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Healthy Alternatives to Satisfy Your Burger Cravings

When you're trying to lose weight, tiny hunger cues can make a small craving seem like a giant temptation. Transitioning into a healthy eating style isn't about total avoidance—in fact, completely disallowing your favorite foods can make it highly unlikely that you'll stick to a weight loss plan over the long term.

Burgers are a common diet no-no if you're trying to trim your waistline, but most of us simply can't resist indulging from time to time. Not to worry! If you must sink your teeth into a juicy, delicious burger, there are plenty of alternative options and healthy toppings to please your palate.

Alternatives to red meat

Black bean burgers: Whether you're vegetarian or not, it's difficult not to like the taste of a well-made black bean patty. Bonus? Black beans are loaded with fiber, low in cholesterol and contain protein. Just stick to a homemade version so you can control the ingredients, or check out the nutrition facts on store-bought brands and ask your server about the ingredients in restaurants to keep your burger consistent with your weight loss plan.

Turkey burgers: Poultry is often healthier than red meat in terms of calories and saturated fat. Ground turkey provides a taste similar to ground beef with much less guilt. Your best bet is to look for ground turkey that is labeled as lean (93%) or extra-lean (99%). Since ground turkey breast contains very little fat, it can sometimes taste dry. Keep it moist and tender by adding diced veggies like celery, green pepper and onion into the patty mixture. The high water content of the veggies will keep your burger juicy.

Portobello mushroom burgers: You know those giant 'shrooms that span the width of a burger bun? Those are Portobello mushrooms, and they are surprisingly delicious! They have a meaty texture, which substitutes well for a burger. They provide a different taste from ground beef, but they are uniquely delectable. The best part is that a large one is only 30 calories and contains no fat or cholesterol!

Lose the bun

Regularly consuming hamburger buns served in restaurants is akin to sabotaging your weight loss plan. Today's chefs often drench buns in butter, salt and artificial flavors, not to mention the size is often HUGE. Even when you're preparing your burger at home, the calories from these usually not-so-nutritious white breads can add up.

A few great ways to cut calories include substituting a lettuce wrap for your bun—try Bibb or Boston lettuce (also known as butter lettuce) which is large and sturdy enough to use as a wrap. If a burger is just not a burger to you without bread, you may want to give a whole-grain, low-fat flatbread a try. You can even skip a ‘holder’ and enjoy your burger with a fork and knife.

Top it off

Burgers can be delicious on their own, but it seems like they always come dripping with toppings these days. The popular topping of bacon is laden with saturated fat. The all-American favorite, regular mayonnaise, can be just as bad since it’s typically made with eggs and oil. Even a topping as simple as ketchup or barbeque sauce contains added sugars. Consider these weight-loss friendly alternatives to finish off your healthy creation:

  • Pickles, cucumbers, jalapeños or pineapple
  • Tomatoes, roasted red peppers or grilled onions
  • Spinach or watercress—while traditional iceberg lettuce certainly isn't calorie-dense, it isn't nutrient-dense either. Sub in some spinach or watercress for beneficial vitamins and minerals.
  • Chipotle mayo substitute—rather than fatty mayo, create a delicious Tex Mex burger by blending a half cup of Greek yogurt with two chipotle chilis.
  • Avocado or turkey bacon
  • Mustard, chutney, or salsa

Using some of the alternatives above, you can satisfy your burger craving with much healthier ingredients. When chosen wisely, indulging in a burger won’t derail your diet.