10 UNHEALTHY THINGS IN YOUR BURGER
10 Unhealthy Things Lurking in Your Burger
Read on for some convincing — and gross! — reasons why you may be better off making your hamburger at home.
By Brianna Steinhilber
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Who doesn’t love biting into a thick, juicy burger? This American classic can be found at most restaurants and — but what you may not realize is that when chowing down on that beef patty, you could be ingesting much more than what’s listed on the menu. Here are 10 things to be aware of when ordering a burger — and the reasons you're better off making your burger at home.
1. Ammonia:Pink slime — a mechanically separated meat product that is treated with ammonia to kill bacteria — is used as a low-cost ground beef filler. Though a handful of fast-food establishments ditched the ingredient after recent controversy, it’s still lurking in many ground meat products, including those used by restaurants.
2. Fat:Trans fat, which is naturally found in meat, is known to raise cholesterol levels and has been linked to heart disease; however, the FDA currently allows a food to be labeled trans fat-free if it has less than half a gram. While most fast-food chains get under this .5 limit, their burgers still contain the unhealthy fat — and restaurant varieties can have up to 2.5 grams. Plus, some food chains pack almost 50 grams of fat into each burger. That’s well over the healthy range, which is between 18 to 31 grams per day, depending on your calorie intake.
3. Calories:Burgers from popular food chains like TGI Fridays and Applebee’s have upwards of 1,000 calories — more than half a days’ worth for many people, in just one meal. (And that’s without the side of fries!)
4. Additives:Food establishments and manufacturers use a variety of additives (like sodium phosphate and nitrates) to serve various purposes like preserving and texturizing the meat. While most are deemed safe for consumption by the FDA, they’re still highly processed — and have even been linked to side effects in some people.
5. Hundreds of cows:A single fast-food hamburger can contain beef from hundreds of different cattle — as ground meat from all of a chains’ suppliers are often combined into a single batch of minced meat. This increases the risk of contamination, since infected meat from just one cow can show up in tons of batches.
6. More than just meat:Many consumers assume that their patty came straight from the muscle of a cow, but in actuality, the ground beef used to make many fast-food burgers contains other waste and by-products. One study went as far as to say that fast-food burgers aren’t made up of much “meat” at all and instead consist of almost 50 percent water in addition to by-products like bone, cartilage, connective tissue, and nerve tissue.
7. Sodium:A burger at your local fast-food joint contains almost 500 milligrams of sodium, while the patty at dine-in food chains could pack in between 3000 and 4000 milligrams — well over the FDA’s recommendation of 1,500 milligrams per day, and even surpassing the upper limit recommendation of no more than 2,300 milligrams daily.
8. The bun:When it comes to the bread sandwiching your burger, enriched flour (which is devoid of nutrients) is the least of your problems. Many breads contain over 20 ingredients, and included in the list is ammonium sulfate (also used in fertilizers), ammonium chloride (found in explosives), high fructose corn syrup, and azodicarbonamide (an ingredient also used to make yoga mats).
9. Toppings:For many, a burger isn’t complete without loading on the toppings. But the ones commonly ordered at restaurants are high in sugar, fat, and calories. The most popular condiment, ketchup, is filled with high fructose corn syrup, while a single slice of cheese can add up to 200 calories and 500 milligrams of sodium (not to mention, it’s highly processed with preservatives and artificial colors and flavors).
10. Portion size: The recommended for meat is 4 ounces, or the size of a deck of cards. However, the typical serving size at restaurants is more than double that, weighing in between 8 and 12 ounces.
Build a Better Burger
So, the stats are pretty unappetizing, but that doesn’t mean you have to swear off burgers for good. When it comes to chowing down on this barbecue favorite, it’s always better to go homemade, where you have complete control over the ingredients going into your meal.
Follow these tips for a better-for-you burger:
•Go organic.To avoid additives and hormones, shop your local farmer's market for locally-sourced, organic meat products.
•Opt for lean turkey meat over beef.“Beef burgers add up fast in the fat department — especially saturated fat, which is important to keep track of for cardiovascular health and your waistline,” says Keren Gilbert, MS, RD, founder and president of Decision Nutrition. “Lean turkey meat has half the saturated fat of beef; make sure the label says at least 93 percent lean.”
•Increase moisture.“Lean turkey burgers tend to be dry since the fat content is low,” says Gilbert. “To up the moisture of your burger, I suggest adding onions, shredded zucchini, shredded carrots, or spinach.” These veggies also up the fiber content, helping you to feel more satiated, Gilbert adds.
•Add a healthy binding agent.Breadcrumbs are the most popular ingredient for binding ground meat, but Gilbert suggests swapping them for fiber-rich oats. Another option: Chia seeds, which are a great binder that also ups the nutritional profile of your burger. She recommends using 1/2 cup of either ingredient to 1 pound of turkey.
•Season smart.Up the flavor of your patty with calorie-free flavorings. Gilbert suggests hot sauce, chili powder, garlic powder, cumin, or paprika.
•Condiment swap.“Even a lean, healthy burger can take a turn for the worse when topped with bacon, cheese, or creamy sauces,” says Gilbert. She suggests passing on the caloric add-ons in favor of , mustard, or veggie toppings like peppers and onions.
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