Fresh Ways to Enjoy Burgers This Summer

Summer’s almost here – time to fire up the grill! Get barbecue season off to a delicious start with classic beef burgers. Choose the number one favourite lean or regular, medium or extra lean ground beef. Whichever you prefer, and however you want to dress it up, beef  is a delicious single ingredient food, nothing added.  

Burgers often have a bad rap because of the company it keeps – onion rings and milkshakes. But it’s important not to lose sight of the fact that ground beef is an excellent source of hunger-curbing protein, vitamin B12 and zinc. It’s also a source of heme iron, the type of iron most readily absorbed by the body. All this good nutrition is packed into a modest number of calories: a 100-gram serving of cooked lean ground beef has just 250 calories. 

Good to know: By law, all types of ground meat (beef, turkey, chicken, pork) cannot contain more than the maximum fat content of the categories on their product labels: extra lean (10%), lean (17%), medium (23%) or regular (30%). That means lean poultry has the same maximum fat content as lean beef. Comparisons of the fat content of different types of ground meat should be based on the same fat category (lean, medium, etc.). Check the labels. Comparing the fat in a lean grind to that of a medium grind is not a fair comparison – of course the lean grind will be lower in total fat!  

Beef Burgers Done Just Right 

Follow the tips below for juicy, flavourful burgers. Add tasty toppings and a couple of crave-healthy side dishes, and you’ve got the perfect backyard banquet.    

1. Preparation

  • Ground beef is widely available and comes in a variety of pack sizes to suit cooking for one or two, or four or more.  
  • Lean ground beef is a great choice for many dishes, including burgers. To keep it moist and flavourful, add an egg and some breadcrumbs to the meat mixture.  
  • For even juicier burgers, try medium ground beef.  
  • Shape the meat mixture into patties that are ¾ inch (2 cm) thick. Keep the size consistent and your burgers will cook in about the same time.  
  • For easy-to-chew burgers, shape your patties gently. Overhandling the beef or packing it tightly will make the patties tougher. 

GENIUS TIP: When patties cook they tend to get rounded in the centre. Avoid this by pressing your thumb to make an indent into the centre of each raw patty. The result, nicely formed flat (not puffy) burgers.  

2. Cooking

  • Lightly oil the grill or a skillet. Turn the heat to medium-high. Cook the patties for 10–14 minutes, turning them two or three times.  
  • To check doneness, don’t rely on the colour of the beef. The only safe method is to use an instant-read digital thermometer. (Slide it sideways through the thick side of each burger.) Always cook ground beef to 160ºF (71ºC). Think “burger is done at 71” – and remember, that’s in degrees Celsius! That’s the best way to ensure safety and avoid over- or undercooked burgers.  

Crave-Healthy Toppings and Sides 

One of the great things about burgers is that you can enjoy them your way. Replace the buns with lettuce wraps. Serve the patties open-faced. Make sliders instead of full-size patties, or add sliced burgers to a veggie-packed nourish bowl. And, of course, the topping possibilities are endless.   

Seven crave-healthy toppings: 

  1. Grilled eggplant, zucchini or peppers 
  1. Fried sliced mushrooms 
  1. Spinach or arugula  
  1. Pico de gallo 
  1. Guacamole or Avocado mayo 
  1. Hummus or baba ghanoush  
  1. Roasted garlic and caramelized onions 

Five tasty (and better-for-you) sides: 

  1. Sweet potato fries 
  1. Bean salad  
  1. Barley or quinoa-based salad 
  1. Tabbouleh salad 
  1. Chopped grilled-veggie salad  

However you like your burger, enjoy! 


Carol Harrison is a registered dietitian who loves her daily workouts! She has a food nutrition communications company in Toronto. Follow Carol on Twitter and Instagram.