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A Guide to Low Fat and Veggie Burgers 
 
by Nancy Berkoff May 24, 2005

Burgers are a very popular meal choice. There is taste and flavor beyond beef. Many ingredients can be used to make your own low fat or veggie burgers. There are many ready-to-use veggie burgers available with varying levels of fat.

Beyond Beef

At home and when eating out, low fat and veggie burgers have become the burger of choice for many Americans. Burger Kings across the US and Canada are offering veggie burgers, as are Hard Rock Cafes and the food outlets at Disney amusement parks.

America’s biggest corporations are offering low fat and veggie burgers in their company dining services. Here is a list, compiled by the Physicians’ Committee for Responsible Medicine, of just some of the companies serving low fat and veggie burgers to their employees:

Chrysler( Michigan), General Motors ( Michigan), Texaco ( New York), Procter and Gamble ( Ohio), AT & T ( New Jersey), Wal-Mart Stores ( various locations), Phillip Morris ( New York), Hewlett-Packard ( California), Metropolitan Life Insurance ( New York), State Farm ( Illinois) and Mobil(Virginia).

It seems low fat and veggie burgers are making fast fans of many former double bacon and cheese burger lovers.

Lest you think that beef is the meat of choice for burgers, think again.

Burgers are being created with chicken, turkey, salmon, buffalo, veal and vegetables. The Sheraton Inn, Seattle, Washington, offers a salmon burger served with a choice of condiments including a lemon dill mayonnaise.

Mother’s Restaurant, Irvine, California, offers several “veggie” burgers, including a bean-and grain based burger and a potato and lentil selection.

Chicken and turkey burgers are available as a frozen, ready-to-use menu items; just throw them on the grill and go. Chicken and poultry burgers are very neutral in flavor, ready to be seasoned. Try red pepper flakes, white pepper and cilantro for a Southwestern flavor, bell pepper, tomato puree and garlic for a Mediterranean flavor.

A Nice, Juicy, CHERRY Burger?

Big and juicy doesn’t have to mean cholesterol-city. Nutrition-sneaky chefs have been playing with their burgers and have found ways to keep them juicy without adding fat. A deli owner in Washington State found a way to cut the fat in burgers and incorporate his state’s famous crop- cherries. He found that substituting ¼ the meat with fresh cherry pulp he keep the color, texture and juice of the burger and cut the fat by 25 per cent. The USDA has just allowed chopped prunes or prune puree to be substituted for some of the beef in burgers supplied to schools across the country. Both cherries and prunes add texture, moisture and nutrients without adding fat or sodium or detracting from meat flavor.

If cherries or prunes are not your cup of tea when it comes to burgers, take out some of the meat and add in soy, tomato products, egg whites combined with fresh bread crumbs or minced fresh vegetables.

Or perhaps you’ll scrap the meat and go with a veggie burger instead. High in fiber and vitamins and low in fat (unless you fry them, bind them with eggs or top them with half a pound of cheese), veggie burgers can be made with chopped, cooked vegetables, cooked grains (rice, barley) and corn, tofu and other soy products and potatoes. Make your own or select from the many frozen, ready-to-use products available.

Serious Veggie Burger Research

Are all veggie burgers alike? There are so many on the market right now. You’ll probably want to do taste and cooking tests to decide which veggie burger best fits your needs.

Veggie burgers are generally lower in calories and fat than hamburgers . Extra lean ground beef gets more than half its calories from fat; most veggie burgers have less than 20% of calories from fat. Meat has no fiber; most veggie burgers have at least 3 or 4 grams of dietary fiber per serving. While veggie burgers have little or no cholesterol, a 3.5 ounce hamburger made with extra lean ground beef has 90 milligrams of cholesterol. Veggie burgers, especially those made with soy, contain generous amounts of protein and iron. Vitamin B-12 is added to some veggie burgers. The only negatives for veggie burgers are that most are higher in sodium than ground beef and may require additional fat while cooking to prevent sticking.

But How Do They Taste?

Some veggie burgers are made with soy protein or mushrooms and these burgers looked more like hamburgers. They often have a chewy texture, a brown color, and a grilled flavor. Some veggie burgers are based on combinations of beans, grains, or vegetables. These tend to look a little more “home-made” and may crumble easily. Some veggie burgers contain eggs, egg whites or cheese, so read the label for additional fat content.

You get the best results from veggie burgers when you follow the cooking directions on the box. Some veggie burgers can be baked or cooked, without fat, in nonstick pans. Others need to be fried in small amounts of oil. Become a label reader. Just because a veggie burger contains no meat or cheese does not mean it is low in fat or can be cooked without fat.

