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Building a bigger burger that's better for you

Registered dietician Becky Varner shares her secrets for a more nutritional burger
BY BECKY VARNER Published: July 4, 2012

I t's Independence Day, meaning fireworks and cookouts will fire up across the country. Hamburgers will be among the most popular items on the grill today since they're easy to make, economical and delicious.

But did you know they also can be a great source of many nutrients? And did you know you can make a hearty burger without many of the residual calories and fat?

If you can make a trip to the fireworks store, then you can make a list of ingredients to help you build a bigger burger that's better for you.

Part of what makes burgers fitting for Independence Day is the independent spirit of burger-making. All you need to start a burger is beef and bun. After that, choose condiments, raw vegetables, cheese, onions (raw or grilled), grilled pineapple slices, hot peppers, relishes, salsas, pickles, avocado slices, and crisp bacon slices.

Let's compare two traditional burgers, one much lower in calories and fat, higher in dietary fiber and packed with wonderful fresh flavor and the other much higher in calories and fat and lower in dietary fiber.

Let's start with the beef: Most burgers start with meat that's 80 percent lean and 20 percent fat. With that juicy, delicious piece of ground beef you also get 280 calories and 22 grams of fat. Opt for a 96 percent lean 4-ounce (raw) portion, and it drops to 140 calories and 4 grams of fat.

Use a whole wheat bun instead of white bread and you've significantly increased the dietary fiber.

But let's be honest, there will be a loss of residual fat that flavors the burger. So, how do we get bigger and better for you without losing flavor? In my family, we took 4 ounces of raw very lean hamburger and form it into two thin patties.

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Healthy cooking classes

Becky will teach the following upcoming Healthy Cooking Classes:

Learn with Lunch featuring chilled soups and variety melons with blueberry sauce at noon on Tuesday at the Buy For Less at 3501 NW Expressway.

Learn with Brunch featuring mini pizzas and variety melons with blueberry sauce at 9: 30 a.m. on July 18th at Uptown Grocery Co., 1230 W Covell in Edmond.

Class size is limited, call 302-6273 ext. 332 for reservations.

The Bigger Better For You Burger

Ingredients provided by Uptown Grocery Co., 1230 W Covell in Edmond.

Makes four burgers

1 pound 96-percent lean beef

4 slices 2-percent cheddar cheese

4 tablespoons mustard, fat-free mayonnaise or barbecue sauce

1-2 ripe tomatoes cut in thick slices

1 large onion, cut in half-inch slices

1 head green leaf lettuce, pulled apart

4 whole wheat buns

Salt and pepper to taste

Optional add-ons: pickles, jalapenos, grilled pineapple slices, avocado slices, relish.

Roll beef into 2-ounce balls and flatten. Place an onion slice on one of the patties and cover with another. Pinch the edges together all the way around the patty. Add salt and pepper or your favorite sugar-free, low-sodium rub.

Heat a grill or skillet to medium high temperature. Cook on the grill or in a skillet until brown on the bottom side, then flip and repeat, 6 to 8 minutes per side.

As the patties near completion, top with 2-percent cheese. Once cheese is melted, remove patties to a platter to finish.

Heat buns briefly over hot grill or on heated, ungreased skillet for 1 to 2 minutes.

Top heated buns with patties and stack with vegetables and condiments.

Three-Color Cabbage Slaw

This recipe makes 4 servings

3 tablespoons seasoned rice vinegar

1 tablespoon olive oil

¼th teaspoon black pepper

5 cups three color cole slaw mix (green cabbage, carrots and red cabbage)

Combine vinegar, oil, salt and pepper in a small bowl and stir to mix.

Put cole slaw mix in a large serving bowl.

Add vinegar mixture and toss to coat evenly.

Cover and chill until ready to serve.

Nutrition Information: Each serving contains approximately 57 calories and 3.5 grams fat

Variations: Plain grated cabbage or any variation of cole slaw mix can be used instead of the three color slaw mix. Mustard, curry powder or celery seed can be added for a stronger and more distinctive slaw.

Source: Becky Varner


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