What Are Some Nutritious New Ways to Order the Best Burger?

Q: I’m seeing lots of new burger choices on restaurant menus. What are some nutritious new ways to order the best burger?

Healthy Food

We’re in an exciting time for restaurants and food-lovers. Many Americans, like you, are now looking for foods that contribute to health, whether those are whole foods, organic choices, Meatless Monday menu items, increased fruits and vegetables or functional foods. In addition, our tastes are becoming more sophisticated and eating habits more adventurous.  Restaurants are tapping into these changing needs and expectations with tempting creations and new spins on classics like the good old burger.

You may have noticed recently that the burger menu at some of your favorite restaurants is changing.  There are still the over-the-top monster burgers, but there are also a growing number of choices that make the most of fresh and flavorful ingredients, creative recipes and goals of more nutritious menu offerings.  Here are just some of the creative ingredients that can help you order the best burger at restaurants:

Fermented Foods
These nutritious gems are fan favorites these days, thanks to the demand for probiotics. Probiotics are linked to a healthy gut, which in turn has been linked to everything from a strong immune system to a healthy weight.  Many restaurants are now adding fermented foods to the menu.  In some restaurants, classic fermented pickles or sauerkraut have found their way onto burgers. Could kimchi be next?

Whole Wheat Buns
Restaurants are increasingly offering whole wheat and whole grain buns for burgers, thanks to growing demand for the more healthful choice.  These buns add fiber, iron and nutrients to your burger along with a more complex flavor that many guests now expect. Whole grains have held top spots on trend lists over the last several years, and chefs are looking for every opportunity to add them on the menu, so they are easier than ever to find.

Lettuce Wraps
This quick and nutritious burger fix has been around for years, but it’s just recently that they have been hitting the mainstream. If your goal is to reduce calories or carbs, requesting a lettuce leaf in place of the standard bun is a great choice.

Unique Veggies
There was a time when burgers came with lettuce, tomatoes, onions, maybe mushrooms – and that was it – in the way of veggies. Not anymore! Look for more unusual veggies like spinach, arugula, peppers, zucchini, artichokes, sprouts, pickled vegetables or even corn. Along with vitamins, minerals and fiber, each vegetable adds a new depth of flavor that many of us just can’t resist.

Alternative Patties
When we think of burgers, we often think beef, but there are so many more options now. Bison burgers, fish burgers, turkey burgers and similar non-beef choices are almost a given on menus these days. Vegetarian and vegan burgers made with lentils, beets and beans are becoming more common on menus. Have you seen the Impossible Burger that’s sweeping the nation? Many of these alternative burger patties offer protein with less saturated fat, and veggie patties can help you meet your daily fiber goals – not to mention the environmental impact of eating less meat. If you prefer beef, many restaurants now offer leaner sirloin burgers that deliver flavor and protein with fewer calories and less saturated fat.

Sophisticated Condiments
Many restaurants are now offering burgers with more condiment options than just mayo, mustard, Thousand Island dressing and ketchup.  Look for choices with creamy avocado, salsa, hummus, yogurt-based tzatziki, pesto or even sundried tomato spreads. While many of these can still be higher in calories, they also offer more nutrition than the old standbys.