Friday, July 16, 2010

Vegetarian Nutrition on the Grill

Summer breezes speak of picnics, barbecues, and family get-togethers – what better opportunity to fire up the grill? Standard fare of hamburgers and hot dogs may need some meatless choices these days to satisfy all guests and family. With veggie burgers and links available in most supermarkets, how do they rate nutritionally? The American Dietetic Association’s publication, the ADA Times (Summer 2009), examined some meatless burgers and hot dogs, and offered some observations and tips:
Protein: Veggie burgers with moderate levels of protein (about 10 grams or less per serving) rely on actual vegetable content, such as mushrooms, onions, celery, carrots, peppers, tomatoes, spinach, broccoli and whole grains like brown rice, oats and bulgur. The veggie burgers with higher amounts of protein rely on a soy protein or wheat gluten base, which provides more protein, but few actual vegetables or whole grains. Overall, veggie burgers offer about 11 grams of protein, an excellent source, though it is about half of what you would consume in a 3 oz. beef or turkey burger.
Vegan Versions: Some brands offer vegan burgers (containing no animal products), which are similar to non-vegan products nutritionally, except for the lack of ingredients derived from animals.
Common Allergens: People with food allergies should check the ingredients of meatless burgers and hot dogs with care. Most contain soy and wheat. Many products also contain eggs, dairy and nuts. With careful shopping, however, you can locate products that do not contain, soy, wheat or other common allergens.
Veggie hot dogs: Most veggie hot dogs have nutritional advantages over traditional meat hot dogs in all areas. They have fewer calories, less fat, less sodium and more protein than the common meat frank.
Veggie burgers: Veggie burgers are better than standard fare in some areas, and tilt the scale in the other direction in other areas. They are a good source of fiber; with an average of 3-4 grams (meat burgers have no fiber). The veggie version has only 1/3 the amount of fat and 1/7 the amount of saturated fat as typical meat versions. Sodium levels, however, are between 250 and 500 mg per burger (average of 350 mg) in veggie burgers. This is moderate, representing about 15% of the daily value. Meat hamburgers vary in sodium, depending on how much salt and other seasonings are added, but unseasoned burgers have only 1/5 the amount of sodium as the veggie counterpart.
When you decide to grill meatless hot dogs and burgers, oil the grill to prevent them from sticking and crumbling. Use low to medium heat with no direct flame to prevent them from drying out. Veggie burgers and hot dogs vary a great deal, so sample a few to find your favorites. Another delicious option is to make your own veggie burgers, using one of the many recipes available on the internet or in vegetarian cookbooks at your local library!

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