On the Table

On the Table: Flip a veggie burger on your grill

April 23, 2013 

A burger isn’t just a burger. You have choices.

And an increasing number of the options are meatless. If you haven’t had a veggie burger lately, now’s the time to try again.

They’ve come a long way. I know. I’ve tried them all.

Early prototypes were grim. In the early 1980s, I tried making my own patties with tofu and a crumbly, dry box mix. I flung the results out the back door into the woods.

I wrote to McDonald's and Burger King and begged them to sell veggie burgers. BK said the market wasn’t ready. McDonald's sent my letter back to me with a reply, in legalese, that said they hadn’t read my letter.

The golden age of veggie burgers finally arrived in the mid-1990s. I happily rode the wave, working with the R&D department of Worthington Foods and their MorningStar Farms line of veggie burgers.

I also served as their media rep, traveling the country, flipping burgers on live noontime news shows. Once, standing outdoors with the weatherman, my heels sank into the ground. Stuck like a pink lawn flamingo, I swiveled at the waist, grilling and dishing nutrition – until a patty turned sideways, jammed in the grill, sticking up like a hockey puck.

The burgers were good by then, but they’re even better now.

It’s common to find them in restaurants – even fast food – and you can find them in the frozen foods case of nearly any supermarket. Some have a soy base and others are a blend of minced vegetables or beans.

Some are spicy; some have distinctive flavor blends such as Southwestern or tomato and basil.

There are so many brands and so many choices that you really have to experiment to find those you like best. Compare labels and buy those lowest in sodium and highest in fiber.

But any of them makes a better quality meal than conventional meat-based burgers. Buy them because they’re better for your health, but buy them because they taste good, too.

I serve veggie burgers on whole-wheat toast or a bun with lettuce, tomato, sautéed onions and condiments as well as a side salad and baked sweet potato fries. The meal is colorful, flavorful and nutritious.

Add veggie burgers to your next cookout and see how fast they disappear.

Suzanne Hobbs is a registered dietitian and clinical associate professor of health policy and management and nutrition at UNC-Chapel Hill. Reach her at suzanne@onthetable.net; follow her Twitter, @suzannehobbs.

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