Lots of people put burgers on their “bad foods” list. While it’s true that a lot of burgers sold in restaurants, fast food establishments, and convenience stores are often high in saturated fat and calories, they’re surprisingly easy to lighten up while also enhancing the nutritional value and flavor through healthy swaps. Win-win situation. Here are a few ways to build a better-for-you burger.
Start with the meat
If nothing but classic beef will do, cut back a little on calories and saturated fat by opting for a higher percentage of lean beef. You can also do half-and-half with 95% lean and whatever you would normally use. Another lighter yet flavorful option is bison, a delicious, leaner alternative if you want to try something different.
If you’re not into beef, some other great options are turkey, chicken, ostrich, or even lamb (best mixed with lean beef, though, to keep calories and saturated fat in check). Going the veggie burger route? Experiment with bean or lentil burgers and play around using cooked sweet potato, beets, or even cooked quinoa or brown rice in the mixture. Vary your spices to find new favorites.
Pile your favorites high. Lettuce and tomato may be traditional burger toppings, but why not try arugula, microgreens, sautéed mushrooms or a mix of roasted peppers, zucchini, and eggplant? A few slices of avocado (technically a fruit, but so are tomatoes) are also delicious as a burger topping.
Salad is a no-brainer side dish, but you could also pair some steamed broccoli or grilled asparagus for a nutrient-rich but lower-calorie option.
Pick a carb
To keep the meal balanced, choose between a bun and fries, not both. Also keep in mind that other starchy sides like corn and beans are also very high in carbs, even if they are the slow-digesting complex carbs. Prioritize—pick the item you’re most excited about and skip the other stuff.
If the burger isn’t the same without the bun for you, have steamed or grilled veggies on the side. You can also enjoy your burger over salad and add your favorite toppings. How about a lamb burger with a Greek salad? Don’t be afraid to experiment.
Jessica Cording, MS, RD, CDN, is a registered dietitian, health coach, and writer with a passion for helping others experience a happier, calmer life and a balanced relationship with food. For those in need of some healthy-eating inspiration, Jess created five day's worth of delicious make-ahead lunches to make it even easier to eat well on a busy day. For more information on Jess, check out her website and follow her on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest.
Main Photo Credit: Lukas Gojda/shutterstock.com; Second Photo Credit: stockcreations/shutterstock.com; Third Photo Credit: minadezhda/shutterstock.com