Are The Plant-Based Burger Patties at McDonald’s, Hungry Jacks & Grill’d Healthy Alternatives? 🍔
Plant-based living has certainly been on the rise in recent years, and for good reason. It’s good for the environment, it’s good for animals, and for the most part, it’s good for your health.
Even fast food chains are jumping on the plant-based bandwagon, with some of the most popular outlets offering vegetarian and vegan burgers.
But are these any “healthier” than their meat-based counterparts? Let’s find out.
*Editor’s Note: Since writing this article, McDonald’s no longer sells a veggie or plant-based burger. We’ve kept in the macros of the original McVeggie burger if you’re interested, but you won’t find it on the menu anymore.
Plant-based food is often marketed as the healthy alternative and while it can be, just because it’s meat-free, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the healthy alternative. Often-times meat-free alternatives are laden with added preservatives and nasties, something nutritionist Sarah Appleford calls “Frankenstein foods”.
Nutrtionist’s Take: Are Plant-Based Burgers Healthier? 🍎
“The majority of plant-based meats on the market are what I describe as Frankenstein foods filled with soy isolates, vegetable oils, stabilises and flavourings. They’re ultra processed, offer very little nutritionally and made to resemble the taste and texture of the real meat. You’ve got to consider what these processed chemicals are actually doing to our bodies in the long-term.”Sarah Appleford, Australian nutritionist
Sarah notes that some plant-based meats have less saturated fat and similar calorie and protein content as real meat, but differ in being ultra-processed, unlike natural meats like steak or chicken.
She suggests that nutritionally, they don’t offer much.
A balanced diet, according to her, should include mostly plant foods and moderate meat, poultry, and fish, focusing on whole foods.
Grill’d Vs. McDonald’s Vs Hungry Jack’s Plant Based Burger 👀
Grill’d: Impossible Simply Grill’d Vs Simply Grill’d
|Nutritional Info||Impossible Simply Grill’d (traditional bun)||Simply Grill’d (traditional bun)|
Nutritionally, both burgers are similar in fat, carbs, and sodium, but the Impossible vegan burger is higher in overall calories. Both burgers include a patty, lettuce, tomato, onion, relish, and mayo.
Dining at Grill’d differs from McDonald’s and Hungry Jack’s. It positions itself as a healthier, more upscale alternative. At Grill’d, they don’t push for meal upgrades but offer healthier sides like sweet potato and zucchini chips. Their plant-based range is broader than Hungry Jacks and McDonald’s, with 10+ options.
Hungry Jacks: Vegan Whopper Vs Regular Whopper
The Hungry Jack’s Vegan Whopper comes with two veggie patties made from corn, capsicum and carrot, vegan cheese and vegan mayonnaise with tomato sauce, onions, fresh tomato and lettuce on a seeded bun.
The patty itself isn’t much to rave about – not particularly tasty (the tomato sauce saved it, honestly).
When first writing this article in June 2022, The Vegan Whopper was Hungry Jack’s only vegan/veggie burger option. Since then, Hungry Jack’s has introduced a few Plant-Based Whopper made from soy protein.
The Hungry Jack’s regular Whopper comes with beef, lettuce, ripe tomatoes, onion, pickles, mayo and tomato sauce on a toasted sesame seed bun.
Below is how the two compare in macros in average quantity per serve.
- Calories between the two burgers are quite similar.
- The regular Whopper contains nearly twice as much protein as the vegan Whopper.
- Saturated fat content is about three times higher in the regular Whopper compared to the vegan option.
- The vegan Whopper has nearly twice the carbohydrates and sodium of the regular Whopper.
|Nutritional Info||Vegan Whopper Cheese||Traditional Whopper|
|Calories||652 kcal||645 kcal|
|Saturated Fat||5.6 g||11.7 g|
|Carbohydrates||87.8 g||47.9 g|
|Sugars||11.7 g||8.0 g|
|Sodium||1460 mg||837 mg|
McDonald’s: Classic Angus Vs McVeggie Burger
As mentioned, McDonald’s no longer offers a veggie or plant-based burger as of November 2023. The McVeggie was discontinued in July 2021 after low demand.
But if you’re interested, this is how it compares to the Classic Angus.
- The Angus has significantly more kilojoules and double the protein compared to the McVeggie.
- The Angus also has four times the saturated fat.
- Carbohydrates and sodium levels are roughly the same for both burgers.
|Classic Angus Beef Burger||McVeggie Burger|
So… Are Plant-Based Burgers Actually Healthier? 🍔
When comparing plant-based burgers with regular burgers from Grill’d, Hungry Jacks, and McDonald’s, it appears that regular burgers generally have better nutrition.
However, McDonald’s veggie burger may have been a slight exception.
If you prefer plant-based options and aren’t focused on nutritional content, taste might be your deciding factor, with Grill’d being a personal favourite. For those interested in the nutritional aspect, regular burgers seem to have an edge in macros.
As you can see, each chain’s veggie burger has a very different breakdown of macros, so really, it’s up to you and your daily nutritional goals as to which burger is best.
A burger is a burger. Plant-based burgers are not overall any worse for you, but they’re certainly not any better. Burgers aren’t good for you, but they’re also not bad for you.
Of course, some burgers have a better nutritional breakdown than others, says nutritionist Valentina Duong.
She says: “There are many different plant-based burgers available and some of them are healthier than others. In comparison to regular burgers, most plant-based burgers are lower in saturated fat but higher in sodium.”
Overall, however, Valentina says she would consider consider plant-based burgers as a food to enjoy occasionally but wouldn’t recommend them as a “healthier alternative” to regular patties.
I personally think the main takeaway here is don’t be tricked by clever marketing. At the end of the day, unprocessed, whole foods are always going to be best for you, and that’s something you’re not going to find in plant-based patties. However, enjoying a plant-based burger once in a while isn’t going to ruin your diet. As with everything, moderation is key.
Tell us in the comment sections – do you have a favourite plant-based burger?
Plant Based Burgers FAQs
What fast food chain sells plant-based burgers?
Does McDonald’s have plant-based burgers?
McDonald’s used to have a McVeggie burger from 2020-2021, but discontinued the product due to low demand. They trialed a McPlant burger in 2022 for a limited time only. Currently, McDonald’s does not offer and veggie or plant-based burgers.
Why did the McPlant fail?
In Australia, the McVeggie and McPlant didn’t take off with consumers like it did in other countries (like the US which has an entire McPlant range). So for now, if you want a fast food plant-based burger, Hungry Jack’s or Grill’d is your best bet.
Revisions (Nov 2023) - Grill'd no longer serves Beyond plant-based meat. They now do Impossible plant-based meat. - McDonald's removed the McVeggie Burger in 2021 (after launching in 2020) because there was not enough demand for it. They introduced a new McPlant range in July 2022, but only for a limited time. As of Nov 2023, they no longer off a plant-based/vegetarian burger.