Top 10 burger alternatives that are yummy AND healthy
For me, the worst part about trying to maintain a healthy diet is abstaining from my favourite foods. That’s where these healthy burger alternatives come in. As they say, nothing in life comes easy. Keeping a check on what food you are putting into your body is hugely important, but at the same time giving in to your desires once in a while is not a crime. So if you want to indulge but not go overboard, here’s a list of healthy burger alternatives for you to try the next time the junk food craving hits.
Brown mushroom burgers
Mushrooms are magic! They have a meaty texture, which works particularly well for a burger patty substitute. Delectable brown mushrooms are the really big, flat ones with a subtle umami flavour that grows stronger when cooked. The best part is that a large one has only 30 calories and contains no fat or cholesterol. Mushrooms are also one of the few plant-based sources of vitamin D, a nutrient that’s important for bone health, immune system support and muscle and nerve function.
Sweet potato and quinoa burgers
The mere mention of a veggie burger often has meat-eaters crinkling up their noses in disgust. The humble veggie burger has an unjustly bad reputation though – when they’re done well they can be absolutely delicious. Sweet potato and quinoa are a particularly lovely combination for a veggie burger patty with loads of health benefits too. This healthy burger alternative is chock full of fibre, vitamin A and protein. Perfect for vegetarians or even for anyone who wants to reduce meat in their diet without sacrificing flavour. To prepare these scrumptious veggie burgers, start with a mashed sweet potato base. You can then add in the quinoa and some of your favourite seasonings. If you find the patty is getting too sticky add a dusting of regular flour which will act as an extra binding agent. Then all you need to do is fry up the sweet potato and quinoa patties and enjoy your healthy burger alternative.
If you want to pack as many nutrients as possible into one meal, salmon is a good choice. It’s a great source of omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin D and B-12. So if you’re a pescatarian or just prefer lighter meat, this healthy burger alternative is an excellent choice. A standard salmon burger patty is made from minced salmon, bread crumbs and egg for binding. Salmon is fairly versatile and you can make yours with whichever flavour you like best. Personally, I like to add some lemon, fennel and a dash of soy sauce for flavour.
Local is lekker and it’s hard to find meat that’s more South African than ostrich meat. This is one of the best healthy burger alternatives to try; it’s a great source of protein that is very low in fat. You can grill ostrich just like any lean steak to reduce your fat and cholesterol intake while still giving you an awesome, savoury and meaty meal. When it comes to the combination of great taste and healthy eating, ostrich is always an excellent option.
Chickpeas have a special place in my heart because I adore falafel balls, so it’s not a huge leap for me to convert that idea into a yummy, veggie burger. This is another fantastic option for vegetarians as chickpeas are a good source of fibre and protein, contain a moderate amount of calories and loads of vitamins and minerals. When it comes to cooking these patties I recommend allowing them to set in the fridge for 30 minutes first. This way the shape will hold better. Then all you have to do is fry them in a pan until perfectly browned and devour with delight.
Black bean burgers
Whether or not you’re a vegetarian, it’s difficult not to like the taste of a well-made black bean patty. Black beans are loaded with fibre, low in cholesterol and high in protein. Black bean burgers are also heart-smart as they contain both monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, both of which are beneficial to heart health. These burgers are super easy to make, so try to stick to a homemade version or purchase ones where you know there are no extra additives. For those of you who want to make your own at home prepare your black bean patties easily, I would recommend drying out the beans before you start. Place the beans onto a lined baking sheet and bake for about 10 minutes, this will keep the texture of the patty nice and firm. Use some fried onion and garlic along with your preferred flavouring and blend them along with the beans into a food processor. If you don’t have a food processor handy you can mash everything together in a bowl by hand. Then lightly fry on either side and pop onto a bun to devour.
Although there are many sources of protein available, chicken is one of the most popular and it’s easy to see why. Chicken is affordable, easy to prepare and lower in fat than many other types of meat. In general, red meat has more cholesterol and saturated (bad) fat than chicken, fish and vegetable proteins such as beans. Cholesterol and saturated fat can raise your blood cholesterol and make heart disease worse, so if you are looking after your health but your burger just has to be made from meat, reach for a chicken breast instead.
You might think of prawns as a luxury item that doesn’t seem to fit on a bun, but just as with salmon, a prawn burger can be a complete showstopper. Nutritionally, prawns are quite special and they are considered to be one of the healthiest foods in the world by nutrition experts. Prawns have high amounts of protein and are a rich source of selenium, one of the most effective antioxidants for maintaining healthy cells. They also contain high levels of zinc, which is important for a healthy immune system. To top it all off, they are surprisingly low in calories and are made up of extremely healthy cholesterol. Prawns are easily found at local South African shops, so all you need to do is mince them up and turn your boring old meat burger into a fabulous and healthy prawn burger instead.
Lentils are a marvellous legume to work with when it comes to making burger patties. They are easily moulded once they have been soaked and have a delicate nutty flavour which goes well with just about anything. There are many different lentil varieties to choose from, but regular brown lentils are probably your best option for making burger patties. Lentils are often overlooked, even though they’re an inexpensive way of getting a wide range of nutrients. Lentils are made up of over 25% protein, which makes them an excellent meat alternative. They’re also a great source of iron, a mineral that is sometimes lacking in vegetarian diets.
This may seem like a strange option, but cauliflower has leapt in popularity as a low carb alternative in recent years. This is also perfect for when you have vegan friends over for a braai and don’t want to leave them with empty stomachs. Blend some cooked cauliflower in your food processor together with your favourite flavouring and then use a coconut or nut oil as binding to keep it vegan-friendly. Then all you have to do is mould and grill for vegan burger perfection. In terms of healthy eating, cauliflower is no slouch either. Not only is it very low in calories and high in vitamins, but it also contains some of almost every vitamin and mineral that your body needs. With all this going for the unassuming cauliflower, there’s no excuse for not trying this one out.
What healthy burger alternatives have I missed? Let me know in the comments or share your own healthy burger recipes and ideas with me.