Remember that veggie burgers can be multipurpose ingredients. In addition to serving them as a hot sandwich, veggie burgers can be crumbled and be the “meat” in meat sauce and soups, formed into individual “ meat” loaves or used in chilies, sloppy joes and French dip sandwiches.

Low fat and veggie burgers are a popular, fun-to-eat menu item. So stoke up the grill and get the buns toasting!

Side Bar: Veggie Burger Comparisons

Calories Protein Fat Sodium

( Protein and Fat in grams, Sodium in milligrams)

Boca Burger Vegan Original (2.5 oz) 80 13 0 270

Whole Foods Vegan Burger (2.5 oz) 80 13 0 270

Yves Garden Vegetable Patty (3 oz) 80 8 0 310

Gardenburger Sautéed Onion (2.5 oz) 100 15 0 320

Gardenburger Life Burger (3 oz) 100 16 0 360

Morningstar Farms Better 'n Burger (2.8 oz) 80 13 0 360

Natural Touch Vegan Burger (2.5 oz) 70 11 0 370

Nature's Chef Soybean Burger (3.6 oz) 120 19 0 380

Yves Black Bean & Mushroom Burger (3 oz) 90 11 0 520

Gardenburger Roasted Garlic (2.5 oz) 90 13 1 200

Natural Touch Spicy Black Bean Burger (2.8 oz) 110 11 1 330

Lightlife Lightburgers (3 oz) 130 16 1 410

Franklin Farms Portabella Burger (3 oz) 120 15 1.5 460

Boca Burger Chef Max's Favorite (2.5 oz) 100 13 2 290

Hearty and Natural Veggie Burger (2.5 oz) 110 14 2 290

Whole Foods 365 Gourmet Burger (2.5 oz) 100 13 2 290

Franklin Farms Veggie Burger (2.5 oz) 100 12 2 380

Fantastic Foods Nature's Burger Roasted Red Pepper

& Garlic (2.5 oz) 130 6 2.5 350

Morningstar Farms Garden Veggie Patty (2.4 oz) 100 10 2.5 350

Gardenburger Savory Mushroom (2.5 oz) 120 6 2.5 370

Amy's California Veggie Burger (2.5 oz) 100 4 3 290

Gardenburger Original (2.5 oz) 130 7 3 290

Nature's Chef Fajita Burger (3.6 oz) 150 9 3 290

Fantastic Foods Nature's Burger (2.5 oz) 140 7 3 440

Morningstar Farms Harvest Burger (3 oz) 140 18 4 370

Garden Gourmet Veggie Patty (2.5 oz) 90 7 4 430

Morningstar Farms Grillers (2.3 oz) 140 15 6 260

Worthington FriPats (2.3 oz) 130 14 6 320

Morningstar Farms Hard Rock Cafe (3 oz) 170 6 8 340

The Original Sunshine Burger (2.5 oz) 250 10 15 230

SIDE BAR: TOPPINGS

Separate your burgers from the other burgers on the block. Offer a wide assortment of toppings to add that extra accent. No one will even notice the fat is missing!

Veggies: cucumbers (sliced lengthwise), shredded carrots, broccoli, radish, alfalfa and soy bean sprouts, bell pepper slices, shredded and leaf iceberg, chilies (of various “heat”) red leaf, romaine, Bibb lettuces, fresh spinach, endive, , yellow and red tomatoes, red, yellow, white, sweet onion slices, minced fresh garlic, raw and sautéed button mushrooms, thinly sliced jicama, and yes, fresh, thinly sliced pineapple and peaches.

Pickled stuff:: cucumbers (sweet and savory chips, slices, spears), carrot slices, green tomatoes, green and black olives, cabbage (kimchi), Daikon radish, baby corn, celery slices, gardenia (a mixture of pickled vegetables), pepperocini (sweet Italian peppers), artichoke hearts, heart of palm, capers, watermelon rind

Cheeses: Part skim mozzarella, shredded veggie cheeses ( made with soy milk), specialty low fat cheeses.

Condiments: tomato ketchup, flavored ketchup, mayonnaise, flavored mayonnaise, red and green Tabasco sauce, various hot sauces, selections of salsa, chutneys, mustard, flavored mustards, grated horseradish, salad dressings, such as ranch, thousand island, russian, green goddess, creamy French, pickle relish, pepper relish, steak sauce, soy sauce, flavored vinegars, barbecue sauce, chopped fresh herbs (basil, oregano, rosemary), fresh cilantro.

SIDE BAR: The Five Commandments of Moist Low Fat Burgers

Moistness rules when it comes to burgers; follow these six rules and should have perfect results every time

1. To add moistness to lean meat or seafood, add some mashed fresh avocado or thawed frozen avocado pulp. Avocado has a neutral flavor and a rich, creamy texture which will make lean meat moist. Yes, avocado contains fat, but it is the unsaturated, “good” kind of fat.

