Veggie burgers have become mainstream menu items at many Chattanooga restaurants.
"As more people are turning to vegetarian lifestyles, restaurants are starting to become more conscious and offering options," said Allison Knott, registered dietitian at Hamilton Medical Center in Dalton.
"Veggie burgers are great because they're lower in saturated fats than hamburgers and they tend to be a lot higher in fiber and lower in calories," she said.
Veggie burgers come in several varieties. Some are made from beans or soy, others are constructed from portobello mushrooms.
Ashley Krey, co-owner of Sluggo's North Vegetarian Cafe, said the restaurant's take on the hamburger is among the top-two choices for vegan meals for their patrons.
Staff Photo by Danielle Moore/Chattanooga Times Free Press The Mushroom Walnut Burger featured at Sluggo's North Vegetarian Cafe on Cherokee Boulevard is made with seitan, carrots, walnut and a mushroom patty on whole wheat and comes with soy cheese, red onion, tomatoes, romaine and a vegetable side.
It's a big patty made with mushrooms, walnuts, brown rice and oats. It's all natural.
"And both meat eaters and vegetarians love it," Mr. Krey said. "It's sort of a gateway dish -- people feel like they can venture out and try it."
Terminal Brewhouse's housemade veggie burger sits right alongside a massive, half-pound bison burger, and chef/co-owner Ryan Chilcoat said it's one of his customers' favorite choices.
Mr. Chilcoat created it with black beans, roasted corn, onions, cilantro and Southwestern seasonings.
"We wanted to do something unique and do it ourselves -- not just go out and buy it," he said. "People says it's delicious, and it sells really well. Meat eaters like it, too. There's no bigger carnivore than I am, and I eat it at least twice a week. It's a nice, healthy option."
If you visit the frozen food aisle at your favorite grocery store, you'll find a range of pre-packaged veggie burger options.
Whatever the flavor choice, look for burgers that are low in sodium -- 400 miligrams of sodium or less, Ms. Knott advised.
"I like them. They're a good all-vegetable protein option that's a good alternative to red meat," Ms. Knott said.