Did you know that one of the world’s most beloved foods started as a kitchen mistake?
The story goes that a young chef was flipping burgers at Pasadena’s popular eatery, The Rite Spot. He noticed a few burnt spots on one of the patties and improvised with a piece of cheese to hide his blunder. Thus the now-famous “cheeseburger” was born.
Fast-forward a hundred years or so, and you’d be hard-pressed to find an American restaurant that doesn’t include burgers on its menu. It’s a multi-billion dollar industry, not just in the US, but all over the world. There are healthier burgers, classic burgers, vegetarian burgers, and also shockers like the 9,982-calorie Quadruple Bypass Burger.
All in all, most people love burgers, although most would also agree that they’re not the healthiest ideas for dinners.
Does it have to be that way? Do burgers have to be greasy, fatty, and loaded with calories? Or is it possible to use healthy burger ingredients to create healthy burger recipes?
You’re in luck because that’s the exact topic we’ll discuss below. From different types of patties to different burger toppings, we’ll give you plenty of ideas for your next burger. Read on!
- Choose Your Protein
Don’t worry — we won’t start by bashing beef. Recent studies show that eating red meat (beef, lamb, venison, etc.) in moderation isn’t harmful to your health, as previously believed.
With that said, the type of beef you choose and the portion size plays a big role in whether or not your burger is really “healthy.” A 4-ounce or “quarter-pounder” burger patty contains around 200 calories and five grams of saturated fat. Keep in mind that many restaurant burgers are two to three times larger than this (but we’ll get to portion sizes a bit later).
For now, let’s say you want to stick with beef and make healthier burgers at home. Look for ground beef that’s between 90%-95% lean. Any leaner than this, and your patties will come out too dry.
Some of the best healthy burger recipes don’t include beef at all. Turkey burgers are satisfying and tasty, packing only 121 calories and one gram of saturated fat per 4-ounce patty. Meanwhile, a grilled chicken breast contains about 150 calories and half a gram of saturated fat.
Are you a fish lover? Skip the store-bought battered fish patties and make your own healthier version at home. Mince or dice up your favorite type of fish and shape it into burgers, then finish it on the grill, in the oven, or in your air fryer.
Here’s a quick glance at nutritional info for homemade 4-ounce fish burgers:
- Cod or similar white fish: 100 calories and 0.1 grams of saturated fat
- Tuna steak: 123 calories and 0.3 grams of saturated fat
- Salmon: 186 calories and 1.7 grams of saturated fat
What about plant-based veggie burgers? These can be tasty, but many brands are surprisingly high in calories, sodium, and saturated fat. Your best bet is to make your own or stick with a healthy frozen brand like Quorn.
There are tons of delicious burger patty options to try, so why not experiment to see which of these tickles your palate?
- Banish the (Traditional) Bun
The average packaged hamburger bun contains over 200 calories, 4.5 grams of sugar, and 3 grams of fat. Worst of all, it’s empty processed calories with zero nutritional value.
How can you avoid this waste of calories and enjoy healthier burgers?
Going naked is always a healthy option, and we’re not talking about joining a nudist colony. The easiest solution is simply to skip the bun and eat your burger in a bowl or over a salad. You could also wrap your burger in lettuce, portabello mushrooms, or other round veggies like sweet potatoes or eggplant.
If you’re not ready to give up on the idea of bread, there are healthier options than a store-bought sesame bun. Try wholemeal pita bread or slim square bread, or go low-carb and make your own tasty cloud bread.
- Use Healthier Cheeses
American cheese tastes great, but it’s not exactly the healthiest cheese option. In fact, because it’s less than 51% milk products, it’s not even considered to be “real” cheese.
The good news is you don’t have to give up your dreams of a gooey (but healthy) cheeseburger. All you need to do is swap out that processed cheese for a healthier option.
Try one of these tasty cheeses in your healthy burger recipes:
- Mozzarella cheese
- Feta cheese
- Goat cheese
- Blue cheese
- Swiss cheese
- Cheddar cheese
All of these cheeses are rich in nutrients while remaining relatively low in fat and calories. Of course, moderation is still key!
