How to make a burger healthy (yes, you read that right!)

·3 min read
Fresh  homemade burger on wooden background, closeup
Burgers can be healthy with just a few tweaks. (Stock, Getty Images)

A juicy burger is a must come summer, with many indulging at a BBQ, fête or sports match.

While most experts agree we can enjoy "everything in moderation", regularly munching on the processed meat and plastic cheese will do our health no favours.

Although not generally considered to be nutritious, a few simple tweaks can make burgers surprisingly healthy.

Read more: One hotdog takes 36 minutes off your 'healthy' life

It may sound obvious, but loading up on salad is key to a healthy burger, with tomatoes, red onion and lettuce all being classic additions.

"Don't forget veggies like avocado, sliced peppers, canned jalapeños, grated carrot or courgette and even oven-roasted veggies would be nice, like sliced aubergines and courgettes," Rob Hobson, head of nutrition at Healthspan, told Yahoo UK. 

"I also love lentils sprouts and alfalfa sprouts in my burgers, they give it a slightly nutty taste."

Classic set of sauces, American yellow mustard, ketchup, barbecue sauce, mayonnaise on wooden background, top view with copy space.
Opt for condiments with reduced levels of salt and sugar. (Stock, Getty Images)

Red meat often has a bad reputation, with excessive amounts upping our saturated fat intake.

"Turkey and chicken [mince] are an alternative to red meat if you are trying to cut back," said Hobson. Add flavour with fresh herbs like parsley, coriander and basil, as well as spices, such as paprika, cumin and chilli flakes.

That being said, "there is nothing wrong with including a little lean red meat in your diet, which is actually very nutritious", added Hobson.

Read more: Sliced 'plastic' cheese is the nation's favourite

Grilling the patty is healthier than shallow frying, with George Foreman style machines helping to reduce the fat content.

"I often fry [burgers] in a non-stick pan with very little oil to colour them on either side, then finish them off in the oven to cook them through, especially chicken and turkey burgers," said Hobson.

Watch: How to caramelise onions for burgers

Many enjoy biting into a doughy white bun, but swapping the bread for a wholemeal roll adds fibre to your diet. Look for buns topped with seeds and grains for extra nutrition.

"You could also just use the bottom of the bun, which is quite a nice idea to reduce the amount of bread you use," said Hobson.

"I also quite like wrapping them [burgers] in lettuce, which works well especially with smaller patties. The best lettuce to use is iceberg or romaine. This may be a good idea for those trying to lose weight or perhaps looking for a gluten-free option."

Read more: The keto diet is a disease-promoting disaster

Ketchup, mayonnaise and mustard may be must-haves for some burger aficionados, however, these shop-bought condiments tend to be high in sugar and salt. Instead, look out for low-sugar and low-salt alternatives, as well as mayonnaise with a reduced saturated fat content.

"I like the spicy sauces, such as sriracha, but again watch how much you use, and check the label for salt and sugar if this concerns you," added Hobson.

Guacamole or tomato salsa are also healthy additions if your burger tastes a little dry.

"If you are buying them, check the label for sugar and salt, choosing something that is green or amber traffic light coloured," said Hobson.

Adding cheese to a burger will inevitably up its calories and saturated fat content.

Opting for a stronger variety, like stilton, means you need less for a savoury kick.

"You could also try using grated cheese, as you will add less than a big slice," said Hobson.

"Feta cheese has lightly less fat and calories than cheddar, so maybe spread a little onto the bun."

Watch: Chef turns McDonald's into gourmet meal

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