Whether you’re at a summer barbeque or at a restaurant, there are easy techniques you can use to save calories. Continuing with our ‘healthiest choice’ series is everyone’s favourite food available almost everywhere: burgers.
We automatically assume that burgers are bad for us, which may not always be the case. While we slim down our burger, loading it up with nutrients can actually make it a healthy meal.
Here’s how this seemingly impossible task can be achieved.
1] The Bun
Fortunately, as people have become more-calorie conscious, restaurants have started offering many alternatives to the traditional white bread bun.
Opt for a whole grain bun to benefit from their minerals, vitamins and, especially, the fibre content. Just this simple switch will save you calories, while the fibre boost will keep you full for longer.1
Remember, a ‘multigrain’ bun refers to the presence of more than one grain, which could very well be made from refined grains that make it as good (read: bad) as white bread!2
2] The Patty
The patty is your best opportunity to pack some protein in your burger!
Mushrooms are a vegetarian favourite in burgers and can have upto 35% protein in them. They are low in calories and rich in dietary fibre. Depending on the source and type, 100 g of fresh mushrooms can provide around 5 to 25% of the recommended dietary intake. They also contain vitamins such as riboflavin (B2), niacin (B6), folate (B9) and vitamin D.3 Grilled Portobello mushroom is a particularly wholesome option as a burger filling.
Bean burgers are also high in protein, but often fried. If you find a grilled option, beans would be a good source of proteins, fibre and antioxidants.
Lean meats like chicken and turkey are recommended for non-vegetarians. For those of you who prefer only a red meat burger, a 3-ounce portion will help limit the patty to 230 calories. Red meat has iron, zinc and vitamin B12, which helps our bones, nerves and much more.
Fish is also a good option for a protein-packed patty. They are especially rich in omega-3 fatty acids and iodine: two nutrients that most people don’t get enough of.4, 5
3] The Toppings
The commonly used iceberg lettuce does not, unfortunately, add much nutritional value to your food (it’s actually mostly water!).
Lycopene, a carotenoid that makes tomatoes red, is excellent for protecting your skin against the sun protection, and also reduces the risk of many diseases.6
Onions have very few calories, and get their powerful antioxidant properties from flavonoids and sulphur-containing compounds. Compounds in onions reduce the risk of cancer, lower blood sugar levels and improve bone health. Coloured varieties (yellow and red) have more antioxidants than white ones, so pick them if you have the option.7, 8
4] The Sauces
No one wants to eat a plain, dry burger! But – bottled ketchup and mayonnaise often have high-calorie ingredients like high-fructose corn syrup and trans-fats (the “bad” fats).
The main ingredient of guacamole, avocados are extremely high in fats – the good kind your body needs in order to sustain itself. It’s also rich in fibre and protein, but, moreover, can deliver almost 26% of your daily requirements of a variety of nutrients, vitamins (C, B5, B6, B9, E, K) and potassium in a single 100 g serving! It also contains small amounts of magnesium, manganese, copper, iron, zinc, phosphorous, and some other vitamins (A, B1, B2 and B3). Together, these help you with weight management and can reduce risks of diabetes, heart disease and many other diseases.9, 10
A hot salsa is also a healthy option to juice up a dry burger. Along with the lycopene from tomatoes, it also has chillies. Capsaicin, a compound that makes chilli peppers hot, releases a rush of “feel good” chemical called endorphins in the brain.11
Add black pepper to any sauce! It contains a compound called piperine, which is renowned for increasing the absorption of other nutrients in the body.12
Eating french-fries with a burger is a pretty unhealthy tradition-of-sorts. Filled with calories and trans-fats, they aren’t great either when it comes to heart health or keeping the fat off.
Instead, get the crunch in your meal with a nutty salad, some seasoned bell pepper or even zucchini sticks.
And that’s how you make a burger weight-loss friendly, nutritious and delicious!
1. Slavin J. Nutrients 2013, 5(4): 1417-1435.
2. Marquart L, et al. Whole Grains and Health. Wiley, 2008.
3. Cheung PCK. Nutrition Bulletin 2010, 35(4): 292-299.
4. Pandav CS, et al. The Indian Journal of Medical Research 2013, 138(3): 418-433.
5. Ruiz-Nunez B, et al. J Nutr Biochem 2013, 24(7): 1183-1201.
6. Ribaya-Mercado JD, et al. J Nutr 1995, 125(7): 1854-1859.
7. Corzo-Martínez M, et al. Trends in Food Science & Technology 2007, 18(12): 609-625.
8. Yang J, et al. J Agric Food Chem 2004, 52(22): 6787-6793.
9. Dreher ML, Davenport AJ. Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition 2012, 53(7): 738-750.
10. SelfNutritionData. Nutrition Facts: Avocados, raw, all commercial varieties. California, USA: Condé Nast; 2014.
11. Rollyson WD, et al. J Control Release 2014, 196: 96-105.
12. Meghwal M, Goswami TK. Phytother Res 2013, 27(8): 1121-1130.