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3 Hacks for Healthier Burgers

Elle Penner, MPH, RD
by Elle Penner, MPH, RD
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3 Hacks for Healthier Burgers

Photo by Yuichi Sakuraba

Sure, burgers can be belt-bustingly bad but the truth is, they don’t have to be. For those of us in the US, Labor Day weekend is just hours away and many of us are finalizing our backyard barbecue plans. While celebrating the unofficial end-of-summer this weekend, try my top three burger hacks to keep yours healthier too!

  1. Bring back the quarter-pounder. Instead of making monster 8-ounce burgers, cook up more modest 4-ounce patties and top with sliced avocado. By doing this you’ll replace saturated fat with healthier mono- and poly-unsaturated fats. Trust me, the burger flavor will still be there and you’ll feel just as satisfied.
  2. When choosing buns, grab whole grain. Packing more fiber and vitamins than white bread, whole grain buns are the way to go. First look for packages that say 100% whole wheat or 100% whole grain. Then compare a couple of brands and choose the buns with the fewest calories and are the highest in fiber. To slash calories in half, put your burger between a 100% whole wheat english muffin instead.
  3. Reconsider your condiments. We all know we can go wild with the veggie toppings but when it comes to those calorie-rich condiments, consider making a trade off. If you go for a slice of cheese, skip the mayonnaise. Give your burger a squirt of ketchup instead of slathering bbq sauce all over your bun. Mustard-lovers, feel free to treat yourself to a slice of bacon or dollop of Ranch, too.
Got any other hacks for healthier burgers? We’d love to hear them!

About the Author

Elle Penner, MPH, RD
Elle Penner, MPH, RD

Elle is a nutrition and wellness writer, recipe developer, blogger and nutrition consultant whose favorite things include her camera, carbs and quality time with her toddler. For more from this busy mama, check out Elle’s lifestyle blog or connect with her on Instagram, Pinterest and Facebook.


26 responses to “3 Hacks for Healthier Burgers”

  1. Avatar Tabitha Pye says:

    You could also just forget about the bun altogether and wrap your patty in a large lettuce leaf, you’ll be surprised how awesome it tastes! 🙂 You won’t even miss the bun and you’ll save yourself 150-300 calories depending on the bun you normally use 🙂

    • Avatar Carl Gamble says:

      That is a fab idea! It sounds like it would be easier to eat as well.. I find some buns to be quite mouth drying.

    • Avatar Doreen Garrod says:

      That is exactly how we eat ours most of the time. The other way we eat them is by wrapping them in a healthy warm tortilla.

    • Avatar kenna44cat says:

      Oh, that’s a great idea, you can get that in Red Robin restaurants here in Canada, too, a burger wrapped in a lettuce leaf. That’s awesome, thanks, Tabitha.

    • Avatar J.Davila says:

      I never thought of that, that’s a great idea. Im gonna try that next time.

    • Avatar Joanne E Cornish says:

      very tasty idea, a friend of ours here in Spain did that with his spicy quarter pounders (filled with stilton/blue cheese) and they were wonderful!! didn’t feel half as bloated as usual with a bun 😉

    • Avatar Noura says:

      I used to do that when I was on atkins. I forgot how tasty the patty was wrapped in lettuce.

  2. Avatar Jared says:

    I really like those Sara Lee thin style buns. A modest drop in calories but they are whole wheat.

  3. Avatar Pedro says:

    So into the bun. However the lettuce leaf is a great option for cutting calories. GIVE ME GLUTEN or GIVE ME DEATH!!! LOL 79 pounds and counting with MFP 😀

  4. Avatar Corjogo says:

    cut the buns yourself – 2 can equal three if you cut them in thirds.

  5. Avatar Danielle Sapp says:

    I just take off the top bun and eat the bottom only, I do this with all sandwiches to cut calories and still get my yummy bread! I usually have to resort to a fork and knife but I feel the extra effort is worth it. 🙂

    • Avatar siqiniq says:

      Sometimes I cut the top half of the bun in half and but my burger between the two pieces. Still have bread, but only half as much.

  6. Avatar Emm says:

    another alternative would be a raw portebellow mushroom cap instead of a top bun and then a normal bottom bun.

  7. Avatar Deb says:

    I use hormel bacon bits on top of burgers and with my egg sandwiches too Caue they are small they spread over the whole thing evenly giving that bacon bite in every bite but with less calories. Also do a sharper thin sliced cheese to keep the flavor and decrease the cals

  8. Avatar kenna44cat says:

    Thank you, these are very good ideas. I don’t have a BBQ but they’re the custom in Canada, too, for the Labor Day long weekend, also closing up the cottage and going camping for the last time, those are customs in Canada as well. The avocado on a burger is a good idea. Thanks for this site, it’s wonderful, and I enjoy reading your blog with the great ideas from your RD and so on. Any exercise gurus out there? I also love to hear about that.

  9. Avatar Ashley Elizabeth says:

    Don’t make the burger with egg or breadcrumbs, you don’t need them and you’ll lose hundreds of calories from the burger.

    • Avatar JeninBelgium says:

      I would NEVER put egg or breadcrumbs in my burger- that’s not a burger, that’s MEATLOAF! 🙂 I bought Jamie Oliver’s American cookbook, on a whim, and when I saw all the stuff he put into his burger, I promply returned the book- for me a burger is meat ( normally 100% ground lean steak from our local butcher) and seasoning only – but to each their own I guess

  10. Avatar ladybosie says:

    I’m surprised no one’s mentioned using turkey instead of beef–or even half and half, if you don’t like to compromise too much on the flavor and juiciness.

    • Avatar Mike says:

      Turkey is great, but lean beef is just as good. The calories are the same on a lean ground beef versus ground turkey. If you have a problem with red meat then I guess ground turkey is the way to go.

  11. Avatar crims says:

    No, a big part of health is it’s weight related which means health is a big part based on calories. You can’t call this a “healthy” burger. i.e. 2 people are 25lbs over weight. One person eats this healthy burger everyday going over their calories by 500 calories each day. Another person eats a big mac everday and stays at a deficit of 500 calories everyday. Who is healthier in the long run? The person who ate the “healthy” burger and gained 52lbs or the person who ate the “unhealthy burger” and lost 52lbs. Who will be more at risk for diabetes, heart disease, high triglycerides, high blood pressure, etc.??

  12. Avatar Skrib69 says:

    The most sensible suggestion here is to go for the smaller patty. A greasy burger is still a greasy burger though, with all the calories that go with it – the rest is just fluff, particularly if you aren’t looking at what else you are eating. It has to fit in with your overall goals to be effective.

    • Avatar Mike says:

      If you are making your own you can avoid the ‘greasy burger’ by using 96/4 ratio meat to fat. Most meat sold is 80/20 and packs a whopping 300+ calories per patty. If you use lean meat you can cut that calorie number in half plus less saturated fat. My burger, bun and all tend to be around 350 calories.

  13. Avatar siqiniq says:

    Whole wheat and whole grain are not the same thing. Whole grain is better.

  14. Avatar lolcatz in action says:

    it looks purrrr-fect!

  15. Avatar Catalin M says:

    Get rid of the bread and keep the monster burger!

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