If you’ve stepped foot into a fast food restaurant lately, you may have noticed that plant-based meat alternatives are taking over right now. There’s the Impossible Burger at Burger King, the Beyond Meatball Marinara sub at Subway, Beyond Chicken at KFC and the Impossible Slider at White Castle.
One might assume that a plant-based product is inherently healthier because, well, plants. But these products aren’t actually healthier than the regular meat items they’re named after. They’re still basically just processed (delicious) junk foods.
“Processed foods, whether they’re meat-based or plant-based, aren’t a nutritional need in our diet, especially when they involve low-quality oils,” licensed dietitian and nutritionist Whitney Stuart told Business Insider.
Nutritionally speaking, fast-food menu items like the Impossible Whopper are pretty similar to other fast foods. For example, the Impossible Burger patty has the same number of calories as a Burger King beef patty. A regular burger has 18 grams of fat, 20 grams of protein, 230 grams of sodium and 80 grams of cholesterol. Meanwhile, an Impossible Burger has 14 grams of fat, 19 grams of protein, 370 grams of sodium, and 0 grams of cholesterol.
So, yeah — these are not health foods. At all.
But that’s not what they’re intended to be.
Instead, items like the Impossible Burger are designed to imitate fast food items by simply swapping out meat for plants. The foremost goal is to recreate the flavors and textures of the old menu items, while also reducing the consumer’s carbon footprint. Meat is delicious, but farming it also releases a lot of greenhouse gasses into the air, and as we all know by now, we really need to be cutting back on greenhouse gasses.
But that’s probably not foremost on your mind when you spot that Impossible Whopper. And if you’ve walked in the door, well…let’s face it, nobody goes to Burger King to eat healthy, and that’s not gonna change anytime soon.
Vegetarian or not.