Barbecue season is in full swing and usually that means juicy burgers & sizzling steaks. Father's Day has practically become synonymous with backyard BBQ and grilling meat.
Well, burgers aren’t necessarily just meat, cheese and white starchy rolls anymore. You can make or order tasty patties crafted from chicken, turkey, tuna, salmon, pork, lamb, legumes and veggies. Of course the wider selection of ingredients provides more choices for health & nutrition.
Westfield Foodie’s Favorite Burgers
I love bacon cheeseburgers. When I splurge, this is what I want to eat. My favorite is the house burger topped with bacon & blue cheese at Jeffrey’s, with their sweet potato fries. It hits the mark every time. I also love the turkey burger at Westfield Diner (more on that, below). When I'm watching fat & calories more carefully, I look to alternative burgers. I’ve adapted a delicious, healthier and very satisfying homemade bacon cheeseburger made with poultry products that even my children gobble up. With health concerns such as family history of heart disease for my husband and high cholesterol for me, we decided earlier this spring to limit our red meat and cheese consumption to once per week, or less. That means getting a little creative with those burgers and their toppings.
Fast Food vs. Home Made Burgers
Do you ever wonder how they line up? Let's do a side-by-side nutritional analysis. On one extreme, there is the Baconator Double at Wendy’s - two ¼ lb patties topped with juicy Applewood Smoked bacon on a premium fresh bun, topped with mayo, ketchup and American cheese. Yum? You might feel a little sick after ingesting 940 calories, 25 grams of saturated fat, (recommended daily intake is 20 g) and over 1,500 mg of sodium (62% of daily recommended allowance of 2,400 mg). Yuck!
A healthier alternative is a chicken burger with turkey bacon on a multigrain bun with organic cheddar cheese, lettuce, tomato and ketchup. I recommend Bell & Evans Chicken Burgers topped with Applegate Farms Hardwood Smoked Uncured Turkey Bacon and Applegate Farms Natural New York Extra Sharp Cheddar Cheese. A ¼ pound burger with 1 oz cheese, 2 slices bacon, whole wheat bun, 1 tbsp Heinz ketchup, lettuce & tomato yields 490 calories, 7.5 grams of saturated fat and 890 mg of sodium. If you opt for a ½ pound burger like the Wendy’s product, add 160 cal, 1.5 g sat fat and 140 mg sodium. Even with a 1/2 pound of meat you’ll still be eating 30% less sodium & calories and a whopping 75% less saturated fat than the Wendy's burger!
Tastiest Burgers in Town
We can assume that the rest of the burgers out there are somewhere in between these 2 extremes. Let’s face it - most people don’t crave burgers because they are healthy. We select burgers because we are really hungry, craving meat, ready for a splurge, or just for the great taste. So let’s put nutrition aside for a moment and focus on taste.
If you are having a Big Mac Attack that cannot be quelled, you will find a plethora of McDonalds, Burger Kings, Wendys and even a White Castle just outside of town in Clark, Garwood and South Plainfield. Westfield has a few "gourmet fast food" joints focused on the almighty burger, including Five Guys, The Windmill and 25 Burgers. I was surprised that 12 out of the 25 burgers aren’t even traditional burgers, which I define as a ground protein that is shaped as a pattie and grilled or sautéed. Grilled chicken breast, Reubens, and filet of fish (the Burger of the Month, nonetheless!) are sandwiches, folks, not burgers.
Diners usually have great burgers and a menu full of options. Westfield Diner has a pizza burger that is reminiscent of what I grew up eating at Don's in Livingston. Vicki's boasts a healthy turkey burger salad. There are burgers are most town restaurants but readers recommend such high-end burgers as the Dillon's House Burger with grilled red onion, Irish bacon and Tipperary cheddar on a brioche roll, Isabella's Bistro Burger with garlic rosemary fries and Jeffrey's Central Avenue Burger, topped with red onion confit, lettuce, tomato and garlic herb Boursin cheese.
Grilling Burgers at Home
For home cooking, you have more options. From ground Kobe beef at Kings, Stop & Shop’s 90% lean ground beef, Organic Ground Beef that’s 85% lean at Trader Joe’s, and Grass Fed beef at Alan’s Orchard from cows that were grazing in the pasture while you were scraping off your grill plates and wrapping your dad's gift. What does this all mean?
A 3.5-ounce serving of lean ground beef qualifies as “lean” if it has less than 10g total fat, 4.5 g or less saturated fat and less than 95 mg cholesterol per serving, which makes it comparable to an equal-size piece of chicken thigh. Grass-fed beef is from animals that eat hay on the pasture, not the traditional grains or corn. Another plus: the beef has higher vitamin and omega-3 content. Lean sirloin makes a tasty burger and has the same fat content as ground turkey so there is little sacrifice in taste and texture. Certified Organic beef is from livestock raised with full access to outdoors, fresh air, water, sunshine, grass and pasture land. Their feed is 100% organic with no growth stimulants or antibiotics. Any shelter provided must allow the animal the opportunity to exercise. Kobe beef is a very high grade of beef from Japanese cattle. The pure genetics, superior diet and high breeding standards result in a burger with outstanding flavor and melt-in-your-mouth tenderness.
Where's the Beef?
Not all great burgers are made from beef. There are some excellent alternative burger options for those who don't eat red meat. The Westfield Diner has a phenomenal turkey burger - it is so much better than any other turkey burger I've ever tried. Try it on a traditional bun, or to replace grilled chicken on the Greek Multigrain Panini with feta, spinach, tomato & tzatziki sauce or atop a Greek salad. Wild Greens has a fabulous veggie burger that is pressed on a ciabatta square with lettuce, tomato and their zesty chipotle aioli. Or at the supermarket, Dr. Praeger's makes a great veggie patty, and Bell & Evans has the delicious chicken burger. Or jump on the newest trend: ask the butcher for ground lamb and make a lamb burger!
Best of Both Worlds
Or do a combo burger - make the patty half the size and top with a grilled portobello mushroom cap. Replacing some of the beef with vegetables adds fiber and reduces fat, calories, sodium and cholesterol without having to give up beef altogether.
Whatever burger the man in your life enjoys on Father’s Day, enjoy!
Lauren Weiss blogs on www.westfieldfoodie.com and The Alternative Press about cooking, dining and food shopping in her hometown of Westfield, NJ. A busy stay at home mom of 2 takes on the challenges of every day life, one meal at a time. Email comments & questions to firstname.lastname@example.org to be included in future articles.