As a key menu item at greasy spoon restaurants and fast-food chains hamburgers often get a bad rap.
But besides the vegetables (lettuce, tomato, onion and, sure, even the pickles), the burger patty is the most nutrient-dense part of a fast food meal. In fact, a 60 g serving of a pan-fried extra lean ground beef patty has the same maximum fat content as an extra lean turkey burger (learn more about fat contents in ground meat here).
It also offers:
- 18g of quality protein
- an excellent source of vitamins B12, zinc, niacin
- a good source of riboflavin and selenium
- a source of iron, pantothenate, phosphorus, thiamin, vitamin B6 and choline
Read more about beef’s nutritional benefits in our article “Which is more nutritious, grass-fed or grain fed beef?”
Most Canadian chain restaurants provide the nutrition facts for their menu items. Check those out to help you plan.
Choose healthier toppings and side options.
Fast food does not have to mean junk food. We all live busy lives and we don’t need to feel guilty about hitting the drive-thru once in a while! And a burger is a great choice to fuel our bodies. Truly, it is the toppings and sides that go along with your burger that make the difference. For example, you don’t always have to ‘combo up’ with french fries and a pop. Opt for a baked potato or try a salad, coleslaw or broth soup if available. Ask for a glass of water or milk and skip the soda.
Many restaurants offer a whole wheat bun or the option to lettuce wrap your burger. You can also just remove the top bun and eat your burger open-faced with a knife and fork. Choose condiments like mustards, hot sauces or salsas that are less calorie dense. The same goes for picking toppings. Choose onions, hot peppers and pickles that are packed with flavour and fewer calories.
What about plant-based burgers?
- Veggie burgers have been around for decades and are often made with healthful ingredients such as black bean, mushroom or sweet potato. You can make your own or there are several brands available at the grocery store. Read labels and ingredient lists as some plant-based burgers can be highly processed and include more ingredients than you would think. A recent consumer study found that 42% of consumers do not think of simulated meat products as highly processed, which they often are. In fact, some processed plant patties (or simulated meat products) can contain 220 – 620% more sodium than real beef.
- Further, to get a similar mouth feel to beef, plant-based meats often use palm or coconut oils that have a higher percentage of saturated fat. This often leads to products with a higher saturated fat content per serving than real beef. While there is always room in our diets for more plant-based food, there are key differences between plant-based and animal based nutrients. For example, plant-based iron (non-heme) is not as easily absorbed by our bodies as animal-based iron (heme).
Bottomline; hamburgers aren’t the enemy, as always it comes down to making balanced choices. So, enjoy your next burger fully informed how to make this delicious meal a healthy choice for you!