For many people, eating healthy or losing weight and consuming burgers may not be 2 things that you would put in the same sentence. After all, burgers are calorie-laded mouthfuls of grease, right? Not necessarily. Fortunately, all burgers don’t need to be tarnished with the same brush; in this article you’ll discover how to make a healthy burger that not only tastes amazing, it will also be more nutritious, lower in saturated fat, sugar, salt and less calorific than your standard burger. So, continue to read as we reveal some clever tricks to build you a mouth-watering burger that you can indulge in without feeling guilty or putting your health under strain. All in time for BBQ season too!
Before you even consider the burger you plan to use, selecting the healthiest cooking methods possible will catapult you towards success. Avoid deep fat frying and frying food in oil to save not only your arteries and your heart from the effects of excessive saturated fat, but also your body from the calories. Healthy alternative cooking methods include grilling, barbequing, roasting and air frying your meat, fish or plant-based burger.
Most quarter pounder burgers (91g) alone account for 200 + calories, 23.4g protein and > 5g saturated fat (approximately 28% of your recommended daily allowance (RDA) of saturated fat). Fortunately, there are some clever swaps you can make towards a healthier burger that will shave some of the fat and calories off.
- Make your own burger by moulding 5% fat beef steak mince into burgers. These would lower the nutritional impact to 122 calories, 21.6g protein and 1.7g saturated fat per 100g burger.
- Turkey burgers contain 121 calories, 17.8g protein and 0.9g saturated fat per 100g burger.
- Chicken breasts contain 148 calories, 32g protein and 0.6g saturated fat per 100g.
- Reduced fat smoked BBQ chicken burger contains 136 calories, 19.5g protein and 1.1g saturated fat per 80g burger.
When searching for fish burgers, the primary options available were breaded or battered burgers. However, you could always make your own healthy versions at home by dicing or mincing up fish and shaping it into a burger. Salmon burgers are one of my favourites!
- Cod fillets diced and made into burgers are a tasty treat. Cod fillets contain 100 calories, 23.9g protein and 0.1g saturated fat per 100g fillet.
- Opt for a diced tuna steak which contain 123 calories, 29.1g protein and 0.3g saturated fat per 90g steak.
- Salmon darnes contain 186 calories, 21g protein and 1.7g saturated fat per 90g serving. These can be diced up to make delicious salmon burgers.
No meat or fish:
Unfortunately for you lovers of halloumi burgers, they should be placed on the moderation list due to their density in terms of calories and fat. A single slice alone harbours 172 calories, 11.8g protein and 9g saturated fat (approximately 45% of your RDA of saturated fat) per 50g serving.
Additionally, some plant-based burgers contain 285 calories, 19.2g protein and 6.3g saturated fat per 113g burger. As such, it’s evident that these burgers can be high in terms of saturated fat and calories, but an excellent source of protein. Perhaps it’s worth adding to the moderation list, or maybe you could make your own!
Below are some alternative burgers that are less likely to spike your saturated fat and calorie intake:
- Quorn burgers contain 150 calories, 7.5g protein and 0.5g saturated fat per 60g burger
- Vegetable burgers contain 133 calories, 4.2g protein and 0.7g saturated fat per 120g burger
Tip: If you’re a fan of adding an extra burger serving to your feast, renouncing this habit could be one of the greatest decisions you make in terms of your health.
Depending on your choice of burger, you may already be incorporating sufficient, if not significant, quantities of fat from the burger. This is likely the case for quarter pounder burgers, breaded or battered burgers, plant-based burgers and halloumi burgers. However, if you opted for the other types of burgers, then adding a source of fat would make this a macronutrient balanced meal.
A renowned source of healthy fats adored by the young and trendy, this sought-after fruit can be incorporated into your burger in slices, mashed or as guacamole.
Take ease with the cheese:
Cheese can be rather dense in calories. If you’re looking to shave some fat and calories off, then you can achieve this by opting for the light cheese slices. For instance, a light white cheddar cheese serving equates to 60 calories, 5.6g saturated fat and 4.2g protein per 20g slice. In contrast, a regular white cheddar cheese serving contains 80 calories, 4.2g saturated fat and 6.5g protein per 20g slice. Additionally, there was little difference observed in nutritional value when comparing light cheddar cheese to red cheddar cheese, so choose whichever one you prefer.
In terms of limiting servings, there is greater portion control with pre-sliced cheese, as cutting slices of cheese from a cheese block is almost guaranteed to result in thicker slices. Grated cheese can also be tricky to gauge for portions, unless you weigh it out. Realistically, you’re probably not going to do that though, unless you have a rigorous approach to your food portions. Not only is it more awkward to measure, it’s also more messy to manage compared to cheese slices, as the shavings fall all over the place.
The final point to be made with cheese is that opting for cheese slices as opposed to cheese singles is preferable, as cheese slices are the least processed of the 2 options.
Eggs are a tremendous source of healthy fats along with protein. You could use eggs in a multitude of ways, whether you add a poached egg to your burger, or you use it to bind your burger ingredients together. Just remember the yolk contains all the healthy fat, so don’t discard it.
Tip: Fat is also present in dressings, so beware of this when choosing your dressing.
