The Vegetarian Journal published here is not the complete issue, but these are excerpts from the published magazine. Anyone wanting to see everything should subscribe to the magazine.



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