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Healthy You

How to Build a Better Burger For Dad - Plus, 6 Burger Ideas to Try!

Thursday, June 09, 2022 9:46 AM

By: Lauren McRae

There is no right or wrong way to build a burger, but there is a healthier way. It's time to think outside the bun!

When watching calories or carbs, finding a nutritious meal that will make you feel truly satisfied can be a challenge sometimes. A fat, juicy burger may also be the last thing you would think of when trying to come up with a “healthy” meal. However, it can be healthy if you choose the right ingredients to put on it.

Burgers contain a great source of high-quality protein and essential nutrients like iron, zinc and vitamin B12. This Father’s Day surprise Dad with the best burger he’s ever had – one that tastes great and is good for him as well.

  • Gourmet Veggie Burger
    Yum! Try a version of this veggie bean burger with red cabbage, sundried tomatoes, guacamole and arugula.
  • Portobello Mushroom Bun Burger
    Opt for this vegan, gluten-free, grain-free, burger with a Portabello mushroom bun, guacamole, tomato, spring greens and cashew cheese sauce. It's meatless but delicious! 
  • Salmon Burger
    Is your stomach rumbling yet? For fish lovers, this salmon burger topped with cubed avocado, grilled pineapple, greens of your choice and a low-sodium teriyaki glaze is sure to satisfy.
  • Sweet Potato Bun Burger
    For beef-lovers, try this 90% lean beef burger that's gluten-free. Top with lean turkey bacon, guacamole and tomato sandwiched in-between sweet potato halves.
  • Southwest Veggie Burger
    Vegetarians can try this baked sweet potato burger with whole grain bun, guacamole, vegan mayonnaise, spinach, cucumber and onion.
  • Lamb Burger on a Bed of Greens
    Skip the bun! Try a beef, lamb or turkey burger on a bed of spring greens. Top with a low-fat, low-sodium dressing.

Lisa Zoberman, MPH, RDN, LDN, Registered Dietician offers these tips for how to build a better burger: 

The Meat:

Choose meat or meatless…your choice! Choosing lean meat like 90 – 95% grass-fed ground beef, turkey, chicken, or legumes is an easy way to reduce saturated fat. According to the USDA, the term “lean” is used to describe food that contains less than 10 grams of fat and four and a half grams of saturated fat per 100 grams. Extra lean means there is less than five grams of fat and two grams of saturated fat per 100 grams.

Opt for salmon, bison, venison, mushrooms or the new Beyond Meat that looks and acts like real meat (it “bleeds”) but is actually made from plants. If you’re going to use leaner options, make sure to handle the meat as little as possible when forming patties. Once they’re on the skillet, avoid pressing them or over flipping. This can release the juices.  

Whichever protein you choose, aim for a 4-ounce patty, which will likely shrink to 3-ounces after cooking. You can also bulk up your patty with vegetables like mushrooms, olives or peppers to make it look larger. 

Cooking tip: Make sure your ground beef, pork, veal and lamb is cooked to an internal temperature of 160° F, and ground poultry to 165° F for food safety purposes. 


Avoid store-bought condiments like ketchup, steak sauce or mayonnaise-based products. Some add extra sodium (like mustard and hot sauce), while others contain added sugar (like ketchup, steak sauce and barbecue sauce). If anything, create your own ketchup, mayo or sauce! That way you’ll know exactly what you’re adding. Also, use only 1 tablespoon of each so you don’t go overboard with the sodium or sugar.

Some options you can try are salsa instead of ketchup, creamy guacamole or hummus instead of mayo, pesto, oil and vinegar, kimchi, harissa, or a variety of spices.


This part is easy. Stick to veggies! Opt for all types of greens, tomatoes, mushrooms, cooked red peppers, onions or pickles. For added protein, you can always cook a sunny-side-up egg and put it on top (or a sunny-side-up egg white to cut the cholesterol). If you like cheese, opt for lower fat options like goat cheese, parmesan, low-fat mozzarella or low-fat orange or white cheddar.

The Bun:

If you’re going to choose a breaded bun, opt for whole wheat. If Dad is watching his carbs, you can eliminate the use of breaded buns all together and use large lettuce leaves, Portobello mushroom caps, rounds of veggies like eggplant, sweet potato, tomato halves or pineapple slices. Another option is to cut your burger into pieces and put it over a salad.