There are some simple carbohydrate hacks and exchanges that you can implement to reinvent and reinvigorate your burger. A large seeded burger bun which is often what accompanies the rest of your burger entourage packs a whopping 201 calories, 3g fat and 4.5g sugar per 80g burger bun.
Follow these tips below to choose healthier alternatives:
- Ditch the large bun and opt for a regular sized burger bun (approximately 50g), which contain 135 calories, 3.3g sugar and 1.6g fat per 50g burger bun.
- One of the closest alternatives to the burger bun is the slim square bread. These provide 110 calories, 1.2g sugar and 0.4g fat per 41g serving.
- Swap the bun for a round wholemeal pitta which encompasses 113 calories, 1g sugar and 0.6g fat per 48g serving.
Also, included below are some hardcore options for those on a rigorous food plan, those who don’t eat bread and people who are enthusiastic to shave off as much calories as possible:
Go naked: Not literally of course! Before you go stripping off, let me clarify what I mean: you could always ditch the bun and opt for the burger and toppings, which would save you as much as 200 calories. It may also save you on the bloated feeling that you may encounter after eating a full burger bun. However, that’s not always preferable for everyone, and you many not feel as if you’re getting the complete burger experience either.
Burger bowl: Instead of your traditional burger, opt for a burger bowl. Similar to a burrito bowl, where you ditch the burrito. Fill up a bowl of your favourite burger toppings, add the burger in and some of your favourite dressings for a creative twist to your conventional burger. Plus, with a bowl of food in front of you, it’ll feel as if you have much more to eat!
Opt for non-bread buns: With these healthy burger bun alternatives, you can eliminate bread altogether and even add 1 of your 5 a day into this meal:
- Portobello mushrooms – they even look like a burger bun
- Lettuce buns/wraps – romaine is a sturdy leaf option that can hold the ingredients without breaking
- Sweet potato slices – ideal for mini burgers
- Eggplant slices
- Tomato buns
Tip: Avoid adding extra buns into the burger, e.g. in the middle of the burger.
Fruit and vegetables:
Here’s where you can load up your burger without feeling the need to restrict yourself. Below are a list of items you can fill up on to your hearts content:
- Grated carrot
Tip: Avoid frying your toppings, boil or grill them instead, e.g. onions, tomatoes.
By now, you’ll have make significant swaps to slash saturated fat and calories in your burger. But choose a creamy or oily sauce and all your good efforts could be sabotaged. Burger sauce isn’t the worst culprit of all the sauces, but it does provide a significant amount of calories, especially if you lather the sauce on. One serving will provide you with 56 calories, 5.3g fat and 1.4g sugar per 15 tablespoon.
Here are some simple tips to help you choose your dressing wisely:
- Ditch the sauce and opt for healthy marinated burgers
- Opt for herbs, spices and seasonings instead
- Make your own healthy sauce at home
- Use low fat greek yoghurt as a base for your dressing and add flavourings and mix your favourites sauces with it
- Opt for low sugar, low fat variations of sauces, such as low sugar ketchup, reduced fat mayonnaise
- Some of the healthier sauces include salsa, mustard, hot sauce and pesto
Instead of eliminating my favourite calorific sauces, I’ve been fortunate enough to stumble upon a company who make tasty, low calorie sauces. So now that I have swapped to Skinny Sauce – Virtually Zero® Calorie, sugar free, fat free sauces, I haven’t looked back.
As an affiliate, I earn from qualifying purchases. Please note that you, the reader’s interests are my top priority, and I only recommend products that I have either tried and tested or thoroughly reviewed and consider good enough for myself to buy.
- Lower saturated fat and calories by making your own burgers with 5% fat beef steak mince instead of higher fat quarter pounder burgers
- Chicken, turkey and fish burgers are often healthier alternatives to beef burgers
- Cheese, egg and avocado all provide sources of fat
- Caution should be observed to identify the quantity of fat in your burger meal
- Swapping large burger buns for regular sized buns or bread alternatives can slash calories and fat
- Non-bread bun alternatives can be chosen instead of bread as a low carbohydrate option
- Avoid creamy and oily dressings on your burger
- Avoid adding a second burger or bun to your meal
Now that you know how to make a healthy burger, why not ditch the fries and opt for a healthy side salad or upgrade your burger or burger bowl with how to make salad taste better – ultimate pro tips.
Do you avoid burgers merely because you feel they don’t belong in a healthy diet? If you are a burger buff, could you see yourself using any of these alternatives? What techniques do you adopt to make your burger healthier? I’d love to hear what you think in the comments section below.
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McDermott, N., 2020. All Burgers Aren’t Bad For You: Here’s How To Make A Healthier One. [online] Openfit. Available at: https://www.openfit.com/how-to-make-a-healthier-burger
SheKnows. 2017. 18 Hamburger Bun Alternatives That’re A Million Times Better Than Gluten-Free Bread. [online] Available at: https://www.sheknows.com/food-and-recipes/slideshow/2959/hamburger-bun-alternatives/
Tesco.ie. 2020. [online] Available at: https://www.tesco.ie [Accessed 1 July 2020].