- Spice Things Up
There’s a lot more to a good burger than salt and pepper. While you’re preparing your burger patties, toss in some of your favorite seasonings like:
- Garlic powder
- Fresh garlic
- Chili flakes
Add a few shakes of these herbs to your mixture before you cook the patties. For an extra burst of flavor, add some fresh chopped herbs like cilantro, basil, or scallions to the finished product. The result is tons of taste without the extra sodium or calories.
- Watch Your Portion Size
The Quadruple Bypass Burger mentioned at the outset contains a staggering eight pounds of beef. Many restaurant menus boast burgers between 8-12 ounces. Order a double burger, and you’re scarfing down over a pound of meat.
Obviously, this goes above and beyond the recommended 5-7 ounces of protein each day. Embrace a smaller portion size for your burgers (3-4 ounces, or the size of a deck of cards) or get creative with tiny slider-sized burgers.
- Skip the (Usual) Condiments
Do you normally slather your burger with mayonnaise and ketchup? These are among the unhealthiest ingredients in traditional burgers.
One tiny tablespoon of mayo packs an astounding 90 calories and 10 grams of fat. (And let’s be honest: you probably eat a lot more than one tablespoon at a time). Meanwhile, two tablespoons of ketchup contain 8 grams of sugar and 5 grams of carbs.
Skip the traditional condiments and instead make your burger delicious with guacamole, salsa, Greek yogurt, or low-fat Ranch dressing.
- Try Different Burger Toppings
Since we’re on the topic, what are some other fun burger toppings to try? In addition to lettuce, tomato, and onion, give these options a whirl:
- Avocado (sliced or smashed)
- Poached egg
- Sliced beets
- Grilled veggies
- Pico de gallo
The possibilities are endless, so keep experimenting with the veggies you have on hand!
- Sneak in Extra Veggies
Speaking of veggies, would you like a secret way to make healthier burgers that are also juicier? When you’re preparing the patties, sneak finely chopped veggies and grains into the mixture.
- Leafy green vegetables
- Grated sweet potatoes
- Black beans
Bonus: These make delicious and nutritious additions whether you’re making meat or veggie burgers.
- Select Healthy Side Items
Fries, sodas, and milkshakes add a disastrous amount of calories and fat to your burger meal. Round our your healthy dinner with equally healthy side options.
Prepare a green salad, roast some veggies, or dice up some fresh fruit. If you can’t live without a potato accompaniment, opt for plain baked or oven-roasted potatoes.
- Choose the Right Burger Joints
All of the healthy burger recipes are terrific for nights at home, but what if you’re on the road? Are you doomed to hork down a greasy McDonald’s patty if you’re craving a burger on vacation or a business trip?
Not at all! Health-conscious individuals aren’t the only ones revamping the burger-making efforts. Many restauranteurs are also offering healthier burgers on their menus. All you have to do is a little research!
For example, do you live in (or will you soon be traveling to) the great state of Texas? Take a look at Beck’s Prime and you’ll find 100% fresh, 100% delicious, and 100% healthy burger options.
Nationwide, you’ll find popular fast-food chains offering health-conscious options. In-N-Out offers a hamburger wrapped in lettuce that comes in at 240 calories, 17 grams of fat, and 11 grams of carbs.
If you can’t live without the bun, try a Five Guys “little” hamburger (still plenty big enough for most appetites). Skip the cheese and condiments and add flavor with fresh jalapenos and grilled mushrooms. At 436 calories, 21 grams of fat, and 23 grams of carbs, it’s a surprisingly balanced and healthy burger option.
Make Healthier Burgers Tonight
As you can see, burgers don’t have to be a fat-and-calorie-filled nightmare. Whether you’re starting a diet or just trying to eat healthier, you don’t have to eliminate one of your favorite foods from your menu.
Bookmark this list for your next trip to the supermarket. Experiment with different burger toppings, buns, meats, and veggie options. Try cooking your burgers in different ways and adding different sauces and seasonings.
Healthier burgers aren’t just possible — they’re tasty, popular, and sure to be a hit with your family.
Now that you have some awesome healthy burger recipes, what’s next? How about some healthy side dishes and dessert to go along with your burgers? Keep browsing our site for the best recipes, food trends, meal planning ideas, and more!