Plant-based sandwiches, salads and pizza are NOT healthier than meat options, study reveals

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Written By Rivera Claudia

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  • Researchers analysed 1,868 meals from 50 fast food chains across five countries
  • The vegan options contain less protein and sodium but more carbs and sugar

MOST people see the New Year as a chance to kickstart a healthy eating regimen, and maybe even give Veganuary a go.

But vegan fast-food meals do not have less calories than their meaty counterparts, a study suggests.

Researchers analysed a total of 1,868 meals including sandwiches, salads, noodles and pizza from 50 fast food chains across five countries, including the UK.

These chains included Wagamamas, Pret, Pizza Express, Leon and Burger King.

The team collected data on the calorie content, presence of allergens, and the quantities of nutrients, fibre and salt in each meal.

Researchers in Poland analysed a total of 1,868 meals including sandwiches, salads, noodles and pizza from 50 fast food chains across five countries, including the UK

Their findings, published in the journal Nutrition, revealed that plant-based meals had less protein and sodium, and higher levels of carbohydrates and sugar, compared to the meat-based meals.

But – in bad news for those trying to shed some pounds – they discovered that overall, plant-based meals were not linked with having less calories.

Lead author Mikołaj Kamiński, from the Poznań University of Medical Sciences in Poland, said: ‘Our findings revealed that plant-based fast-food meals were more likely to contain more carbohydrates and sugar than meat-based equivalents.

‘Surprisingly, our study shows that plant-based meals are not associated with lower calories, which consumers may not realise.

‘This really emphasizes the importance of making informed food choices, especially when it comes to consuming fast food – even more so if you suffer from a metabolic disorder like type 2 diabetes.

‘It exposes the illusion that plant-based alternatives of popular fast-food dishes are automatically a healthier choice.’

The findings also showed that the meals containing meat were more likely to have allergens such as dairy, eggs, fish, shellfish and mustard, while plant-based meals more likely contained allergens such as sesame, seeds and nuts.

WHAT SHOULD A BALANCED DIET LOOK LIKE? 

Meals should be based on potatoes, bread, rice, pasta or other starchy carbohydrates, ideally wholegrain, according to the NHS

Meals should be based on potatoes, bread, rice, pasta or other starchy carbohydrates, ideally wholegrain, according to the NHS

• Eat at least 5 portions of a variety of fruit and vegetables every day. All fresh, frozen, dried and canned fruit and vegetables count

• Base meals on potatoes, bread, rice, pasta or other starchy carbohydrates, ideally wholegrain

• 30 grams of fibre a day: This is the same as eating all of the following: 5 portions of fruit and vegetables, 2 whole-wheat cereal biscuits, 2 thick slices of wholemeal bread and large baked potato with the skin on

• Have some dairy or dairy alternatives (such as soya drinks) choosing lower-fat and lower-sugar options

• Eat some beans, pulses, fish, eggs, meat and other proteins (including 2 portions of fish every week, one of which should be oily)

• Choose unsaturated oils and spreads and consuming in small amounts

• Drink 6-8 cups/glasses of water a day

• Adults should have less than 6g of salt and 20g of saturated fat for women or 30g for men a day

Source: NHS Eatwell Guide  

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