Vegetarian and vegan diets have been found to have many health benefits. Plant-based diets have been said to reduce the risk of obesity, heart disease and type 2 diabetes. As a result, it is easy to assume that all plant-based foods are healthy – including fast food. Although vegetarian and vegan alternatives to fast food may appear nutritionally appealing, they are still as unhealthy as their meat counterparts.
Plant-Based Doesn’t Always Equal Healthy
Fast food that is advertised as plant-based isn’t automatically healthy. There may be a lack of animal products involved but can still be high in calories. Furthermore, they can still contain copious amounts of saturated fat, salt and sugar.
All ingredients still account for calories, whether they are plant-based or not. Large amounts of cheese, condiments, creamy ingredients, fat and salt will add extra calories. Another issue is how the food itself is prepared; particularly if it is fried.
Look for the Ingredients
For example, a Vegetable Deluxe from McDonald’s contains 400 calories, 1.6 grams of saturated fat, 8.1 grams of sugar and 1.4 grams of salt, which is almost equal to the McChicken Sandwich. This is without considering fries and a fizzy drink which, when added, makes up almost half the recommended daily calorie intake.
Just because food is vegetarian or vegan doesn’t mean that is a nutritionally superior option. Indeed, vegetarian and vegan foods can have health benefits but mainly when the ingredients are fresh and prepared without frying. Chips may be vegan, but they certainly aren’t healthy.
Eat Balanced and in Moderation
Plant-based food is still important, because it allows vegetarians and vegans to have options in mainstream fast-food restaurants that would otherwise be highly dominated by animal-based meals. It means that those with plant-based diets can still enjoy a more indulgent option. However, like any food it should be eaten in moderation and not be the main component of daily dietary intake.