SparkPeople Blogs  •  recipes  •  summer

Make a Better, Healthy Burger

By , SparkPeople Blogger
I love a good burger--turkey, beef, pork, chicken, veggies, you name it! With my current focus on weight training, I think my body is craving extra protein.  For me a lean burger is a quick, easy meal that, with added toppings, will never look or taste the same twice  It's one of those "crowd pleaser" meals because the every member of the family can make each his or her own signature meal. 

My slim-it-down tip (without taking out the taste) is that I usually do not eat hamburgers with my fingers.  I use a fork because I almost always only eat one half of the whole grain bun.  By doing this I trim close to 60 calories, and the fork forces me to slow down and enjoy the meal.  (If I really want to use my fingers, I choose a low calorie thin whole grain bun.)
Though you can't go wrong with the classics, I like to get creative with my burgers. Here are some of my favorite toppings. Try them at your cookouts today!
  • Corn and poblano pepper salsa with salad greens
  • Shallot or tomato jam with soft goat cheese
  • Roasted red peppers, onions, and summer squash and diced tomatoes
  • Pesto, melted provolone, and arugula
  • Turkey bacon, melted Swiss cheese, and sautéed onions
  • Sliced avocado, heirloom tomatoes (because they are so juicy) and alfalfa sprouts
  • Caramelized red onions, shredded romaine and melted smoked Gouda
  • Mango salsa with loads of chopped cilantro and parsley
  • Black bean and corn salsa with a thick slice of red onion and tomatoes
So how can I eat burgers a couple of times a month and still fit into my summer clothes?
I choose lean meats like turkey and sometimes beef, and I use small portions of high-calorie toppings like cheese and bacon. I might only use a half a slice of bacon or cheese, break it up and scatter it across the burger. You still get the flavor and texture in almost every bite, but you save calories and fat.

I didn't include quantities above because each day and each person is different. Only you know how much will satisfy you.
In addition to the toppings, there's something else ever burger needs. Maybe for some, it's fries, but to me it is about the sauce.  You don't need the skill of a saucier to make great sauces for your burger.  Always keep low-fat plain yogurt on hand and add any of the following ingredients to taste for a great sauce. (For a thicker sauce, use Greek yogurt.) Here are some favorites:
  • Chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, chopped.  Top your burger with grilled scallions.
  • Cajun spices.  Top your burger with shredded green leaf lettuce to cool the heat.
  • Pickles, capers, parsley all chopped with a dash of Tabasco.  Top this burger with a soft butter lettuce.
  • Crumbled blue cheese and chopped shallots.  Top with shreds of crunchy Romaine lettuce.
More great grilling stories:
Want more great recipes from me and fellow SparkPeople members? Be sure to subscribe to SparkPeople's Recipe of the Day email. Click here to sign up!
What is your favorite way to top a burger? How do you prefer your burger cooked? Do you skip the bun or not?

