Closely intertwined with summer is the smell of burgers grilling on the barbecue. We’re always looking for healthier makeovers for our meals but we’re not willing to sacrifice taste! Here are some tips for creating a better burger that’s also better for you.

Not only are these better-burger options healthier, they’re more interesting, too. Add some pizzazz to your burgers with these twists on the traditional hamburger and cheeseburger.

Think Outside the Beef

Instead of hamburger, consider other leaner meats and wild game or veggie options. Peruse local farmer’s markets for wild game you can’t find eleswhere. Switch out the ground round for:

  • turkey
  • chicken
  • bison
  • venison
  • ostrich
  • elk
  • salmon

Go All-Veg

Or just ditch the meat altogether for a vegetable- or grain-based burger. Some veggie burgers (especially bean burgers) can be just as hearty as hamburger. Try:

  • portobello mushrooms
  • grilled tofu
  • lentils
  • chickpeas
  • black beans
  • white beans
  • quinoa

Go Easy on the Cheese

A daily serving of cheese is about 50 grams, which is approximately four dice-size cubes. For the healthiest option, forgo the cheese entirely. But if it just isn’t a burger for you without cheese, use a small slice and opt for fresh mozzarella, cheddar, feta, Swiss, or Gruyère, which is naturally low-sodium.

Opt for Healthier Toppings

Instead of the “special sauce” or blue cheese and bacon, try these delicious alternatives—some traditional, some more unusual

  • avocado
  • tomato
  • cucumber
  • homemade ketchup (we tried this recipe from Wellness Mama, omitting the honey/sugar and it was awesome)
  • homemade barbecue sauce (add liquid smoke to the ketchup recipe above et voilà)
  • hoisin-barbecue sauce
  • mango salsa
  • roasted red peppers
  • sautéed onions and peppers
  • grilled summer squash or zucchini
  • fresh herbs
  • leafy greens
  • pesto

Try These Amazing Burger Combos

Mix and match the suggestions above to create these mouth-watering burger recipes:

  • bison burger with mushrooms and carmelized onions
  • turkey burger with fresh mozzarella, tomato, and pesto
  • chicken burger with mango salsa, tomato, and mint
  • portobello burger with roasted red pepper, wilted spinach, and feta
  • quinoa burger with avocado, alfalfa sprouts, tomato, Gruyère
  • black bean burger with barbecue sauce, sautéed onions and peppers, cheddar
  • salmon burger with Napa coleslaw and hoisin-barbecue sauce

PHOTO: JENNIFER YIN/FLICKR CC

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