26 May 11 Burgers Get a Second Chance

For goodness sake, do we have to be stuck with using ground chuck (80% lean/20% fat) for burgers this summer just because they contain the right amount of fat for grilling? If you are trying to keep your calories and saturated fat intake in check, then take the time to experiment with some recipes that use lean ground beef or turkey, and simply use other ingredients to give the burger flavor and juiciness. You will be very surprised at how good leaner burgers can taste with the right added ingredients.

Standard Grilled Cheeseburger

Let's start with the standard homemade cheeseburger made with 3 oz of cooked 80% lean/20% fat hamburger (231 calories, 6 grams saturated fat), 1 slice of American cheese (70 calories, 3 grams saturated fat), 2 tbsp of ketchup (29 calories, 0 grams fat), 1 tbsp mustard (10 calories, 0 grams fat), 3 dill pickle slices (4 calories, 0 grams fat), and 1 regular hamburger bun (120 calories, 1 g saturated fat). This cheeseburger will cost you about 464 calories, 10 grams saturated fat and 1346 mg of sodium.

Wow! Let's see if we can find some burgers that taste great but are lower in calories, saturated fat, and sodium than this one.

Fancy Lean Burgers

Cooking Light has some great ideas for healthier burgers. Here are some that you can check out to see if the ingredients tickle your taste buds:

Southwestern Turkey-Cheddar Burgers with Grilled Onions: 395 calories, 4.8 grams saturated fat and 853 mg sodium

Lamb Burgers with Indian Spices and Yogurt-Mint Sauce: 398 calories, 4.1 grams saturated fat and 656 mg sodium

See Cooking Light's "Healthy Grilled Burgers" for more ideas.

Veggie Burgers

You do not have to be stuck with pre-made veggie patties any more than you have to be stuck with pre-formed hamburger patties. There are many recipes for homemade veggie burgers – I picked a few from Cooking Light. As you can see below, these burgers beat even lean meat burgers in terms of calories and saturated fat.

Red-Lentil Burgers with Aioli: 324 calories, 1.6 grams saturated fat and 688 mg sodium

Portobello Burgers: 251 calories, 2.3 grams saturated fat and 739 mg sodium

See Cooking Light's "All-Time Favorite Veggie Burgers" for more ideas.

Grind Your Own Beef?

You can better control the quality of your ground beef if you buy meat from a trusted butcher and grind it yourself or have the butcher grind it fresh for you. You can use an attachment on your stand mixer or use your food processor.

Kathie Downie from Cooking Light recommends grinding beef tenderloin tails. The tails will be a lot less expensive than buying the intact tenderloin cut. If you trim the meat before grinding, then the calories and fat will be similar to very lean ground beef (95% lean, 5% fat) with 164 calories and 3 grams of saturated fat per 3 oz. cooked patty. Or you could grind a trimmed beef brisket to achieve nearly the same nutrient profile.

Chowhound readers describe how you can use your food processor to grind your own beef, even for burgers. Grind just before cooking.

Other Tips

Even if you don't experiment with the fancy burgers listed above, you can still reduce calories and/or saturated fat by making a few changes:

  • Cut your 80/20 ground chuck with lean ground meats such as 90/10 or ground turkey.
  • Try using lean ground beef (90/10 or 95/5) and add olive or canola oil to increase fat.
  • Replace cheese with sliced avocado (will reduce saturated fat).
  • Use low fat mayo or skip mayo and just use just ketchup and/or mustard.
  • Make the burger smaller and pile on more veggies (e.g. grilled onions, peppers, etc).
  • Use smaller buns.
  • Fill up on veggies - plan for at least a half-plateful of grilled veggies and have a salad!
  • If you typically eat two burgers or a burger and a hot dog, then try eating only one slightly larger burger (e.g. 4 oz vs. 3 oz cooked meat).
Katherine Isacks, MPS, RD
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Disclaimer: Please note that we cannot provide personalized advice and that the information provided does not constitute medical advice. If you are seeking medical advice, please visit a medical professional.

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Foods & Recipes/Red Meat

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