Is vegetarian fast food actually good for you?
Tehran (KNA) - Plant-based diets have been associated with many health benefits, including a reduced risk of obesity, heart disease and Type 2 diabetes. So it might naturally follow that vegetarian fast food, which is inherently plant-based, would be more nutritionally appealing than its traditional relatives.
The truth is that, although the notion works in many cases, it's not a guiding food principle you can count on.
"Just because a restaurant or fast food menu item says it's vegetarian or vegan, it doesn't mean that it's automatically 'healthy.' It can have just as much, if not more, calories, saturated fat and sodium as non-vegetarian options," said Sharon Palmer, a registered dietitian and author of "Plant-Powered for Life.
"It makes sense. After all, ingredients contribute calories, whether plant-based or not. And while fiber and protein can be higher in vegetarian meals, thanks to plentiful amounts of beans, vegetables and whole grains, so can things such as saturated fat and sodium, depending on how the food is prepared (fried vs. grilled, for example) and the amount of cheese and condiments a meal contains.
"Vegetarian and vegan food options that are deep-fried, covered in cheese or creamy sauces and piled over huge portions of fries, rice, wraps or breads may not be the healthiest option on the menu," Palmer said.