Tips and Tricks for Top-Shelf Summer Burgers
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Published on July 13, 2021

cheeseburger cooking on the grill

Tips and Tricks for Top-Shelf Summer Burgers

There’s no better summer comfort food than a juicy grilled hamburger. These tips and tricks can help you optimize flavor and nutrition as you grill yours this summer.

Meat Choices Really Matter

Most grill masters opt for 4 ounces of 80% ground beef to make their hamburger patties. However, if you instead choose 93% lean ground beef, venison or bison, you can cut the fat content in half and cut about 80 calories. Some additional considerations include:

  • Regardless of which meat you choose make sure to press a dimple into the center of the patty with your thumbs or the back of a spoon. This will help to minimize shrinking and result in a nice flat burger, instead of a burger ball.
  • Get the grill nice and hot to help get the caramelized crust on the outside of your patty.
  • Never flip the patty more than once!

To Cheese or Not to Cheese

Skipping the cheese is a great way to cut about 90 calories. Here are some other key considerations when it comes to this common burger topping.

If cheese is a must, PLEASE: avoid American cheese! It might be about 30 calories lower than a “real” cheese, but it has nearly double the sodium and adds unnecessary carbohydrates.

  • Swiss is a great choice for those trying to limit sodium, with only 45 milligrams per slice.
  • If you want that great cheese flavor on your burger, I suggest a slice of extra sharp cheddar, which would add 90 calories, 8 grams of fat, 6 grams of protein and about 140 milligrams of sodium.

Stuff Them Full of Flavors

Grilled mushrooms, grilled or raw onions, nice crisp lettuce and juicy garden tomato slices are great ways to add flavor, texture and nutrients without upping the calorie content much.

  • Pickles are another low-calorie option, but they do add a lot of sodium, about 200 milligrams in 4 dill hamburger slice pickles.
  • 1 teaspoon of mustard has zero calories, only 60 milligrams of sodium and loads of flavor
  • 1 tablespoon of ketchup or barbecue sauce will add about 20 calories and 5 gm of carbohydrate

Leaving off the mayonnaise is a good way to cut nearly 100 calories and 10 grams of fat; however, if it just isn’t the same without it give olive oil mayonnaise a try. It has half the calories and fat!

Top it With Whole Grains

Many people try to avoid carbohydrates, but for me it is all about priorities. I would rather keep the bun and pass on the potato salad, macaroni salad, baked beans or potato chips. If you prefer the higher carbohydrate sides, try passing on the bun. Other important bun choices for your next burger night:

  • A whole-wheat bun, sesame seed bun or a thin bun each add about 150 calories, a few grams of fat and about 30 grams of carbohydrate.
  • Picking a whole-grain bun will add an extra 3 grams of much-needed fiber.

These steps can really improve your approach to a summer favorite. You can see how homemade compares to restaurant burgers, too.

Lauren Cornay, RD, LN, is a registered dietitian with Avera Heart Hospital. Learn more about nutrition and your health.

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