Home > Nutrition > The Skinny on Burger Nutrition: Go Lean!

The Skinny on Burger Nutrition: Go Lean!

BurgerCan’t wait for burger season to arrive? Go ahead and treat yourself to a tasty burger, just be sure it won’t bust your overall healthy habits. When you picture eating a big juicy burger, the last thing you might think of is “healthy!” The good news is that doesn’t have to be the case. Here’s the skinny on better, leaner burgers. Compare labels and know what to look for.

Ground Meat Burgers
Beef and buffalo (a.k.a. bison) are labeled with the percentage of lean meat versus fat. If the product is labeled 80/20 that means it’s made with 80 percent lean meat and the remaining 20 percent is fat. That’s as much as 15 grams of fat (6 grams of saturated fat) and 230 calories for a three ounce “small” palm-size portion (in other words, the size of a woman’s palm). Go for the 95/5 to slash the fat and calories by more than a one-third! There are 150 calories, 6 grams of fat and 3 grams of saturated fat in the 95/5. If the percent isn’t listed, go for the leanest types of meat: think “loin is lean.” Go for sirloin as a top pick, then ground round, followed by ground chuck.

Ground Turkey and Chicken Burgers
This is tricky because you would think if it’s chicken or turkey it would have to be low-fat! Don’t be so sure. Look for those made with only skinless white meat (i.e. breast). If you find “85/15” ground turkey and think it’s a healthy choice, you’ll be stuck with part unhealthy dark meat, skin and fat and nearly as many calories and fat grams as your typical ground beef patty! Look for five grams of fat or fewer per serving.

Salmon Burgers
Don’t pass up a chance to have your burger and get omega-3 fats too! You get 20 grams of protein and a day’s worth of omega-3 fatty acids in a three ounce patty. These fats protect you from certain cancers and strengthen your immunity. They also boost brain and heart health.

Veggie or Soy Burgers
Typically 100 to 150 calories, these burgers are a great vegetarian meat option and typically lower in calories and fat while high in fiber (especially the ones made with beans). On the downside, they fall short in protein compared to their animal meat counterparts. Many varieties only have 7 grams of protein or less per serving, while typically a meat burger has more than 20 grams of protein for a three ounce patty. Try to go vegetarian at least once a week, so definitely incorporate veggie burgers as a great summer food with minimal fat and typically fewer calories than meat.

Final note: Portion size matters! If you’re fixing up your own burgers, make a patty that is no bigger than about 4 to 5 ounces raw that cooks down to about 3 to 4 ounces. If you’re buying any kind of burger, even the lower fat ones, you might be biting into more calories than you bargained for. Many pre-made patties are five or six ounces large, with a hefty 200 to 300 plus calorie load. Take note of the information on the nutrition labels, take small bites and enjoy!

Do you have a favorite “lean” burger?

  1. June 18, 2013 at 2:14 pm

    Love the article – a great guide to follow this summer, especially around July 4th! Thank you!

    • Elana Zimelman
      June 18, 2013 at 3:43 pm

      You’re welcome! I hope all my readers can enjoy their favorite summer treats guilt-free!

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