Plot twist: a burger’s reputation doesn’t have to be so bad.
Sure, there are the greasy, fat-filled hamburgers that we order at fast food places or diner restaurants. But making your own healthy burger is totally possible, plus it's easy and fun to get creative with so many delicious and nutritious options!
If you’re craving that all-too-familiar juicy indulgence, you don’t have to necessarily feel like you’re betraying your health. Remember — it’s what you use and how you use it that makes all the difference. There’s a whole world of substitutes, add-ons, and even different formations for burgers to take on, making for healthier recipes that feel fresh, and new each and every time. With so many variations, hamburgers could quite possibly even become your go-to weekday meal… and for more days than one!
Here's 10 ways to craft a healthy hamburger — and with zero guilt.
1. Use Lean Protein
Of course, the star of the show is the patty, and the ones we know and love are usually beef. However, there are way more possibilities you can try out for the centerpiece protein that are healthy and delectable.
If you want to stick with beef, be sure to pick a package that states it is 90 percent lean or higher to trim down any fat possible. Straying away from beef, bison meat is a wonderful reduced-fat alternative with its own distinctive, sweet and juicy flavor. You can also try out turkey and chicken meat to infuse a different taste into your patty, while significantly lowering calorie and fat intake.
For our veggie lovers, there’s the newly popular plant-based burger. These usually feature a mixture of grains, legumes (like lentils for protein) and vegetables molded together to form a perfect meatless patty.
2. Carb-less Wraps
Lighten the layers of your hamburger by wrapping its contents in carb-less ingredients rather than between buns. Place the patty of your choice, toppings, and sauce between large pieces of iceberg or romaine lettuce to completely cut out carbs and add a source of vitamins.
For a meatless option wrapped in a healthy bread alternative, try creating a vegetarian burger wrap using our delicious gluten-free cauliflower or egg wraps. With a plant-based patty, and any toppings or condiments imaginable, you can perfectly crisp up a burger wrap that will make you say: “Bun, who?”
3. Make It Naked
Completely ditch the burger’s outer shell and eat your patty, toppings, and condiments solo. We call this a naked burger, or simply all the goodness minus the bun. While this may make the logistics of eating your burger a little more complicated than handheld, using a fork and knife to cut into a juicy patty with crisp and melty toppings will suffice.
You could also lighten the calories with a semi-naked or an open-faced burger with half a bun, placing a piece of bun on the bottom of your patty and toppings.
4. Pile On the Veggies
Make your burger a veggie-packed meal by layering on the minerals and vitamins! A burger is a wonderful way to incorporate all the vegetables you love into each bite — almost like a salad sandwich. Pile on tomatoes, onions (cooked or raw), pickles, cucumbers — the possibilities are endless! Supercharge your burger with extra vitamins and minerals by choosing darker greens for a leafy crunch. Instead of iceberg lettuce, try romaine, spinach, or kale.
5. Lighten Your Sides
Ditch the French fries or onion rings and choose a lighter side for your burger. A side salad with a lower calorie dressing will supplement your juicy burger and provide a refreshing side bite. Other tasty additions to your burger meal are variations of baked or air-fried vegetables. Try adding seasonings and oil to brussel sprouts, asparagus, or zucchini for crunchy, nourishing sides.
6. Use a Portobello Patty
For those who decide to go meatless, a hamburger could be turned into a delicious shroom burger. Portobello mushrooms are known for their tender and meaty texture, with a juicy bite that simulates the experience of enjoying a hamburger patty. You can grill or pan fry a thick slice of portobello mushroom to be the centerpiece of your burger meal, between your choice of veggies and bun.
7. Exchange Cheese for An Egg
Cheese can be extremely fatty and as a dairy product it can irritate the stomach. To avoid these issues, and upgrade the protein of a burger, a sunny side egg is the perfect replacement. Topping a patty of your choice with an egg can enhance the vitamins and minerals it contains, significantly increasing amounts of iron, Vitamin D, and Vitamin B6. Swapping gooey cheese for a warm, soft egg can add a healthy and delicious twist to your meal.
8. Makeover Your Mayo
Mayo is usually a burger’s favorite dressing, and its fatty abundance is no secret. But there are many delicious ways to divert from the fattiness of a mayo spread, and create lighter creamy condiments. Greek yogurt is a fantastic base for any mayo substitute and can be transformed in many ways to enhance your burger perfectly. Try creating a Tzatziki sauce with cucumbers and dill, or simply squeezing your desired amount of lime or lemon into Greek yogurt for a refreshingly healthy sauce to top your burger.
9. Layer With Avocado
This may increase the calories of your burger, but in the best way possible. Avocado has all the heart-healthy fats you need, and is a creamy substitute for mayo or cheese. The fruit is rich in monounsaturated fats, antioxidants, and oleic acid. In fact, a University of California study examined the harmony between avocados and hamburgers. Researchers found that adding avocado may counteract the inflammatory protein Interleukin-6 in comparison to a burger without the yummy bright green topping.
10. Use Healthier Buns
Contrary to popular belief, there are healthy ways to eat bread. If you’re craving the quintessential hamburger on a bun, you can look for fiber-rich or lower-calorie breads. With fiber being a necessary component to our everyday health and weight control, try choosing high fiber brands to sandwich your burger. Another great way to include beloved bread is with low-calorie English muffins for a toasty and healthy enhancement to your meal.
Don’t be afraid to indulge your burger craving by sprucing up your recipes with any of these tasty tips. There’s really no limit to the imagination when it comes to putting together a nutritious and delicious combo. Whether it’s swapping your bun, toppings, or condiments, you’re sure to find a mouthwatering variation to perfectly suit your palate. With a dash of creativity, healthy hamburgers can definitely be your next weekly tradition.