Vegan fast food: why plant-based options are not healthier than meat alternatives

A vegan burger. (Image: Getty)A vegan burger. (Image: Getty)
A vegan burger. (Image: Getty)
The researchers looked at food from 50 chains across five countries

Vegan fast food may not be the healthier option as they do not contain fewer calories than their meat counterparts, a study suggests, after researchers analysed a total of 1,868 meals including sandwiches, salads, noodles and pizza from 50 fast food chains across five countries, including the UK.

The researchers looked at chains including Wagamamas, Pret, Pizza Express, Leon and Burger King, and collected data on the calorie content, presence of allergens, and the quantities of nutrients, fibre and salt in each meal.

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In the journal Nutrition, the researchers revealed that plant-based meals had less protein and sodium, and higher levels of carbohydrates and sugar, compared to meat-based meals.

Lead author Mikołaj Kamiński, from the Poznań University of Medical Sciences in Poland, said: "Our findings revealed that plant-based fast-food meals were more likely to contain more carbohydrates and sugar than meat-based equivalents. Surprisingly, our study shows that plant-based meals are not associated with lower calories, which consumers may not realise.

"This really emphasizes the importance of making informed food choices, especially when it comes to consuming fast food – even more so if you suffer from a metabolic disorder like type 2 diabetes. It exposes the illusion that plant-based alternatives of popular fast-food dishes are automatically a healthier choice."

The study also showed that meals containing meat were more likely to have allergens such as dairy, eggs, fish, shellfish and mustard, while plant-based meals were more likely to contain allergens such as sesame, seeds and nuts.

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The study highlights the importance of making informed food choices, particularly when consuming fast food, especially for individuals with conditions such as type 2 diabetes, and how plant-based alternatives are not automatically healthier.

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