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The Bunless Bite-Size Burger Recipe You Need This Weekend

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First off, it's important to know that beef itself is not the enemy. "It's easy to assume that ground turkey is better for you than ground beef," says registered dietitian nutritionist Melissa Joy Dobbins (a member of the Beef Expert Bureau for the Beef Checkoff). "But 93 percent lean ground beef is quite comparable to 93 percent lean ground turkey and can even be lower in calories." (There are 162 calories and 7.5 grams of fat in 3 ounces of cooked ground beef, compared to 176 calories and 9.7 grams of fat in 3 ounces of cooked ground turkey, based on the USDA Nutrient Database.) Most importantly, "If you like beef burgers, you should enjoy them without feeling guilty," Dobbins stresses.

Now, IMHO, the tip to creating the best burger that is both satisfying and satiating is to think "bite-size." Instead of a half-pound burger, think 2-ounce "baby" patties. This not only helps with portion control but allows you to enjoy some of the other delicious BBQ spreads (like these Chili Cheese Pita Wedges) while still providing your body with protein, vitamin B12, and iron. Plus, if you opt to serve them open-face on lettuce cups, you're able to satisfy those gluten-free guests too! A win-win for all.

Now, let's talk about those fixings. Beyond the standard ketchup and mustard, these healthy, out-of-the-box twists on classic toppings will help complete your mini burger.

Sauerkraut
This probiotic-boosting superfood isn't just for Reubens anymore. According to Natalie Rizzo, M.S., R.D., of Nutrition à la Natalie, "Probiotics, aka 'good bacteria,' contribute to the health of your gut and are essential for a healthy digestive tract and immune function." Adding "kraut" to your burger can help you reap the gut-healthy benefits, she explains.

Melted Cheddar
Bring on the white cheddar for a fun flavor twist. "Melted, crispy cheddar cheese is the way to go. Not only is cheese an extra source of protein for a burger, but it provides calcium too," says Meme Inge, M.S., R.D.N., of Living Well Kitchen. And if you're going "bunless," it's a great way to add a little crunch to the burger, she adds.

Smashed Avocado
If not for the flavor, then how about for the health benefits? A small preliminary study found that consuming half a medium avocado on top of a 90 percent lean burger may reduce compounds that contribute to inflammation. Though I'm eagerly awaiting more research in this area, avocados are a nutrient powerhouse (containing protein, fiber, folate, vitamin E, magnesium, potassium, and iron), making them a no-brainer addition to a burger.

Sriracha
Sure, there may be a zillion fast-food burgers out there jazzing up their beef with spice, but what you don't know is what else they're putting in those sauces. Keep it safe while kicking up the heat (and a fun little garnish) by adding a tad of Sriracha on top. Not only will this blend the flavors together, but it'll make you savor each bite.

Now, let's get grillin'!

Bite-Size Beef Burger Recipe

Serves 4

Ingredients

4 2-oz 93 percent lean ground beef patties, cooked

8 Bibb lettuce leaves

2 ounces melted cheddar, divided into 1/2-oz portions

8 tablespoons smashed avocado, divided

4 slices tomato

4 tablespoon sauerkraut

Sriracha

Preparation

  1. Cook beef patties on grill until internal temperature reaches 160°F, seasoning as desired. Set aside.
  2. Portion 1/2 ounces of cheese on a grill pan and cook until melted. Remove and assemble burger.
  3. Place 2 Bibb lettuce leaves on the bottom. Add a mini patty. Top with 1/2 ounce melted cheddar cheese.
  4. Add 2 tablespoons smashed avocado, tomato, and sauerkraut on top. Garnish with sriracha.
  5. Repeat for remaining burgers. Enjoy!

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