Click here to to redeem your SparkPoints
  You will earn 5 SparkPoints


Fun ideas to try Report
good ideas thanks Report
burgers are great! Report
Gouda on a burger? I'm going to try it! Thanks Report
Has anyone ever just taken a large Portabella Mushroom and grilled it instead of meat and topped it with blue cheese, tomato, onion and lettuce? It is delicious!!!
I cook it on the grill, use only 1/2 of a bun and put lettuce. tomato and onion on top.
Yummy, Yum!! Report
I love this! Burgers are a staple for me since its easy to make a bunch and control portion sizes. I love the topping ideas, but the real winners here are the sauce ideas! This is going into my favorites right now! Report
I love a burger,and it isn't diet food, so I go for it and then eat lightly the rest of the day, or the next day, to make up for the burger. I mix ground beef with ground pork and chorizo sausage meat, some garlic, salt and pepper. Grill it, melt a slice of havarti cheese, and dress it with avocado, tomato, a big slice of purple onion, and of course low fat mayo. By that point the low fat is kind of beside the fact, but every little bit helps, right? Oh yeah, I usually go with only half a bun, too and use my onion slice for the top. Report
I have found chopping mushrooms up and adding them to my lean ground beef adds juiciness/moisture to the lean beef while cutting a few calories. I like to add the longhorn steakhouse prairie dust to my burgers to give them some spiciness also. I get mine by asking for extra prairie dust on the side since I usually want more than most cooks put on but I ask for a to go cup for the leftovers and use that at home. If I could find out all the ingredients I would make my own. Longhorns is my favorite restaurant for filet mignon, if I am going to go out I want the best. Report
I love burgers, and try not to load them up, with fattening toppings. I choose a healthy bun, as well. Report
Bacon cheeseburger, 50% lean, with lettuce, tomato, onions, pickles, ketchup and mayo, on a fat sesame seed bun of course =) If I'm going to indulge, I gotta do it right! Report
We eat turkey burgers topped with cheese, he also puts jalopeno peppers on his pita bread. Mine is either on a gluten free muffin, or just on a plate with tomatoes on the side. Report
I am a big fan of using the Arnold Sandwich Thins (Pepperidge Farm makes them also) - whole wheat, rye, or multi-grain - as my burger bun. I don't like mayo or yogurt, so I use yellow mustard and a little ketchup on my burger with a leaf of crunchy Romaine or butter lettuce. I generally eat my burger Medium, and I prefer it grilled over charcoal, but most commonly I use my George Foreman grill. I use 90% lean beef, but occasionally I'll mix ground beef with ground bison and make a burger from the combination. Usually I eat 3-4 ounces of a hamburger. Yum! My mouth is watering!! Report
If no one's looking ;) I do love a good burger topped with bacon and cheddar cheese. If I'm feeling extravagant, a burger topped with really good blue cheese dressing, not the fake stuff. I want the stuff with chunks of real blue cheese. And sometimes I like a burger topped with caramelized onions and marinated mushrooms.

And yes, I do like a bun, preferably lightly grilled.
I love adding spice to the meat itself. The last time I made hamburgers, there was a selection of spicy ranch (add the powdered ranch seasoning), salsa, and BBQ. They all turned out well. Report
I actually like my burgers with fruit. Canned sliced peaches or pineapples, burgers cooked in the juice, add the furit to warm it up and top things off with Terriyaki sauce...........YUM! Turkey burgers are excellent done this way. Report
I grill mine on the George Foreman Grill, and I mix Curry Powder & Garlic into the meat, then I add mustard when it is done.
BURGER KING is my favorite place to go out to get a burger. Report
burgers can be more then just bland....theres a place near me called chee burger chee burger and theres limitless possibilities....not all healthy...but definitely limitless Report
I love burgers!
My trick is similar to yours, I will often eat the small bottom of the bun, and then use a couple of large pieces of lettuce for the "top" so I can eat it with my fingers, when I'm eating out. At home, I skip the bun and just wrap the whole thing up in a few outer leaves of romaine, by overlapping them, the juices don't leak out and it's still fun finger food.
I load mine up with all the veggies, and skip the cheese (the calcium inhibits iron absorption, so I miss it, but I always need iron) but I will replace it with sauteed mushrooms and onions. Thanks for the great ideas on other toppings! Report
I love burgers! Blue cheese is my favorite topping because a little goes a long way - such a great punch of flavor!

I also like grilled jalapenos and a touch of honey for a delicious sweet-and-spicy combination. Report
Turkey burgers are delish!!!!! Report
Good Stuff...Luv the TurkBurgerz... Report
A grilled mahi mahi fillet burger is my go to for a burger fix! Topped with grilled onions, tartar sauce and the traditional veggies (lettuce, tomato, pickle)'s Mmmm....mmmm...good! Report
Like you, I enjoy my burgers with a fork. I love your burger ideas and will have to try some of these. Thanks for sharing! Report
My favorite burgers take 1 cup brown rice, 1 cup Amy's refried black beans, 1 tablespoon salsa and 1 teaspoon garlic powder. I mix that all together and then divide it into four burgers. Cook it five minutes per side on the stove and then I place it in lettuce wraps. It has so much flavor you don't need any condiments, but you can add whatever you want to them! My fave is mustard. YUM! Report
Hurray Meg!
A burger is the best of All-American food.
I use a skillet to cook 97% lean beef burgers.
I love traditional toppings...ketchup, mustard, and pickles, but my favorite non-traditional burger is served on rye toast, and topped with caramelized onions and a big spoonful of fat-free sour cream. Report