June is officially summertime to me. Growing up in the Midwest, June meant hot, humid weather and it’s grillin’ time! What’s your favorite summer meal? Mine? Yep, you guessed it….burgers. I would never dream of asking anyone to give up their burgers. To enjoy them guilt free, try adding some new flavors and ingredients to amp up the nutrition and right-size your portion of this ubiquitous icon of summer.  How?  Here are 3 easy ways:

“Portobello burger” reprinted with permission from “http://www.fortmillscliving.com” and www.healthyaperture.com

“Portobello burger with white bean spread” reprinted with permission from “http://www.fortmillscliving.com” and www.healthyaperture.com (recipe at http://www.fortmillscliving.com/recipes/recipe-portobello-burgers-with-white-bean-spread/)

1) Change the star of the show from a leading part to a supporting role. That’s right. There are so many other delicious foods that would like to share that star role. Try lean turkey burgers, portabello mushrooms, salmon patties made from wild or canned salmon, chicken breast or homemade ground chicken breast patties, soy burgers. For those “it’s not a burger if it’s not beef” people, you can choose 98% lean ground beef and keep both tradition and health on your plate! Along with that, take the size of your patty down to no more than a 3.5 oz portion—you won’t miss a thing. If you need more, there’s always another patty, but you can control calories better starting out with a smaller portion size. Lean meats shrink less.

2) Choose healthy toppings that boost nutrients and are filling—like veggies! Because they are almost calorie-free they help dilute the calories and also add important phytochemicals, vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Add fresh veggies like sliced tomatoes, onions, cukes, red peppers and nutrition packed greens like arugula, spinach, shredded kale, or even broccoli or cabbage slaw. Sauteed mushrooms or caramelized onions are also a great addition. If you are counting calories, use a low fat non-processed cheese to save 50-75 calories a slice. For me, a sprinkle of regular bleu cheese adds all the piquant flavor I need–using less is another way to cut calories. Try a few slices of fresh avocado or a dollop of guacamole to add good-for-you fats on top and voila! A burger made better– and better for you!

3) Use a different vehicle to get there. Instead of a white bun opt for a high fiber, whole grain or whole wheat vehicle to carry that scrumptious bite to your mouth! Choosing a dinner size bun (or sometimes called dinner roll in the grocery store) rather than buying the hamburger size buns automatically cuts the calories by a third and helps save room for healthy side dishes. I learned this trick a few years back and it carries the 3.5 oz portion size patty perfectly. No more extra bun wasted—just the right size portion.

Enjoy your burgers on the outdoor or indoor grill or sautéed in a pan on the stove with a nutrient rich twist! You’ll be healthier for it.


Kim Larson, RDN, CD, CSSD

National Spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics
Board Certified Sports Dietitian
Revolutionary Strategies for Optimal Health & Performance
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