Amy’s Sonoma Veggie Burger - Too Good to Be Food?

Keri Glassman investigates

As you run through the grocery store after work, the freezer aisle can seem like your best — wait, scratch that — your only option. You know you should prepare a fresh meal, but the idea of washing, chopping, and cooking seems impossible when you’re dying to eat. If you try to eat natural whole foods, your eye will probably want to go toward the huge selection of Amy’s Organic organic, vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free products calling out from the shelf: "Gluten-free! Soy-free! Garden vegetables! Family owned since 1988!" These meals must be wholesome, right? One popular option is Amy’s vegan, gluten-free Sonoma Veggie Burger. But are frozen veggie burgers a fair substitute for a home-cooked meal? Or are these organic patties simply too good to be food?

What's in it:

ORGANIC QUINOA, ORGANIC MUSHROOMS, ORGANIC ONIONS, GLUTEN-FREE OATS, FILTERED WATER, ORGANIC WALNUTS, ORGANIC CELERY, ORGANIC CARROTS, ORGANIC GARBANZO FLOUR, ORGANIC POTATOES, SEA SALT, EXPELLER PRESSED HIGH OLEIC SAFFLOWER AND/OR SUNFLOWER OIL, ORGANIC GARLIC

Let's take a closer look:

Organic quinoa — Often called the "super grain," quinoa is in fact a protein-rich seed that has a fluffy, creamy, slightly crunchy texture and nutty flavor when cooked. Although it is technically a seed, quinoa’s nutritional profile means it is usually considered a grain, and a great one at that.

Organic mushrooms — These fungi are chock-full of nutrients such as selenium and riboflavin, which help protect the immune system. Mushrooms are also rich in vitamin D and calcium. Eat up!

Organic onions — This layered root vegetable is packed with antioxidants, including allicin, which works like an antibiotic and helps to reduce stomach and colon cancer risk.

Gluten-free oats — Oats are naturally gluten-free, but sometimes, if they are manufactured in a facility that also manufactures wheat and other gluten-containing grains, cross-contamination may occur. For people with celiac disease or strong gluten intolerance, this is extremely important.

Filtered water — H20. No surprises here.

Organic walnuts — Walnuts are high in protein, and a great source of omega-3 fatty acids, which I absolutely love, as they help to support brain and heart health. In a nutshell, walnuts provide delicious flavor, protein, and healthy fats to this veggie burger. Love!

Organic celery — Celery's feathery leaves might give a hint that this crunchy veggie belongs to the same plant family as carrots, fennel, parsley, and dill. We usually eat the stalks, which add texture and flavor to all sorts of dishes. Celery is high in vitamin K, which promotes vascular health, proper blood clotting, and wound healing. Celery is super low-calorie, and adds structure and crunch to this veggie burger. As fillers go, this has to be the best we’ve found.

Organic carrots — Carrots are naturally sweet root veggies high in carotenoids, pigments that give carrots their range of bright colors. Carotenoids act as antioxidants in the body. One cup of carrots contains 400 percent of your daily vitamin recommendation (!) And, as always, go organic with vegetables when possible. Can't get enough of these.

Organic garbanzo flour — This gluten-free flour is made from garbanzo beans, aka chickpeas. Yep, these are also the little guys that make one of my favorite dips, hummus. To make this flour, chickpeas are dried and then ground to a powder. This bean flour makes a perfectly safe, and flavorful, substitute for wheat flour.

Organic potatoes — Potatoes are a pantry staple — easy to cook and versatile. Potatoes are high in natural sugars easily absorbed by the body, so they’re best consumed in moderation. Potatoes help to bind and shape these veggie burgers, and they’re close to the end of the ingredient list, which means they are not a primary recipe component. I’ll take this all-natural filler any day. No issues here.

Sea salt — Sea salt is the natural salt that remains when the liquid portion of seawater is evaporated. The chemical makeup of sea salt and regular table salt is the same, namely sodium and chloride, but unlike table salt, sea salt retains any minerals and elements naturally found in the sea.

Expeller-pressed high oleic safflower and/or sunflower oil — The first oil is pressed from safflower seeds and commonly used in salad dressings. Safflower oil is heart-healthy, high in monounsaturated fatty acids that can help improve your blood levels of good cholesterol, and may even shrink your waistline. Great choice.

Sunflower oil is very similar. This fantastic oil pressed from sunflower seeds has medicinal properties. Used to provide constipation relief and to lower LDL "bad" cholesterol, some people even lather sunflower oil directly onto their skin for poorly healing wounds, skin injuries, psoriasis, and arthritis. Let's call this a multifunctional food.

Organic garlic — This bulb-shaped vegetable wears two hats: it keeps us healthy with its anti-cancer and heart-protective benefits and serves as a natural preservative and anti-microbial agent. Smelly breath is a small price to pay for this antioxidant, omega-3- and omega-6-rich veggie. The powder form has vitamin B6. More, please.

Bottom Line:

Amy’s Sonoma Veggie Burger is a rarity in the frozen-food aisle, and especially among veggie burgers, which usually come laden with preservatives, hard-to-pronounce chemicals, and highly processed soy protein, a typical filler. Loaded with whole grains and veggies, Amy’s Sonoma Veggie Burger manages to pack in 5 grams of protein and 3 grams of fiber while remaining vegan, gluten-free, and soy-free. Also low in calories and fat, this veggie burger is a great meal option for those who are interested in having something a bit lighter than a traditional burger. The caveat? This veggie patty contains 450 milligrams of sodium — almost one-third of the American Heart Association’s daily recommendation! If you’re in need of a quick-fix meal, reaching for Amy’s Sonoma Veggie Burger is a good choice. Just be wary of your sodium intake the rest of the day, and don’t make high-sodium packaged foods a mealtime habit.

Nutrition Information: Amy’s Sonoma Veggie Burger

Serving size: 1 patty
Calories: 140
Total Fat: 5 grams
Sodium: 450 milligrams
Total Carbohydrate: 18 grams
Dietary Fiber: 3 grams
 Sugars: 2 grams
Protein: 5 grams
 

Keri Glassman is a Registered Dietitian and founder of Keri Glassman, Nutritious Life. She contributes to Women's Health Magazine and is an author of 4 books, including her latest: The New You and Improved Diet, (Rodale) which hits stores Dec. 2012. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

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