By Matthew Thompson, Associate Food Editor for EatingWell Magazine
It's burger season! While some people will choose to simply enjoy an occasional calorie splurge without worrying about the consequences, there are many of us who are eager to find ways to indulge without ruining our diet. It's easy to save calories when you're hosting your own cookout; it's a bit harder when you're just a guest at someone else's shindig.
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As a sometime grill-master and EatingWell associate food editor, I thought I'd share a few simple, cookout-ready strategies-whether you're a host or a guest-to help you save more than 400 calories from your hamburger bun, patty and toppings while still enjoying all that juicy, beefy flavor.
Your average hamburger bun can really up the impact of a burger. Many come packed with 236 "empty" calories in a normal, white-bread bun.
If You're a Guest: Try scooping out the inside of the bun. By doing so, you can reduce your calorie intake by 25%-a savings of about 59 calories!
If You're Hosting: You can save even more calories by swapping in whole-wheat English muffins for your standard hamburger bun. This simple switch will save you 121 calories-and net you an extra 2 grams of fiber to boot!
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The problem with many premade burgers is that they're way too big. Many weigh in at a hefty 6 ounces, delivering 11 grams of saturated fat and 460 calories.
If You're a Guest: Cut it in half! By reducing your burger to a healthy 3-ounce portion, you can eliminate 203 calories.
If You're Hosting: By making your own burger patties, you can control how big they are and how lean they are-while still making them taste great! Try making 4-ounce (raw) patties with 90%-lean beef. You'll slash 231 calories and 6 grams of saturated fat.
As if the burger and bun weren't enough, you can add a ton of calories to your cookout meal by smothering it in condiments. A puddle of sodium-packed ketchup and mustard and a square of fatty cheese add 84 calories. Of course, no one wants to eat a plain, dry burger, so what's the best way to slim down your toppings?
If You're a Guest: If you're a party guest, the quick answer is to go Mexican! Try scooping a tablespoon of guacamole from the bowl on the chips table. You can drop 65 calories and an incredible 517 mg of sodium.
If You're Hosting: Consider offering grilled vegetables like peppers and onions as toppings. They pack tons of delicious flavor and can help save you 72 calories, 585 mg of sodium and a bonus 3 grams of saturated fat.
Total Savings: Your average cookout burger can weigh in at a hefty 780 calories. If you're a guest at a summer picnic and looking to save a few calories, you can scoop the bun, halve your patty and top it with guacamole instead of ketchup and cheese. The result is a lean 453 calories. If you're hosting a cookout, you can take things even further by serving whole-wheat English muffins in place of buns, offering lean 4-ounce patties and swapping standard condiments for healthy grilled veggies. The end result will be only 356 calories-less than half the calories of a standard burger!
How do you keep the calories in your burger in check?
By Matthew Thompson
Matthew Thompson is the associate food editor for EatingWell Magazine.
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