You know what I’ve decided? Dietitians are a misunderstood group and burgers get a bad rap. Case in point — today is National Burger Day, and I’m betting if you surveyed a cross-section of the country, most Americans would assume us dietitian-folk are aghast at the idea of burger celebration.
Count me out on that nonsense. It’s Memorial Day weekend. I’m all for a burger celebration.
I’m also a fan of a day devoted to all things burger because let’s be honest — as a mom and the primary cook in my kitchen, burgers are a crowd pleaser. I’ve shared my struggles with getting new foods to pass with my picky eaters, but burgers are never out of favor. Today’s recipe is especially family friendly… even for nights when you’re not ready to fire up the grill (hint: these are made in the oven).
Beyond being a crowd pleaser, burgers are actually a pretty nutritious meal choice. To make burger enjoyment and healthy eating go hand-in-hand, here’s what I recommend:
- Pick the right portion size for your patty. Very honestly, this is where most people fall into trouble when it comes to building a better burger. Mega-size patties can mean more fat and calories than you need. Start with a 4-ounce (raw weight) patty, which will cook down to a perfect 3-ounce portion. Three ounces of lean beef packs a powerful nutrition punch of more than 10% of your daily needs of 10 different nutrients.
- Choose a “lean” ground beef. 93% lean ground is a great choice. It’s juicy enough to prevent a dried out burger, but is leaner than regular ground beef. Added bonus, it’s a good source of Iron and Choline — two important nutrients that are often lacking in the American diet, especially among women and children.
- While the cut of meat you choose (lean, etc.) does make a difference in the overall fat content of your meat, you may be surprised to learn that choosing grass-fed versus grain-fed beef does not matter as much as you may have heard. In reality, all cattle (regardless if the beef is labeled grass-fed or not) spend the majority of their lives eating grass on pastures. What this means is that all the beef you buy in-store contains primarily monounsaturated and saturated fatty acids, regardless of the feeding practice. In fact, about half the fat in beef is the same heart-healthy type of fat in olive oil — monounsaturated.
- Go for whole grain buns, when possible. If your family isn’t a fan of whole grain buns (like mine), don’t sweat it. Look for other ways to boost the fiber in your overall meal with fresh fruits, veggies or maybe even a whole grain salad.
Pile on the veggies. If you’re a burger purist, you may typically rely on iceberg between your buns. But I’m a fan of more exciting greens and many more veggie toppings. Add a smear of black bean dip and pile on some corn relish to the Tex-Mex Burger I mention below. Or pile some sauteed mushrooms, onions and roasted red bell peppers on today’s new recipe — Italian “Meatloaf” Burger (recipe here).
- Try out new flavors. While I love classic mustard, ketchup and pickles on my burger, if you really wanna “celebrate” National Burger Day, go big with flavor. Try adding chili powder and chipotle seasoning for a Tex-Mex Burger and top it with a little Pepper Jack cheese for a guaranteed crowd pleaser.
Regan Jones, RD, is part of U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance’s Digital Voices Council. All opinions expressed are the writer’s own. Funded by one or more checkoff programs.