Veg sandwiches are no longer just seen in health food zones and vegetarian food counters, they're everywhere.
You don't have to be a vegetarian to enjoy the occasional change of taste and health benefits of a vegetarian sandwich. But is a veg sandwich, or veg burger as some call it, really healthy all the time? Is a veg burger a healthy snack simply by virtue of being a vegetarian snack? Today Ms. Sunita Pathania - Sr. Registered Dietician and Diabetes Educator, Healthy Living Diet Clinic, Mumbai, helps us understand the what and how behind the seemingly innocent veg 'burger'.
Why we think that a veg burger is healthy...
One of the biggest reasons why veg sandwiches fall in the healthy food category is that they contain less saturated fat. Sunita says, "A regular, normal veg sandwich consists of approximately four to seven grams of saturated fat." Beyond that what makes a sandwich healthy and nutritious is its size. Since, a veg 'burger' or sandwich does not contain red meat it is considered, sometimes erroneously, to be the healthier snack option.
However, this is subject to many considerations. For instance: Is the vegetable patty fried, steamed or grilled? Is it fried in palm oil? Is it loaded with cholesterol-ridden cheese? Is it layered with unhealthy mayo? A normal, veg sandwich weighs approximately 71-100 grams and has approximately 70 to 150 calories each - IF (and this is important) - it's ingredients are healthy and prepared using healthy methods. Depending on size and the content added to it, the health qualities of a veg sandwich may be high or low in calories, fat and fiber.
When can a veg sandwich be unhealthy?
Even though a veg sandwich is made of various vegetables, it can be unhealthy due to the amount of processing the ingredients have gone through. Besides, some veg burgers are loaded with excess amounts of sodium, which can cause trouble to your heart and kidney.
Additionally, watch the amount of butter or oil used in a veg sandwich before categorising it as healthy. Beyond that, size does matter. If your veg sandwich is loaded with extra toppings and cheese, then it may contain calories greater than 1,000 - which is half a day's calorie intake for a person who's approximately 6 feet tall!
Sunita says, "A veg 'burger' contain a harmful compound known as Hexane - it is a by-product of gasoline refining that is used to separate whole soybeans into soy oil, protein and fiber. This compound can cause serious health problems ranging from nerve problems which can lead to pain, numbness, muscle problem and digestion problem."
Word of caution
"Veg sandwiches can definitely be healthier than normal meat burgers, but be cautious while choosing one," says Sunita. And if you want the best out of your veg sandwiches, then it best to make them at home. It is simple and you will also be aware of exactly which ingredients are added.
Here is the dietician's pick for a healthy veg sandwich recipe:
15 ounce of black beans
½ diced onion
½ diced red pepper
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
½ teaspoon garlic powder
1 cup bread crumbs
Salt and pepper to taste
Mash the above ingredients in a food processor. Shape the mixture into patties. Spray a pan with cooking spray and cook the patties on medium heat for about 3 or 4 minutes on each side.
Add the patty to whole grain buns or bread slices, add some tomato and onion slices, and voila! Your healthy veg sandwich is ready.