Healthy burgers can offer variety, such as this tarragon grilled turkey burger.
Burgers are not typically noted for their healthfulness: Beef is high in cholesterol, refined wheat buns have little nutritional value, and ketchup is hardly equivalent to a fresh tomato. But that doesn't mean we won't enjoy a Memorial Day barbecue. We can indulge our burger craving with healthier versions that are just as satisfying by following these five tips.
1. Where's the beef? Let's start with the burger itself. For beefy flavor minus the fat and cholesterol, try bison (also called buffalo). This lean red meat is available ground in the meat section of most supermarkets and Whole Foods.
Ground turkey and chicken also make great burgers, as does ground fish, like salmon, bluefish and tuna, all of which are oily enough to prevent them from drying out on the grill. When using leaner proteins, however, add some fresh breadcrumbs and finely minced mushrooms to ensure a moist, juicy burger. Try making tarragon turkey burgers with chipotle mayo or Chinese chicken burgers with rainbow sesame slaw.
Bean and whole-grain patties are tasty too, but often hold up better when seared in a nonstick skillet with a touch of olive oil instead of sizzled on a grill. Portobello mushrooms can make for a satisfying burger substitute; try these barbecued portobello mushroom burgers on the grill.
2. Top toppings. Skip the pale iceberg lettuce toppings in favor of darker, more nutritious greens like calcium- and iron-rich spinach, watercress or baby arugula. Tomato slices add a jolt of juicy vitamin C, as do red pepper slices, raw or roasted. Onions contain the flavonoid (quercetin), which is believed to boost the immune system. (Or maybe onion breath will keep any germy barbecue guests at arm's length!)
3. Say cheese! Cheeseburger-lovers can replace mozzarella and Cheddar with reduced-fat milk, soy or rice alternatives. Naturally leaner cheeses include feta and Parmigiano-Reggiano, which is made with skim milk (shave it onto your burger).
4. Condiments count. As for condiments, opt for reduced-fat mayonnaise instead of full-fat and go for fat-free mustard and all-natural ketchup and relish made without corn sweeteners. Depending upon the type of burger you've prepared, hummus makes a nice topping for turkey and chicken burgers, while hoisin tastes great with fish burgers.
5. Bun boost. Increase the fiber content in your burger buns choosing whole wheat. Whole-grain pita pockets also cradle burgers well, as do lightly toasted whole-wheat English muffins, or even sliced wheat bread.