Many people love a good burger. Whether you prefer yours with cheese, bacon or chili – or all of the above piled up between two large buns, there is nothing in this world that can compare to the greasy goodness. Yet, in recent years the public has been made aware that the average burger is often loaded down with calories, fat and carbohydrates – factors that can not only cause weight gain but eventually lead to other health concerns.
This has lead many fast food and other restaurants to offer some creative solutions in making this popular fast food a little lighter. They may not be for everyone but the truth is that if you make burgers at home, a creating a healthy spin is not far from your reach or budget.
Cheese – In recent years, bleu cheese has become a favorite cheese for burgers. While bleu cheese salad dressing can be high in calories and fat content, a half-ounce (or 5-6 large crumbles) is only 50 calories. With its strong flavor, a few crumbs can enhance a burger without much guilt. Yet, cheddar is still the favorite among most adults; a single slice is about 114 calories. If the reduced calorie or fat-free versions are not appealing, then try Swiss as it half the calories per slice. Or if you are trying to reduce or eliminate altogether your dairy intake, then you may want to try soy versions of American, Cheddar and so on.
Meat – Many people are satisfied with using ground turkey or chicken as a substitute for beef in their burgers. If you buy lean (95% or higher), each 4-ounce patty is still less than 200 calories each. Pre-formed beef patties can be high in fat content (as much as 23%), although financially tempting to those looking to save a few dollars. Sometimes it is worth the extra effort to bring more flavors to the white meat alternative.
Condiments – If you didn’t know this before, mustard has less calories and fat than mayonnaise. If the taste ground mustard seeds is too sharp, then mustard blends such as honey or Dijon flavors will work just as well. A growing favorite is barbecue sauce or salsa, which the latter happens to be very low in calories (10 or less per ounce), fat (nada) and carbohydrates (less than five per ounce).
Bread – In recent, America has been fascinated by the flatbread craze for its reduced carb intake. The same results can be achieved by using low or fat-free tortillas, pita style or thin sandwich breads.
Vegetables – These do not have to limited to the usual lettuce, tomato, pickle and onion. While many restaurant chains are getting on the grilled or sautéed veggie boat, realize that most of them are using beef fat or artery-clogging oils that are unnecessary to fry those irresistible carmelized onions. Also, mixing herbs and other spices in the ground meat before forming a patty will not only enhance the flavor but reduce the need for extras.
If you want to eliminate meat altogether or try something new, then grill a Portobello mushroom or large eggplant slice as you would a burger patty.
When it comes to the preparation, this can make a difference in a healthy meal as well. Cooking your burger in a skillet or other flat-surfaced pan will guarantee a greasy burger which equals a fatty burger (if using ground turkey or chicken, sunflower or canola can be used if you’re watching your waistline). You can get the outdoor grilling experience at home by flavoring your meat with liquid smoke before cooking and placing in a stovetop grilling pan or an electric indoor grill. Even placing your meat in a broiling pan that has a drain reservoir (or drip pan) will make a healthier burger.
Replace fries with a salad and carbonated drinks with natural flavored water and soon you will see results in your health.