Simple Summer Burger Guide for Healthier Cookouts

We’re still a full month away from the first day of summer, but the season unofficially starts this weekend with Memorial Day. Gas and charcoal grills the nation over are primed and ready to fire up the best warm-weather eats. But are you ready for what’s about to be dished out?

The grill can be a friend and a foe. Rather than deep- or pan-frying, you can grill for better flavor and far less calories and fat. However, depending on the cut of meat, how you dress it after, and even how you prepare it to cook can turn perfectly healthy foods in to calorie bombs. Follow our simple guide for healthier cookouts and you won’t have anything to regret by summer’s end.

Grill a Better Burger.

If you can’t bare to part with beef then select the leanest cut you can find. A 93/7 ground beef is pretty widely available and will still hold up on the grill. If you’re buying local meat, be sure to specifically request lean cuts.

For an even leaner, completely guilt-free burger, go with ground turkey. We swear once you’ve seasoned it, grilled it, and loaded with your favorite toppings, the taste is completely worthy of summer. Six ounces of 93% lean ground turkey is 243 calories compared to a standard six ounce Black Angus burger with 500 calories.

See all of our best burger recipes including beef, chicken, salmon, and black bean.

Ditch Your Dogs.

Everything about a hot dog is incredibly questionable. It’s the mystery meat of the meat industry. TODAY show dietitian Joy Bauer notes that 80 percent of a hot dog’s calories are from fat. Again, if you’re leery of too much change at the grill, get a 100% beef hot dog from Hebrew National. Or, Applegate Farms has great organic varieties, especially for turkey or chicken hot dogs.

We also like the turkey brats from Honeysuckle White. Boil in beer and toss on the grill as you usually would and, again, we swear you won’t recognize a difference.

Rethink Your Relish.

OK, your relish specifically is fine. It’s all the other toppings that might get you in trouble. A few simple swaps will turn your burger from a belly buster in to a perfectly light summer meal with room for a little dessert.

Swap regular cheese for low- or reduced-fat. We like stuffing our turkey burgers with Laughing Cow’s BabyBel cheese and grilling for a gooey, low-cal treat.

Avoid the mayo, it’s just added fat that you really don’t need. A quality mustard, a tangy homemade BBQ sauce, or even chunky guacamole will have far less calories and far more flavor.

Finally, load it with veggies. Avocado slices, roasted bell peppers, juicy tomatoes, crisp baby spinach, and grilled onions will pile your burger high with complementary flavors and textures that are low in calories and rich in nutrients.

Make it Meatless.

Don’t call us crazy, but yes, we’re suggesting manning a meatless grill. Thick portabello mushrooms grilled and topped like any other burger are hearty, satisfying, and taste great.

Or, stick to your regular burger but ditch the usual sides. Grilled pineapple, corn on the cob, asparagus, thick slices of zucchini and summer squash, eggplant, and bell peppers make for healthy, tasty sides to a perfectly seared burger.

Buy a Better Bun.

Finally, if there’s room in your budget to avoid the 99-cent bag of all-white, nutritionally-void buns, we suggest you do. Nature’s Own makes wonderful whole grain, sugar free hot dog and hamburger buns. Also, shop local bakers who make their own buns with significantly less additives and preservatives than what you’ll find on the grocery shelves.

Visit our Summer Grilling Center for more healthy recipes, tips, and guides, like:

6 Vegetarian Main Dishes for the Grill

3 Cooling Cucumber Recipes

Grilled Balsamic Vegetables

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