When you think of your favorite meals, you probably immediately associate these comfort foods with weight gain. It is true that if you eat traditionally hearty, stick-to-your-rib types of meals prepared in the way that one would expect them to be made, you will be overloading your system with fat and simple carbs. Both of these cause weight gain. So today we will discuss a favorite meal healthy makeover: classic cheeseburgers.
But just because you won't generally experience weight loss and improved health by gorging yourself on diner-style cheeseburgers does not mean that you must avoid a cheeseburger meal all together. Even if you're targeting weight loss goals – yes, you can indulge in a burger every now and then!
Here's a meal makeover for you to model after the next time you crave a cheeseburger:
Reduce your meat portion. If your super-sized meat meal consists of a half-pound cheeseburger, then make it a quarter pound or even smaller portion if possible. Again, if you don't like to measure, you can just estimate the meat portion that you would normally expect served and then divide it in half. Another option is to make the full restaurant serving but eat it for THREE different meals instead of one! Remember, leftovers are your friend.
Choose higher quality meats.
Saturated fats are worse for you when they come from animals that have been fed a high sugar diet. The beef that you get on your grocery store shelves comes from cows that were fed corn which is not a proper diet for cows. This causes the meat to taste sweeter and actually raise blood sugar levels.
Choosing meats from grass-fed animals means that you will have a better-quality beef when you do treat yourself to some beef in the form of a juicy burger. Even though beef is sometimes publicized as not being good for you, good quality red meat contains iron which is an essential nutrient.
Trade American cheese for aged cheddar or any other aged cheese.
American cheese is really not cheese. It's some whey-based “cheese food” product that is heavily processed. American cheese is more like butter and may create digestive difficulties for people who are allergic to milk or who do not tolerate dairy products. The digestive complications that come with eating cheeses like American or mozzarella which is made from whole milk, can cause bloating and gas which may mimic weight gain. If you're striving for healthy meals, you're better off eating and aged cheese which does not contain lactose.
Reduce your serving of complex carbs.
When we think of that delicious diner burger, we envision the meat sitting atop a thick hamburger bun made of enriched white flour.
If you have no other carbohydrate alternatives and enjoy your burger on a bun, every once in a while, you can treat yourself to a burger on a bun by at least reducing the size of the bun.
How to do this? One trick to try is to hollow out the middle of the bun. What you have left is a thin breadbasket that can hold your burger meat and other toppings. So, you still get the sandwich, but you aren't consuming as many carbs.
Another way to reduce carb intake is by replacing that enriched white bun with a whole wheat roll or a roll made of some other type of whole grain. If you can find smaller rolls to serve your burger on or choose a flatbread alternative, you will be reducing the amount of carbs and helping yourself by choosing a healthy alternative.
This is the better option especially if you plan to enjoy some starchy sides in addition to your burger bun.
For example, some people enjoy a potato salad side with their cheeseburger. A half a cup serving of potato salad can be your healthy carbohydrate alternative to the high sugar burger bun.
Ditch the fries.
Another typical side that you'll get with your diner burger is French fries made from white potatoes and a lot of them. Swap out that giant pile of fries for a variety of healthy veggie toppings.
Also: fried foods add weight gain and clog your arteries… and the white flour from the large portion of fries is something a healthy weight watcher could do without.
If you're really craving that side of fries, you have some alternative options. One, you can make a side of white potatoes with skins on, drizzled with olive oil and oven bake until crispy.
Just be sure that you stick to a small portion, no more than 3/4 of a cup if you're really digging those potatoes. If you choose potatoes as your white starch then skip the burger bun entirely.
Other foods to give you a healthier French fry experience are oven roasted parsnips, turnips, sweet potatoes, or a combination of these types of healthy root vegetables. Again, choose to bake instead of fry and drizzle with a healthy oil such as olive which is rich in Omega fats.
If you're opting out of a starchy side for your burger, you can fill your plate with fresh veggies and healthy toppings.
Here are some ways to make your healthy burger meal really delicious. Fill your belly and round out the meal with balanced nutrition are toppings such as…
- sauteed onions and peppers
- sauteed mushrooms
- raw onion
- hot peppers
- green peppers
- cucumber and onion salad
- pickled beet salad
- a side of vinegar slaw
Better yet, switch to turkey (my favorite) and try some lowfat feta cheese. Check out the delicious recipe below. Be sure to tell us what you think! oxoxo
Turkey & Feta Burgers
- 4 tbsp. sun dried tomatoes
- 4 kale leaves
- 1 lb. 450g ground turkey
- ¼ cup 40g feta, crumbled
- 4 whole wheat burger buns
- 4 tbsp. mayonnaise
- 1 avocado sliced
- 1 to tomato sliced
- lettuce leaves
- Preheat the oven to 450°F (230°C). Line a baking sheet with baking paper.
- Place the sun dried tomatoes and kale into a food processor or high-speed blender and blitz until minced.
- In a large bowl, combine the ground turkey, minced sun dried tomatoes, kale and crumbled feta cheese. Form the mixture into four burgers and lay them on the baking sheet. Place the sheet into the hot oven and bake for 7 minutes, then flip the burgers over and cook for an additional 5-7 minutes or until cooked through. Remove the burgers from the oven and assemble the buns.
- Toast the buns and spread each bun with 1 tablespoon of mayonnaise. Place ¼ of avocado on the bottom of each bun and add the burger. Next top the burgers with tomato and lettuce leaves, before covering with the top bun. Serve immediately.