2. A touch of tomato puree, ketchup or chopped, deseeded fresh tomatoes helps to ensure moistness.

3. When preparing low fat burger mixtures, add small amounts of cold water, stock or tomato juice.

4. Experiment with a moist stuffing, such as chopped and steamed mushrooms or onions, barbecued or baked beans or black beans

5. Include moist toppings, such as thick slices of beefsteak tomatoes, salsa or chutney

Side Bar: Burger Ideas

Hit a creative wall when it comes to new low fat burger ideas? Here are just a few ideas that can be made with low fat meat or a basic veggie burger mix ( see recipes):

  • Baked or Grilled mushroom burgers White and Black Bean Burgers
  • Chili Bean Burgers Grilled Eggplant Burgers
  • Jalapeno Red Bean Burgers Lentil Burgers
  • Lentil Carrot Burgers Oat Burgers
  • Portabello Burgers Roasted Veggie Burgers
  • Spicy Black Bean Burgers White Bean and Rice Burgers
  • Yam and Brown Rice Burgers Grated Beet Burgers

RECIPES

Multi-Veggie burger

Makes about 10 burgers. If you don’t have the tofu needed in this recipe, you can substitute prepared and cooled mashed potatoes.

Ingredients

  • Baker potatoes, cooked and peeled 14 each
  • Diced onions 1 pound
  • Diced mushrooms 8 ounces
  • Diced cooked carrots 2 pounds
  • Cooked green peas 2 pounds
  • Cooked corn 1 ½ pounds
  • Firm tofu 8 ounces
  • Dry bread crumbs 14 ounces

Method:

1. Mashed cooked potatoes. Set aside

2. Heat and grease a griddle. Sauté onions and mushrooms until tender. Combine mushrooms with potatoes in large mixing bowl.

3. Add remaining ingredients, except crumbs. Mix thoroughly. Add just enough crumbs to have mixture form patties. Form into 3 ounce patties

4. Cook on hot griddle or bake in 350-degree oven until browned on both sides.

Basic Veggie Burgers

Makes 8-10 burgers

This is a great “pantry” recipe, as many of the ingredients should be on your shelf. This is also a great way to use leftover veggies. If you don’t have the tofu used in this recipe, you can substitute prepared and cooled mashed potatoes.

  • 1 ½ cups canned sliced carrots, drained (reserve liquid)
  • 1 ½ cups canned cut green beans, drained
  • 1 ½ cups cooked pinto or red beans
  • 2 ½ cups dry bread crumbs
  • 2 Tablespoons vegetable oil or melted margarine
  • 1 Tablespoon dried parsley
  • ½ cup ketchup or chili sauce
  • 2 Tablespoons silken tofu
  • ½ teaspoon white pepper
  • ½ teaspoon celery salt
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Place carrots, green beans and pinto beans in a blender or food processor and puree until almost smooth.

Place mixture in a large bowl. Stir in remaining ingredients until well combined. If mixture is too thick, add some of the reserved carrot liquid; if it is too thin, add additional breadcrumbs.

Form mixture into burgers and place on nonstick baking sheet (or spray with vegetable oil spray). Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, or until thoroughly heated and lightly browned.

Note: this mixture can be pressed into a loaf pan and baked as a loaf.

Tofu Burgers

makes 6-7 burgers

This veggie burgers can be baked or pan fried. If you would like to use them as “meat”balls, they can be microwaved in sauce.

  • 2 cups firm tofu, drained and crumbled
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/8 cup onions, minced
  • ½ cup wheat germ
  • ½ cup dry breadcrumbs
  • 1 Tablespoon soy sauce
  • ¼ cup fresh parsley, chopped
  • ½ cup celery, minced
  • ¼ cup bell peppers, chopped
  • 1/c cup water or carrot juice
  • oil for frying

In a large bowl mash tofu until almost smooth. Add all ingredients except water and combine until well mixed. Slowly add water or juice until mixture is thick enough to form burgers.

Form into small burgers and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Fry in oil until browned or bake (at 350 degrees) for 20 minutes, until heated and browned.

Bran Burgers ( source: www.kelloggs-us.com)

Taken from the recipe files of Kellogg’s

Makes 6 burgers

  • 2/3 cup Kellogg’s All Bran cereal
  • ½ cup chopped onions
  • 2 Tablespoons Worcestershire sauce or soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon garlic salt
  • 1 egg white
  • 1 pound lean ground turkey

Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl. Mix until well combined. Cover, refrigerate and allow to stand for 5- 10 minutes, or until the cereal softens.

Grill, broil or fry bran burgers for 4 minutes or until browned and the proper internal temperature is reached.


 




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