- Burger King has announced that it plans to roll out its new plant-based Impossible Whopper nationwide by the end of the year.
- The Impossible Whopper is made with heme, a protein from the roots of soy plants that creates a meaty flavor.
- Dietitians explain if the Impossible Whopper’s nutrition is healthy and the best way to enjoy it as a meal.
Big news for Burger King fans: After doing testing in select markets, the fast food chain plans to roll out its new plant-based Whopper nationwide by the end of the year.
The burger is called an Impossible Whopper, and it’s made with heme, a protein from the roots of soy plants that creates a meaty flavor. The Impossible Whopper started testing in St. Louis four weeks ago, and Burger King plans to “quickly test in additional markets with the intention of nationwide distribution by end of year,” the chain told USA Today. The new burger showed “encouraging results,” the company added.
What is the Impossible Whopper made of?
The Impossible Whopper was developed by Silicon Valley-based Impossible Foods. The burger itself is made with a soy protein concentrate, several oils (including coconut and sunflower oil), and various additives, according to the Impossible Foods website.
Impossible Whopper nutrition
As for nutrition, the burgers (not including the buns, sauces, and seasonings), contain the following per 4-ounce patty:
- Calories: 240
- Fat: 14 grams
- Saturated fat: 8 grams
- Sodium: 370 milligrams
- Carbohydrates: 9 grams
- Fiber: 3 grams
- Protein: 19 grams
Is the Impossible Whopper healthy?
For starters, nutritionists are all about having a plant-based option on the menu. “With many consumers trying to follow a more plant-based diet, I applaud Burger King for providing a meatless burger option,” says Keri Gans, RDN, author of The Small Change Diet.
As for whether it’s actually “healthy,” well, that kind of depends on what you compare it to. If you’re talking about some of Burger King’s other burger options, then yes, it’s healthy. “This burger is definitely one of the healthier ‘burger’ options available,” Gans says. However, she points out, the amount of saturated fat in the burger isn’t great. “There is research to support a negative correlation between saturated fat and heart health,” Gans says.
Gina Keatley, a CDN practicing in New York City, agrees. The plant-based element gives the burger a health halo, but it still doesn’t qualify as a health food. “The amount of saturated fat, although less than a traditional Whopper, is still high, despite it being from coconut,” she says.
And if you compare the burger to four ounces of lean sirloin, it’s not healthy, says Julie Upton, MS, RD, cofounder of nutrition website Appetite for Health. “The ingredient list on the plant-based burger is also long, so it’s not considered a ‘clean’ label,” she says.
“A main ingredient, soy protein concentrate, is a highly processed, highly refined form of soy bean,” says Beth Warren, RDN, founder of Beth Warren Nutrition and author of Secrets of a Kosher Girl. “It is also high in sodium like many highly processed foods which is something to be cautious about.”
It’s also important to note that having an Impossible Burger with the usual sides, like fries and a soda, is definitely not healthy. A medium order of fries contains 380 calories and 17 grams of fat, while a 12 ounce Coke has 140 calories and 39 grams of sugar. “A large fries and soda could potentially decrease any health benefit you might have achieved,” Gans says.
What’s the healthiest way to enjoy the Impossible Whopper?
“It seems this burger would best suit someone who is vegan or doesn’t eat red meat and wants to try something similar from a taste standpoint, and not from a health perspective,” says Warren. “The ingredient swaps don’t point towards a reason nutritionally to choose to eat it. Any way you choose to have it, it should be treated as a mindful indulgence to be had on occasion, if at all, just like a fast food burger.”
If you’re interested in trying the Impossible Whopper, the healthiest way to go about it is to just have the burger and, if you need something else with it, Keatley recommends opting for a small side salad. But, if you want fries with it, Gans recommends choosing the value size (it’s smaller than a small) and having water as your drink.
“It’s still a burger-albeit friendlier for the planet. Period,” Upton says. “Enjoy it as an occasional treat and be mindful that it packs in 40 percent of the entire amount of saturated fat you should have in an entire day.”
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