With Memorial Day behind us, summer has unofficially started — which means burger and grilling season has officially started. With many burgers passing the 500-calorie mark–and some even passing 1,000 calories–regularly firing up the grill could do some hefty damage to your waistline. Steal some or all of these tips to shave off calories and fat but still maintain flavor:
The average white flour bun adds 236 empty calories but almost no protein or fiber to help fill you up. Whole wheat buns, which offer more fiber and nutrients, are a better option, but they still pack the same amount of calories and carbs. Switch to a whole wheat English muffin to shave off 121 calories; or for an even more nutritious swap, wrap your burger in greens like butter lettuce or swiss chard.
Start by making your own patty from scratch: pre-made patties are often oversized, weighing in at 6 ounces, 460 calories, and 11 grams of saturated fat. A 4-ounce, 90%-lean patty will get you down to 230 calories, while 95% will bring the stats to 176 calories. Buffalo burgers are another healthy option; pound for pound, they contain fewer calories, less fat, and more protein than regular beef.
Even though cheese is full of saturated fat, go with the full-fat variety: it’s higher in calories and fat, so you’ll likely be more satisfied with a small square than you would be with a few squares of reduced-fat cheese. Plus, cheese–in moderation–offers some health benefits: molded cheeses that have gone through the fermentation process act as anti-inflammatories to protect against cardiovascular disease. Choose bold-tasting cheeses, like Parmesan, Romano, or Manchego, which offer the most flavor per bite.
Ketchup and mustard are classics, but more unusual toppings, like hummus, pesto, or tzatziki, can brighten up the flavors of your burger (especially if you’re missing some of the fat in your now-leaner patty) and add nutrients. Hummus adds fiber, protein and monounsaturated fats, a trio of satiety-boosting nutrients. Pesto also contains monounsaturated fats, which are linked with weight loss and a reduced risk of chronic disease. And tzatziki–a yogurt-based Greek dip–offers calcium, protein, and immune-boosting garlic.
Lettuce, tomatoes, and onions are nutritious in their own right–but you can do so much better! Pick your toppings according to your condiments: if you pick pesto, for example, pair it with vitamin A-rich arugula, mozzarella, and sun-dried tomatoes. Other creative, nutrient-packed toppings to consider: sliced apples, avocado, mango, pico de gallo, mushrooms, roasted red peppers, pineapple slices, and beets.