There’s something about firing up the grill in the spring and summer that makes everyone happy. With the outdoor cooking season right around the corner, these healthy burger ideas are as succulent and yummy as they are guilt-free. We even have a few options for the vegetarians in the party. These may become new favorites, and a path for your friends and family to indulge in food that is perfectly guilt-free.

Pro-Tips for Burger Aficionados

If you’re using fat-free or low-fat meat, like turkey and chicken, adding an egg to the mixture helps to keep it from falling apart on the grill. The benefits of ground poultry are that it cooks a bit faster, and it’s lower in calories and cholesterol. A safe ratio is one egg per pound of meat. Second tip: always leave a hole in the middle of the patty. The hole allows the meat to expand as it cooks, so you still end up with a flat disk and not an oblong meatball. Lastly: don’t press the burgers. Pressing frees all the juices (and why on earth would you want to do that?). As tempting as it is to hear that sizzle, let the patties sit as they cook so the outside sears evenly, keeping those yummy flavors inside.

Alternative Meats for Healthy Burgers

Turkey is extremely low in both fat and calories. As mentioned above, adding an egg helps hold the patties together on the grill. Ground chicken is also an excellent healthy option for a burger. Look for salmon burgers in the frozen food section; they’re lower in fat than red meat and are full of healthy fats like Omega 3 fatty acids. Grass-fed bison is as lean as turkey and has the same texture as a juicy ground beef burger. Even lean ground pork can be a great low-fat alternative. Combine any of these meets half and half with beef so you can enjoy a juicy burger with a big reduction in saturated fat, cholesterol, and calories.

Don’t Skip the Veggies

While everyone loves cheese on a burger, try veggie options instead like roasted red peppers, grilled squash, caramelized onions, and vinegar slaw. Add toppings like Greek yogurt and gourmet mustard to a condiment caddy and set it on the table to keep guests away from high-calorie temptations. If you want an easy, healthy recipe that feels rich and indulgent, try this alternative to a bacon cheeseburger. Grill four strips of turkey bacon on the top rack of your grill until they’re crisp. Smash an avocado and mix in a couple of red pepper flakes, a squeeze of lemon, and a pinch of sea salt. Top your burger patty with the avocado mixture and crispy turkey bacon. Serve it on a whole wheat bun for an added dose of fiber and protein. Trust us: you won’t miss the cheese!

Yes, There Are Good Veggie Burgers

If you have vegetarian friends or are looking to go meat-free a few days a week, a veggie burger gives you an opportunity to experiment with your favorite spices. Create a signature house veggie burger that gives you bragging rights using grains like bulgar wheat, barley, and rice. Here’s a recipe to get you started.

  • 2 cans of black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1/2-cup panko (Japanese) breadcrumbs
  • One egg
  • 2 garlic cloves, pressed or finely chopped
  • 1/2-cup finely chopped scallions
  • 1/2-teaspoon cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/4-teaspoon cayenne (optional)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro

Using a potato masher, smash black beans until smooth. You don’t want them completely pureed, so let them have a little bit of texture. Mix in the panko, garlic, scallions, cumin, smoked paprika, and cayenne. Taste and add salt and pepper as needed. Add egg. Let sit in the fridge for at least thirty minutes (one hour preferred) so the mixture sets. Using a half cup measure as a scoop, shape your patties (you should get about 8-12). Feel free to divide up the recipe and freeze the unused portion for a future cookout.

Preheat your grill and add plenty of oil or nonstick spray. Cook over medium-high heat for 4-6 minutes a side or until hot all the way through. Top with cilantro and serve on your favorite bun.

Healthy burgers are easy and fun to make. Mix different varieties to find exciting alternatives for the whole clan. Whatever you do, get outside and learn to love the joy of outdoor cooking.