Diet-Friendly Burgers: Recipe Ideas and More

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Burgers are an American classic but they're often loaded with fat and calories. The good news is that there are a lot of easy ways to create delicious, low-calorie burger patties. 

Low-Calorie Burger Best Bets

Extra-Lean Ground Beef: If you're looking to slash the fat in your burger patties but only real beef will do, this is your best option. Extra-lean means it has 4% fat or less. It's often labeled as 96% fat-free. A 4-ounce serving will have around 145 calories and less than 5 grams of fat. 

Lean Ground Turkey: Poultry is a great option but not all ground turkey is lean. You really need to pay attention to those percentages. I prefer lean, which has 7% fat or less. In other words, it's at least 93% fat-free. A 4-ounce serving has about 160 calories and no more than 8 grams of fat. An extra-lean turkey is an option, but it tends to be extremely dry and less flavorful than the lean kind.

Meatless Patties: There are many vegetarian burgers in the freezer aisle, from soy-based picks to ones made from veggies and grains. If you like your patties to taste like meat, go for the hamburger-style patties with 100 calories or less, like the kinds by Boca. For something delicious but not exactly meaty, Amy's has terrific picks with under 140 calories.

Portabella Mushroom Caps: Here's a completely unconventional burger swap. When baked or grilled until soft, portabella mushrooms make great "burgers." They're super low in calories and they even pack some fiber and protein. Just remove the stem for patty perfection. 

Additional Guilt-Free Ingredients 

Seasonings: There are no rules here except for the fact that you need some must-have seasonings! Spices and herbs deliver major flavor for hardly any calories. I like garlic powder, black pepper, onion powder, and a little salt or salt-free seasoning.

More Meat Add-Ins: Hot sauce, ketchup, sweet Asian chili sauce... condiments like these can be used to infuse a little extra flavor into your beef or turkey. Just use the stuff sparingly so that the burger patty stays together. Speaking of which, liquid egg whites or fat-free liquid egg substitute can be used as a low-calorie binding agent. You only need about a tablespoon per 4-ounce patty.

Stuffed Burgers: I absolutely love stuffing burger patties with cheese and other ingredients. It makes the burgers seem fancy, and it's a cinch to do.

Buns: Why ruin a perfectly guilt-free burger patty with an oversized roll packed with carby calories? Light hamburger buns or 100-calorie flat sandwich buns are my top picks. Or just skip the top of that roll and enjoy your burger open-faced. Another option I love? Ditch the bread altogether and wrap your burger patty in lettuce leaves! It's the ultimate low-carb burger fix.

Best Low-Calorie Burger Toppings

Basics: Classic toppings like tomato and onion are completely guilt-free. They add flavor and make your burger more filling. Pickles are also great, but sodium watchers should skip these salty things. As for cheese, choose light spreadable cheese wedges. Stuff one inside your patty or spread it onto the top half of your bun. When it comes to slices, 2% milk is the way to go. I also like 2% shreds, since you can control the amount you add.

Grilled Extras: Grilled veggies or fruit can really amp up your sandwich! You can cook them right next your patties, in a grill pan, or on the barbecue. Try onion slices (rings intact), pineapple rounds (fresh or previously packed in juice), and sliced portabella mushrooms.

Condiments: Ketchup and mustard are a diet-friendly burger's best friend. If you're into mayo, look for light options. You can also add a little low-calorie sauce or light dressing like teriyaki sauce or light ranch dressing.

Easy Burger Recipes

Onion Goodness Burgers: Mix 1 1/4 pounds raw lean ground turkey with a 1-ounce packet of dry onion soup/dip mix. Form into five patties and throw those babies on the grill! They're only 180 calories, 8g fat.

Bacon Cheeseburger Patty: Mix a tablespoon of precooked real crumbled bacon with 4 ounces raw extra-lean ground beef. Stuff the patty with a wedge of The Laughing Cow Light cheese and cook it up! Easy and delicious for 205 calories, 8.5g fat.

Taco Turkey Burgers: Combine 1 1/4 pounds raw lean ground turkey, 1/4 cup liquid egg whites, 2/3 cup fresh pico de gallo (drained), and 1 tbsp. taco seasoning mix. Form five patties, and grill away for 180 calories, 8g fat.

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