The Best Veggie Burgers and Dogs for Summer Eating

You can chow down without eating meat

Hey everyone, look around. We're right smack dab in the middle of summer. During these summer months many people leave the hot and stuffy kitchen for the cool open space of backyards and porches to cook their meals.

The warmer months also make a person crave foods that are easier to cook and lighter in the stomach, like hotdogs. And no one craves hotdogs and hamburgers like Americans.

Reports show the average American eats 60 hot dogs and 150 hamburgers a year, and those numbers are likely to remain steady, as these food staples will probably continue to be passed down from generation to generation.

And of course the occasional hot dog or hamburger is okay, but what about when they're consumed on a regular basis? What are the nutritional costs?

Fat and pesticides

According to a 2010 report by the US Department of Agriculture's Inspector General, many hamburger meat sold in stores and fast food chains are laced with drug particles, pesticides and at least 30 percent fat. And the beef industry still has occasional issues with wide spread contamination.

Hot dogs aren't the healthiest of foods to eat either, and are often considered true mystery meat. According to nutrition experts, overconsumption of hotdogs can even cause cancer.

The American Institute for Cancer Research released a report that shows eating one hot dog a day increases the risk of colorectal cancer by 21 percent due to hot dog's Nitrite additives.

For those readers who are rolling their eyes because they have to cut down on their burger and hotdog intake, there's still hope.

Ever try a veggie burger or veggie dog? Many have, and found out they’re pretty darn good.

The real thing

But what are the tastiest veggie meat products to buy? A good tasting veggie dog will taste like a meat hot dog, and a tasty veggie burger shouldn't taste like a plate of steamed vegetables. It should taste like an actual burger.

So with that said, what are some of the best veggie dogs and burgers on the market and which ones are the healthiest? Because not all of them are created equal.

Smartdogs, made by the company Lightlife have been on the market for quite some time, and the company makes a pretty decent veggie dog.

Per frank, Smartdogs offer only 45 calories, and 0 grams of fat, 0 cholesterol, and 0 Tran’s fatty acids. But each one also contains 370 mg of salt, which is high for a product that's associated with healthy eating. The wonderful thing about Smartdogs is how fast they cook. The package warns you not to overcook them, as they typically broil or grill up in about five minutes.

The bad thing about Smartdogs is their texture. They don't really resemble regular hotdogs when you bite down. Some heavy meat eaters may think this is true of all veggie products, but actually the good ones do taste and feel like meat.

The difference in texture can be detected less if these dogs are grilled or fried with a tiny bit of oil. If broiled, the contrast in texture is extremely noticeable.

Although Smartdogs are still tasty, they're suggested more for consumers who are already familiar with veggie products and their texture. If you’re a person who’s just making the transition from meat-based hot dogs to non-meat ones, Veggie Patch dogs may be more suited to your palate.

Veggie Patch also makes a host of other veggie products, and it caters to a portion of consumers who are either newly-transformed vegetarians, or those who are thinking about taking the vegetarian leap. Its hot dogs taste very close to beef or pork franks in both flavor and texture.

Broiled or grilled

Unlike Smartdogs, Veggie Patch franks can be either broiled or grilled as both cooking methods will maintain the dogs taste. Although they contain more calories than Smartdogs, at 45 per frank, they have a slightly lower sodium count at 310 milligrams. 

Veggie Patch dogs are also a favorite of children due to their close-to-meat hot dog taste, but finding them can be a challenge, as they're not in all retail chains. Going to the company's website is the best way to locate these soy-based products.

Burgerland

As far as veggie burgers go, it seems there are way more brands available on the market than veggie dogs. This is probably because more consumers are familiar with the veggie hamburger concept over the veggie dog.

Boca Burgers contain 70 calories, and 280 milligrams of fat, which makes this veggie patty healthier than both the Smartdog and Veggie Patch franks. Just like many non-meat products, Bocas are made from soy, which is a small green vegetable rich in protein.

Boca was among the first companies to really be known outside of the vegetarian community, as the company established a consistent presence in most major grocery chains over 30 years ago. Boca released its first veggie burger in 1979, with the vegetarian "Sun Burger" and since then, many consumers think of Boca when they think of veggie burgers.

The downside of being around for so long is that veggie burgers have come a long way since the 70s. Although tasty, especially when dressed up with toppings, Boca Burgers don't match up as far as texture compared to beef or turkey burgers. And difference in texture is one of the first things a meat eater will notice in a veggie product, even before flavor.

It's safe to assume the Boca company had no interest in mimicking a regular burger since it always marketed itself as the true meat alternative.

Kind of mushy

Whether fried, grilled, or boiled, Boca Burgers have a soft and almost mushy texture. It's less noticeable to vegetarians, but it will certainly turn off those who are trying a veggie burger for the first time. These burgers are usually priced less than competitors ringing up at about $4, but if you spend an extra dollar or so, you can bump yourself up to a tasty MorningStar burger.

MorningStar Farms is kind of the king of veggie products for nothing else than its ubiquitous grocery store presence. The company has done a really good job of making its products taste like actual meat.

MorningStar makes a varied amount of veggie burgers from black bean, to Asian style. But its "Grillers Prime" wins over all other veggie burgers for its almost identical taste to meat patties.

MorningStar burgers even have that smoky charcoal taste that many people love in meat hamburgers. But you pay for it in the calorie count, as burgers ring in at 170 calories with 360 milligrams of sodium. Beef burgers have about 71 grams of fat compared to Prime Grillers that have 9 grams of fat.

Popular among kids and meat lovers alike, MorningStar burgers are perfect for those who are leery about giving up their meat. They're fully cooked in about six minutes time, but are more expensive then Boca and other brands at about $5 for a box of four.

Consumers should also try MorningStar's hotdogs and sausages, as the company prides itself on making veggie products that don't have a vegetable taste. Definitely the best choice of veggie products among these items reviewed.

Hardly vegan

Now mind you, all of these veggie products listed are sort of frowned upon by hardcore vegans because of their preservatives, sodium and other unhealthy additives. But these foods are ideal for the person who simply wants to eat lighter, or considers themselves a "flexatarian" -- which is a person who goes back and forth between veggie and meat products.

For many, the fixation on meat is mainly a psychological one, as most people don't consider a meal a meal if it doesn't have meat. But these veggie products as well as others on the market have done a great job of making  vegetarian foods taste like meat.

And at no more than $5 a box for either veggie dog or veggie burger you may just want to give one of these products a try. If you detest them, you can always reach back in the icebox for your regular meat products.

Story provided by ConsumerAffairs.
Consumer Affairs

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