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Lighten Up Your Summer Burger

Lighten Up Your Summer Burger

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It’s time for the most sacred of summer traditions: the barbecue. Here’s how to enjoy a burger now and then on a medical weight loss plan.

It’s June, and that means welcoming back that most sacred of summer traditions: the barbecue. We’ve discussed using non-burger alternatives to help keep your grill a place where you can enjoy delicious food al fresco, while still sticking to your medical weight loss plan. This week, we’ll focus exclusively on that beef burger you might be craving, and how you can keep it a part of your diet.


  1. Start with the Right Cut: Grilling a burger that’s both delicious and weight-loss friendly starts with the right cut of meat. Although very lean cuts of beef are available (95-96 percent lean), we’re going to suggest choosing beef that’s still lean but has a bit more fat. Ground chuck typically has about 8-10 percent fat, so that’s a good choice. Or look for a label that says “90% lean/10% fat or 93% lean/7% fat.”    

  2. Watch Portions: As with most foods, watching portion sizes of your hamburger is key. This is especially true when using a cut of meat that has a bit more fat. Form patties that are no more than 4 oz each, or slightly larger than a deck of cards.  

  3. Fill It Out and Flavor It Up: Before you put it on the grill, bulk out your burger and flavor it up at the same time. We’ve chosen a lower-fat cut of beef to start with. However, this can make for a less moist burger. You can up the juiciness factor by mixing in a small amount of fat with the burger, along with lots of herbs and seasonings to increase the flavor factor. Here are some choices—remember to mix these in with the burger before grilling:

    - Dijon mustard mixed with a tablespoon of sour cream and fresh chopped dill. 
    - Sundried tomatoes with basil and cumin.  
    - A tablespoon of Parmesan or Roquefort cheese.

    Also, salt can help bring out the flavor of the burger, regardless of its fat content. Just make sure you don’t add it too far ahead of cooking, or it will dry out the meat. Sprinkle salt and freshly ground pepper over both sides of the burgers just before placing them on the grill. (Of course, if you’ve been told to watch your sodium intake, you’ll need to skip the salt, but not the pepper!)

  4. Load Up on Toppings: Once your burger comes off the grill, you can raise the nutrition and flavor content by adding lots of low-calorie toppings. Consider fresh lettuce and tomato, or grill some red onions and mushrooms. Balsamic vinegar, pickles, or ketchup (particularly the organic kind that doesn’t include high-fructose corn syrup) are condiments you can also add that will keep your burger flavorful and delicious.


Your Burger: How the Calories Stack Up

Now that you know the burger basics, let’s see how it all adds up (remember, on the CMWL Modified/Transition Plan, you’re allotted 550 calories for dinner):  

  1. 4 oz ground chuck (10% fat): 300 calories
  2. Condiments, fillers, and toppings (this assumes a small amount of fat in the form of some cheese or sour cream in your burger, and the remainder veggies): 100 calories
  3. Small whole-wheat bun: 150 calories

    TOTAL: 550 calories

Next Steps:

Get hundreds of healthy CMWL-approved recipes.

See our guide to smart supermarket shopping.

Find a center near you to schedule a consultation with a CMWL doctor.


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