Dietitian explains why your plant-based diet is making you gain weight

Dietitian explains why your plant-based diet is making you gain weight

A new report has found popular plant-based takeaway options are more calorie-dense than meat-based meals.

So you’ve decided to go plant-based. Good for you! Or you may have just decided to cut back on your meat intake. Also good for you!

But there seems to be an understanding that all plant-based foods are healthier, contain less calories and therefore will lead to weight loss. Unfortunately, that isn’t the case – and it could actually be doing the complete reverse.

New research from The George Institute for Global Health ranked the unhealthiest meals from some of Australia’s most popular fast food chains, and further proved some single meals can contain an average person’s entire daily intake needs.

According to the ‘FoodSwitch: State of the Fast Food Supply’ report, the meat-based Red Rooster’s Bacon and Cheese Rippa roll “Combo” is the most energy dense of the lot with 7,730 kilojoules (approximately 1,848 calories) or 89 per cent of the recommended average adult daily energy intake. Moreover, it contains 4,571 milligrams of sodium – more than double the amount the Heart Foundation recommends as a daily maximum.

However, what’s interesting is the report found plant-based burgers to have the highest average energy content per serving in the entire burger category at 3,097 kilojoules (or 740 calories) per item. Let us repeat that – the entire burger category. That’s over your juicy-meat-cheese-bacon-triple-stuffed burgers.

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And it’s not only burgers from fast food chains you need to be wary of. Not only do majority of plant-based burgers contain a heap of carbohydrates (since meat-free protein sources are often carbohydrate heavy), but they also contain quite a high amount of sodium, according to dietitian Melissa Meier.

“Some plant-based burgers are made of highly refined ingredients like soy protein isolate and wheat gluten, and pack a punch when it comes to sodium, which isn’t ideal,” Meier tells body+soul.

Let’s do some quick maths. Say for breakfast you have two slices of wholegrain toast with a smashed avo. That brings your calorie intake to approximately 460. For lunch you might have a Buddha Bowl with brown rice, veggies and tofu, which normally contains around 500 calories. Then for dinner you treat yourself to a plant-based burger, which you might enjoy in front of the TV with a glass of wine. Throughout the day you also have some healthy snacks such as fruit, nuts or a bliss ball, and end the day with a few squares of chocolate.

That brings your total daily calorie intake to roughly anywhere between 2,400 and 3,000 calories, give or take. Now, despite all your meals being plant-based – and relatively healthy – it’s not ideal for the person who is looking to shift a few kilos.

In good news, you don’t have to say goodbye to the humble plant-based burger entirely. Meier says you can make burgers healthy and recommends checking the nutritional information of the patty. “I’d suggest aiming for a patty under 150-200 calories as a starting point, but what’s on the ingredients list – and what you serve with it- is also of utmost importance.”

Meier also mentions that there are other healthier plant-based takeaway options to opt for over a burger.

“Other good plant-based options are salad-packed sandwiches on wholegrain bread, anything with legumes (beans, chickpeas and lentils), as well as veggie and tofu stir fries served with brown rice.”

Sushi is also another option, but it’s important to “be careful with salt sauces like soy”, be mindful about your choice of fillings and to remember portion control, portion control, portion control!