Healthy Burger Toppings With Big Flavors
Summer grilling season is finally here. Whether you prefer a hamburger, turkey burger, hot dog, or a portobello mushroom or veggie burger, chances are that when you take it off the grill you reach for condiments like ketchup, barbecue sauce, or relish.
These toppings might taste great, but adding them can pack a sugar punch that you weren’t expecting. You could be eating nearly half your recommended daily intake of added sugar from having a burger with ketchup and relish.
Luckily, there are ways to avoid sugar and still have a grilled meal that tastes delicious. Instead of sticking to ketchup, relish and other common condiments, you can spice up your burgers with international flair by adding toppings that are low on sugar but big on taste.
As you prepare for grilling season, here’s what to look out for—and what to use instead.
The Condiment Culprits
America’s favorite condiment, ketchup is usually sweetened with added sugar. Just 1 tablespoon can contain 4 grams of sugar (a significant portion of the recommended daily limit of 25 grams of sugar). Consider adding a slice of fresh tomato, a few dashes of hot sauce, or a spoonful or salsa instead (look for a brand like Newman’s Own that has no added sugar and just 0.5 gram of natural sugar per tablespoon.
Most barbecue sauces have a hefty amount of sweeteners like brown sugar and molasses. Some bottled sauces have 6 grams of sugar or more in a tablespoon. Read the labels: some brands like Stubbs have only 2 grams of sugar in a tablespoon. But given how much most people slather on their chicken and ribs, you still need to be careful.
Instead of loading up on sugary barbecue sauce, consider using a dry rub on the meat itself, then dip your meat in the barbecue sauce sparingly on your plate. It’s the best way to still get the flavor without going overboard with sugar.
You may not think of pickles as sweet, but relish contains about 4.5 grams of sugar in a tablespoon. Bread and butter pickles have a similar amount of sugar. Go for dill pickles instead, which have only about 0.5 gram of sugar in a tablespoon.
Luckily, there are some great options for jazzing up your burger or hot dog without added sugar. Here are a few favorites that will keep your low-sugar lifestyle on track this summer.
Whether you like things spicy or mild, this vinegary condiment contains barely any sugar—and has tons of flavor. People love mustard and are always cooking up new flavor varieties, so you’ll never get bored.
If you like your burgers to have a kick, reach for the sriracha. Sriracha contains about 3 grams of sugar per tablespoon, which is comparable to ketchup. However, most people only use a tiny amount of the spicy sauce, so your added sugar content would likely only be a gram or so.
If you’re looking for a something creamy that’s healthier than mayo, why not try some mashed avocado? Experiment with different mix-ins, from fresh-squeezed lime to garlic salt or even red pepper flakes, each of which will give you a slightly different flavor. In addition to being low in sugar, avocado is packed with healthy fats that can keep you feeling full longer and keep cravings at bay.
Lots of fruits and vegetables have naturally-occuring sugars that you can use to your advantage. Caramelized onions are super tasty, without any added sugar. Once you learn to cook them, the process is easy, so don’t be surprised if this quickly becomes one of your favorite burger toppings!
Low-Sugar Burger Topping Combinations
Now that you know how much sugar is in common toppings, you might want to rethink your burgers doused in ketchup, relish, or barbecue sauce. However, healthier doesn’t have to be boring. Try these globally-inspired burger options instead:
Tacos are delicious, and so are burgers, so why not combine the two? If you’re forming your own patties, mix a bit of taco seasoning into the meat. If you’re using pre-formed burgers, sprinkle a bit over the top instead. After the meat is cooked, top it with guacamole and pico de gallo (either store-bought or make your own by mixing diced tomato, onion, cilantro, jalapeño, and lime juice). For an added kick, add sliced jalapeños or hot sauce.
The Mediterranean Burger
The flavors of the Mediterranean are delicious and contain beneficial healthy fats. Top your burger with roasted vegetables (try peppers or tomatoes), feta cheese, and a drizzle of balsamic vinaigrette. The dressing has about 2 grams of sugar per tablespoon, but you won’t need that much—a little goes a long way. Add a spread of Greek yogurt and minced fresh cucumbers for a creamy, crunchy finish. These toppings are particularly tasty on veggie burgers!
The Down-Under Burger
Australians love burgers packed to the rafters with unique ingredients that don’t rely on sugar. To make your own Aussie-inspired burger, add bacon and a fried egg on your patty. Top with a slice of roasted beet and fresh vegetables.
Opt for savory rather than sweet by infusing your burger with a kick from the Indian subcontinent. Start with curry powder mixed into your patty, or a touch of curry paste spread on top. Mix greek yogurt with chopped cucumber, cilantro, mint, and lemon juice for a deliciously creamy raita to drizzle on top.
Eating low sugar can be fun! Think of kicking the ketchup habit as a chance to add new flavors and explore new and satisfying healthy recipes.