​Vegan Fast Food: No Healthier Than Meat Fast Food

​Vegan Fast Food: No Healthier Than Meat Fast Food

Posted by Emily on 5th Jan 2024

Recent research challenges the perceived health benefits of vegan fast food alternatives. This study, spanning fast food chains in Australia, Canada, Poland, the UK, and the US, reveals that plant-based options such as burgers, wraps, and pizzas offer no significant health advantages over their meat counterparts.

Methodically, researchers compared plant-based meals with meat-based ones from the same chain and country, ensuring minimal weight difference and food type similarity. The findings were unexpected: vegetarian options, while lower in sodium, contained more sugar, carbohydrates, and notably less protein. Notably, vegetarian (but not strictly vegan) options often had higher fat and saturated fat content compared to their meat-based equivalents.

Calorically, there was little difference between the plant and meat-based meals. This undermines the assumption that plant-based fast food is a healthier alternative, particularly for individuals concerned about diabetes and obesity.

Proponents of plant-based diets cite environmental benefits, such as reduced greenhouse gas emissions and less land deforestation. Indeed, studies have shown health benefits for individuals consuming home-cooked vegetarian meals. However, Mikolaj Kaminski of Poznan University of Medical Sciences in Poland points out that "plant-based" does not automatically equate to "nutritious," especially in fast food settings dominated by ultra-processed options.

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Kaminski emphasises the need for informed choices in fast food consumption, cautioning against the misconception that plant-based means fewer calories or better nutritional value.

The study, published in "Nutrition," warns against the overconsumption of highly processed fast food, regardless of whether it's plant-based or meat-based. It concludes that opting for plant-based fast food often means swapping protein-derived calories for carbohydrate-derived ones, not necessarily a healthier choice.

Brand Comparison Examples:

Leon's plant-based Love burger has more calories, carbohydrates, and sugar than its chicken burger counterpart.

McDonald's McPlant and Quarter Pounder show minimal nutritional differences, with the McPlant slightly higher in carbs.

KFC's Vegan Burger is similar in calories and fat to the Zinger Burger but has more carbs, sugar, and salt. Nando's plant-based wrap contains more calories and saturated fat than the Grilled Chicken Wrap.

Greggs' vegan sausage roll shows marginal calorie differences from the meat version, with less fat but more sugar.

This research invites readers to scrutinise the nutritional content of fast food, plant-based or not. We encourage comments and insights on this topic below.

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