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Build a Better Burger

Updated: Monday, May 20 2013, 09:03 AM CDT

Hy-Vee dietitian Jen Heringhausen joined the J-Crew on this Monday morning on the patio to show how you can use Hy-Vee's Nu-Val rating system to buidl a healthier burger.

Build a Better Burger with NuVal!

Nothing kicks off grilling season better than a delicious, juicy burger, sizzling from the grill!  While burgers can have a reputation of being “unhealthy,” simple swaps can amp up the flavor while building a better burger, a healthier burger.

Building that better burger can be easy if you utilize NuVal.  NuVal is a nutritional scoring system that scores food from 1-100 based on its nutritional value.  The higher the number, the higher the nutritional value.  It is a great tool when comparing similar items and you can find the NuVal score on the price tags at Hy-Vee.  See your Hy-Vee dietitian or visit for more information.


Of course the traditional choice for a burger is ground beef, but our foodie culture has made way for an influx of salmon, tuna, turkey and bison burger recipes that not only taste great but can be better for you!  Burgers made from salmon (NuVal: 87) or tuna offer omega-3 fats that benefit our heart and brain health.  “Traditional”- tasting burgers can be made from 93%-lean ground beef, 93%-lean ground turkey (NuVal: 33) or even bison meat.  For the vegetarian griller, there are great-tasting meat-free alternatives such as frozen Morning Star, Boca or Lightlife vegetarian burgers that also save a few calories and fat grams over traditional meat-based burgers. 


Cheese adds beneficial calcium, protein and vitamin D but it can be high in fat and sodium.  Swiss cheese is lower in sodium, fresh mozzarella and goat cheese are lower in fat and calories, and strongly flavored cheese (such as feta, blue or Parmesan) allows you to use less yet still gain a punch of flavor!   Don’t be afraid to try reduced-fat cheese, either.  Spread a 35-calorie wedge of Light Laughing Cow cheese on the bun or put one in the center of the burger meat before grilling for some melted, cheesy goodness!  Cabot’s award-winning Sharp Light Cheddar (NuVal: 25) is a great-tasting option that has 30% fewer calories and 50% less fat. 


With leaner meat you may want to amp up the seasonings to compensate for the loss of fat.  Incorporate fresh herbs into the meat for a flavorful punch without any calories, fat or sodium.  When making beef burgers, reduce the amount of meat used and incorporate sautéed mushrooms to save calories/fat, add moisture and meaty flavor and enhance the flavor of other seasonings.  Lean ground turkey meat is more prone to drying out during cooking so add a bit of low-fat ricotta cheese to the meat to keep burgers moist without altering flavor. 


Make swaps for health and flavor when topping your burger, too.  Retire that ol’ iceberg lettuce (NuVal: 82) in favor of crunchy romaine (NuVal: 100).  Add grilled onions (NuVal: 93) for anti-cancer nutrients or sautéed Monterey mushrooms (NuVal: 96) for a shot of Vitamin D.  Tomatoes (NuVal: 96) are a traditional burger topping and provide lycopene, which helps fight prostate cancer. 


Swap that traditional flimsy, white bun for a Pepperidge Farm Soft 100% Whole Wheat Hamburger Bun (NuVal: 24).  It will add fiber, vitamins, minerals and protein.  Toast a hunk of Baking Stone Honey Whole Grain bread and serve your burger open-faced to save a few calories.  If you need a gluten-free option, you’ll love the buns from Schär or Udi’s found in the HealthMarket.


This recipe utilizes several of those high-scoring NuVal foods:  

Basil-Feta Burgers with Avocado and Caramelized Onion

All you need:

Caramelized onion

1 tablespoon Hy-Vee Selects olive oil

1 red onion, sliced thin

1 tablespoon Hy-Vee dark brown sugar

Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste

Basil-Feta Burger

½ pound Hy-Vee 93% lean ground sirloin

1 bunch basil, stemmed and chopped

3 oz. Hy-Vee crumbled feta cheese

3 cloves garlic, minced

½ red onion, diced

1 teaspoon kosher salt

½ teaspoon fresh ground pepper

1 tablespoon Hy-Vee Selects olive oil


1 avocado, peeled and sliced thin

4 whole wheat Baking Stone bakery buns, split



All you do:

1. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add onion and cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes. Add brown sugar, salt and pepper and cook 5 minutes longer. Remove from heat.

2. Meanwhile, combine ground sirloin, basil, feta, garlic, onion, salt and pepper in a medium bowl. Form into 4 burger patties.

3. Preheat grill to medium-high. Drizzle burger patties with olive oil and place on the grill. Cook 3-4 minutes per side, or until desired doneness.

4. Place burger patties on buns and top with sliced avocado and caramelized onion.


Source: Jen Heringhausen, RD, LD


Build a Better Burger

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Jen Heringhausen
Julie Gallagher-Edgewood
Collins Road/Lindale
Oakland Rd
Mt. Vernon Road
Johnson Ave
1st Ave
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