03/03/2017 10:12 AM AEDT | Updated 04/03/2017 6:24 PM AEDT

Gourmet Burger Chains Are Not As Healthy As You Think

Some burgers from Burger Edge and Grill'd have more fat, kilojoules and salt than a Big Mac

Getty Images/iStockphoto
fresh tasty burger on black background

If you think that by avoiding the mainstream fast food joints like McDonald's and Hungry Jack's you're doing the right thing by your health, we've got some bad news.

That fancy burger and fries are likely to be just as laiden with kilojoules, salt and saturated fat as the good ol' Big Mac, according to a Choice investigation.

"We found widespread health-washing in the gourmet burger market," Choice spokesperson Tom Godfrey told the Huffington Post Australia.

"I think it's confusing for consumers to be greeted with a sign that says healthy burger on the outside but that is not what they are getting on the inside," he said.

Choice found that if you look beyond the hipster interiors and various health claims, when you break down the components of each burger, the healthiness of the overall meal is doubtful. Their investigation looked at 40 gourmet burgers from Grill'd and Burger Edge and 5 standard burgers from McDonald's and Hungry Jack's. They've used the Big Mac as a yardstick to give customers an idea of what they're eating.

Big Mac comparisons:

  • Of the 40 gourmet burgers analysed, 31 had more kilojoules than a Big Mac (2180kJ).
  • The worst offenders were The Mighty* (lowcarb bun, 3508kJ) from Grill'd and The Okker (wholemeal bun, 3500kJ) from Burger Edge, both having over 40 percent more kilojoules thant the Big Mac.
  • Two thirds of burgers analysed had more fat than a Big Mac
  • 10 had more than 100% of this SDT for sodium in a single burger (a Big Mac contains 62%)

Why are these boutique burgers, with their premium ingredients, so bad for you?

Firstly, they're larger than the burgers from Maccas or Hungry Jack's -- The Okker comes in at 515g compared with Big Mac's 216g portion size. It's a no-brainer: more burger equals more kilojoules.

The gourmet burger joints also temp us with premium extras which add to the nutrition tables. While the egg and bacon might be free range and the chutney adds just that right amount of sweetness, you're inevitably adding to the salt, fat, sugar and overall energy content of the meal.

These burgers may have some advantages, such as fewer preservatives and ethically-sourced ingredients, but overall, they don't get the health food seal of approval.

"If you're going for one of these supersized burgers, you might not want fries with that," Godfrey said.

The suggested dietary target (SDT) recommends limiting sodium to 1600mg per day to maintain a healthy blood pressure, thereby reducing our risk of heart disease and stroke.

Choice found other ways that gourmet burger chains are misleading customers who believe they're making a better choice for their health.

The some of the vegetarian options don't score as well as you would think. Seven of 10 gourmet veggie burgers analysed by Choice were higher in kilojoules than the Big Mac.

Likewise, the Low Carb SuperBun from Grill'd is free from gluten and dairy, which is great if you need to avoid these products, but is actually more calorific than the regular bun.

Adding a 'low carb super bun' to the mighty burger from Grill'd does little to reduce the kilojoule intake.

How do you avoid the trap of the 'healthy' burger? Do your research and don't kid yourself that any burger is good for you.

But if you are going to indulge, here are the Burgers that Choice has said contribute to less than a third of the average recommended limits for salt and saturated fats:

  • Burger Edge Bombay Bash (chicken), white/wholemeal bun (1830/1870kJ, 2.1/3g sat fat, 1030/1060mg sodium)
  • Burger Edge Plain & Simple (chicken), white/wholemeal bun (1880/1930kJ, 1.4/2.3g sat fat, 1110/1141mg sodium)
  • Grill'd Sweet Chilli Chicken, traditional bun (1920kJ, 2.4g sat fat, 735mg sodium)
  • Grill'd Field of Dreams (veggie), traditional bun (1970kJ, 4.3g sat fat, 708mg sodium)
  • Grill'd Veggie Vitality, traditional bun (2150kJ, 2.7g sat fat, 1150mg sodium)
  • Grill'd Simon Says (chicken), traditional bun (2240kJ, 5.1g sat fat, 921mg sodium)
  • Grill'd Simply Grill'd (beef), traditional bun (2300kJ, 6.8g sat fat, 858mg sodium)

"Regardless of what these companies are telling you about these products, you need to do your research," Godfrey said.

"Don't go in to buy a burger and thinking that it's going to be good for your health."

*The Mighty goes by different names in different states as follows: Mighty Melbourne (Vic), Big Queenslander (Qld), Mighty Cow Eater (SA), Wild Wild West (WA), Top Territory (NT), Almighty (NSW & ACT).