A burger is simply a sandwich made of a patty and a bun, with condiments. If they are on their best behavior, the patties are placed between whole-grain buns (or a substitute lettuce bun) and generously covered with vegetables like tomatoes and onions. Bad burgers are greasy and loaded with unhealthy fats such as bacon and mayo. We can’t blame you for shaming the Reeses’ Peanut Butter Cup-stuffed burger. Oof.)
Our point is that burgers can be as healthy and nutritious as you make them. This is especially true if you are open to changing the patties as well as their accompanying cast of buns, condiments, and other ingredients. We know that even a simple order can leave you confused about which one to choose. That’s why we’ve ranked the best burger choices. We have taken into account how likely it is that you will bury them with high-calorie condiments when stacking them up. We cannot guarantee that a veggie burger at a fast-food joint will be healthier than one at a restaurant. However, if you only look at one place, this is a great place to start when it comes to choosing the best burgers for your health. Our 40 Most Popular Burgers–Ranked Report will help you get more specific information about your favorite restaurants’ burgers.
From the worst to the best…
A classic ground beef hamburger can be a nutritious, high-protein meal. This is especially true if the beef is grass-finished. We’ll talk more about this in a moment. Beef is one the most nutritious sources of B12 (vitamin essential for the production of red blood cell and energy). It’s not the worst burger, but it is because beef burgers are so often ruined that it’s difficult to find burgers without descriptors such as “double-patty”, “onion shoestrings” and “crispy Bacon.”
You can make sure that your beef burger cravings will be satisfied by choosing grass-finished meats, and not grass-fed. It will be more expensive (and this is on top of the fact that grass-finished grass-fed beef is leaner) but it’s worth it. Many people are willing to pay more for grass-fed animals, but they often don’t realize that the animal has been fed corn and soy over the past two months. It can also be GMO. Nancy Guberti, the certified nutritionist, says this. “Grass-finished” means that the animal has never been fed any grains.
An Elk burger is better than a beef burger. Here’s why: Elk burgers are significantly higher in protein than traditional ground beef and have significantly lower fat. A 3-ounce burger is about 133 calories with 2 grams of fat. This compares to a beef burger which has 182 calories and 9g of fat. Like other meats, lean meat is tender and rich in iron and B12 vitamins.
Portobello Mushroom Burgers
A portobello mushroom hamburger burger might surprise you. They have an umami-rich flavor. Translation: You don’t need to douse the mushrooms in condiments to make it seem like you’re eating a burger. You can also enjoy Meatless Mondays because of the high levels of polyphenols found in mushrooms. According to a Penn State study, portobello mushrooms and crimini mushrooms are among the most prominent sources of dietary antioxidants.
However, there is one thing you should know: Most portobello mushroom hamburger recipes and menu options contain a lot of melted cheese. While mozzarella is still lower in fat than blue cheese crumbles or thick slices of cheddar in a cheeseburger, cheese can still lead to calorie traps. We recommend that you omit cheese from your mushroom burger.
A turkey burger is a double-duty option for your ground beef patties. “A turkey burger made with ground breast meat will be extremely lean, low-calorie, and low-artery-clogging fat,” Lyssie Lakatos CDN, CFT, and Tammy Lakatos Shames RDN CDN, CFT, authors The Nutrition Twins’ Veggie Cure. The Nutrition Twins state that a turkey burger made with breast meat is not recommended. However, traditional burgers can contain all the parts of the turkey and are as healthy as regular burgers. They also give turkey burgers approval because they are a great source of lean protein when made from breast meat.
You can keep your turkey burger healthy by eating only half of whole-grain bread or placing it on a bed with lettuce and tomatoes. The Nutrition Twins recommend that you add lettuce or tomatoes to your turkey burger for extra nutrients and fiber. Plus, the vitamin C found in the tomato increases iron absorption.
Vegetable burgers are a delight. Some are great and some are not. The Nutrition Twins recommend that traditional veggie burgers be satisfying and can be used to replace hamburgers with less saturated fat. Vegetarian burgers are less likely to be exposed to heterocyclic amines, carcinogens that can be created by high-temperature grilling.
Although veggie burgers don’t make the top ten, they are still very popular. Some of them have twice as many calories as traditional burgers. Some pre-made burgers are large and heavy in oil. The Nutrition Twins also explain that some pre-made veggie burgers can be high in sodium.
Some are made with soy while others are filled with legumes.
Flavor-wise, bison tastes almost exactly like beef. Bison is tender and sweet. Its nutritional profile makes it healthier than a regular ground beef hamburger. According to USDA, a 90% lean hamburger contains about 10 grams of fat. A bison burger, also known as buffalo burger, is a much leaner, more nutritious burger. It has 24 grams of protein and 2 grams of fat. Bison is not plant-based but it earned its ranking higher on the list. This is because it can satisfy your burger cravings with a healthy doppelganger. Also, your chances of it being sabotaged with unhealthy condiments are much lower.
Wild Salmon Burgers
Your doctor might just order a salmon burger. Your cardiologist may even recommend a salmon burger. Wild salmon is a great source of protein. It is high in omega-3’s which are healthy fatty acids found in fish oils. These fatty acids can lower your risk of developing heart disease and reduce inflammation. Tieraona Low Dog is the chief medical officer at Well & Being and the director of the Interprofessional Fellowship for Integrative Health and Medicine. Make sure it’s always Wild Salmon.
Low Dog offers a cautionary tip: When you buy pre-made salmon patties make sure to read all labels. You can also add healthy garnishes to this burger, such as yogurt dill sauce. Yum!
Black Bean Burgers
Get your #1 choice!
This subcategory of veggie hamburgers is being removed because black bean burgers deserve nutritional praise. They’re healthy from a nutritional standpoint. Black beans have 8 grams of protein, 7.5 grams of fiber, and are low in calories.
Don’t let their black exterior fool you. They’re just as full of antioxidants as traditional fruits. Anthocyanins are antioxidant compounds that can increase brain power. Black beans are a good source. A study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry showed that black beans have higher antioxidant activity than other beans. These antioxidants are excellent for fighting free radicals that are linked to cancer, heart disease and aging.
Black bean burgers can be almost as good as any other burger. Like other vegetable burgers of the garden variety, make sure they aren’t high in sodium and artificial ingredients. You can also ask the restaurant where they were made.
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