Patty strategies for weight-conscious burger lovers
BurgersLets go out for

It's all well and good to dig into the history of the food we eat before getting into the fun of actually eating it, but tracing the history of the hamburger could run several hundred pages and yield no definitive answer. Credit for the invention of the burger ranges from Genghis Khan (seriously) to a nondescript restaurant in New Haven, Connecticut. In between, there are German sailors and a vendor at a Wisconsin Fair. So let's just leave that part alone. Nobody cares who invented the hamburger — we just want to know how to best eat it.

It's a fixture in backyard barbecues, a staple of fast-food culture and even makes appearances on the menus of snooty French bistros. Why is the burger so ubiquitous? Because of its versatility and ease of preparation. A neighborhood diner can fry it up, slap it on a bun with mayo, pile it high with lettuce and tomato, and it will taste just as good as an intricately prepared, grilled Kobe burger on a baguette with Brie and truffles. It's just the Way of the Burger.

But with so many options in front of us, how can we properly sit down and order this American icon? Follow these simple steps.

Allot Yourself A Decent Amount Of PointsPlus® Values
A small cheeseburger on a bun with condiments and vegetables is going to run a PointsPlus value of about 12. There are ways to dress up some of the healthier options to bring that number down considerably (substituting turkey for beef, for instance), but when you start knocking off PointsPlus values, you're also more likely to knock off flavor. And if we're going out instead of just whipping up a few patties at home, then losing the flavor kind of defeats the purpose.

Types of Burgers
(Remember to add 3 to 4 PointsPlus values to any numbers below to account for the bun.)

Chuck/beef: This is the classic All-American hamburger that we've all come to know and love. It's simply ground beef with anywhere from 10-to-20-percent fat. More fat = more flavor.

Wagyu/Kobe: Fancier restaurants and bistros are beginning to make their burgers with Kobe beef. The cut, from Japanese cattle, offers better flavor because of the increased marbling (fancy word for "tasty fat") but comes with a much higher price tag.

Bison/Buffalo: Leaner and healthier, the bison burger may need to be dressed up a bit, as the lack of fat in the cut lessens the flavor. But a quarter-pound of bison will cost you a PointsPlus value of 7, whereas a quarter-pound of 80-percent-lean/20-percent-fat beef will cost you only slightly more. Still, a leaner cut of meat will end up being healthier for you beyond just the PointsPlus value.

Ostrich: It's markedly harder to find an ostrich burger than a bison one, but when you do, your PointsPlus Tracker will thank you, as a quarter-pound of ostrich meat runs a PointsPlus value of just 4.

Turkey: A quarter-pound of turkey will run you a PointsPlus value of just 3, and it's both tastier and a little less weird to eat than the ostrich.

Veggie: A ground-up mash of beans, olives, onions, peppers and pretty much any other nonmeat option the chef would like to throw in, the veggie burger will cost you a PointsPlus value of around 3 for a quarter-pound.

How can I make it healthier?

  • You will be mocked by your fellow men, but casting aside the bun and eating just the meat will save 3 PointsPlus value.
  • Eating at a restaurant where the burgers are grilled and the fat is allowed to drip off will end up being healthier and tastier than at a diner or fast-food joint where the burgers are fried.
  • Watch your toppings: bacon, heavy cheese and pan-fried mushrooms all add more PointsPlus values than the staples of lettuce, tomato, pickle and onion. If you really want to shave PointsPlus values, ditch the mayo and just stick with mustard.

How You Want it Cooked
On a scale from "bloody" to "burnt to a crisp," there are five general options you have when ordering a burger: rare, medium-rare, medium, medium-well and well. Generally, "medium" will get you enough crispiness on the outside and pink on the inside to make that perfect complement, but it never hurts to ask the waiter to suggest a temperature, just in case the chef seasons the burgers in a way that would make one temperature better than the rest.

Take a deep breath and order as much tomato, onion, pickle, and lettuce on your burger as you'd like; they're going to run you 0 PointsPlus value each, up to a cup.

Mustard is also a free pass, but ketchup will run you a PointsPlus value of 1 for a quater cup, while mayonnaise varies from a PointsPlus value of 1 for 4 tablespoons of a fat-free option, to a PointsPlus value of 2 for 2 teaspoons of regular.

Burgers in pop culture

  • Burgertime: This 1982 video-game classic features a frenzied Peter Pepper being chased by Mr. Hot Dog, Mr. Pickle and Mr. Egg as he runs over toppings to make burgers.
  • Ronald McDonald: First appearing in commercials in 1963 (played by now-famous weatherman Willard Scott), Ronald, just like the burgers he hawks, has more than one story of origin. Both Scott and a man named George Voorhis claim to have invented the icon.
  • Cheeseburger in Paradise: the 1978 Jimmy Buffett hit made its way to #32 on the Billboard Hot 100.
  • Burgermeister Meisterburger: The mayor of Sombertown in the Claymation classic Santa Claus is Comin' to Town, Meisterburger outlawed all toys and inadvertently spawned the creation of several Christmas traditions.

A slice of American cheese is going to run you a PointsPlus value of about 2 to 3, depending on the type used. Cheddar, blue, pepper jack, Brie and even feta cheese are all in the same neighborhood. Ask your waiter if there's a low-fat cheese option, or forgo the cheese altogether and dress up your burger with a little barbecue sauce (1 PointsPlus value for 2 tablespoons) instead.

"Fries or a Salad?"
Fifteen French fries will cost you 8 PointsPlus value. Opt instead for a salad, baked potato with salt and butter, or maybe some kind of vegetable offering. The PointsPlus values you save on your side dish could buy you some cheese or bacon (4 PointsPlus values) on the main attraction. And the burger is the reason you're out anyway.

Burger and a Beer
Having two light beers (7 PointsPlus values total) as opposed to two regular beers (10 PointsPlus values total) just bought you those 3 PointsPlus values you'd need to add some cheddar cheese on top of the burger.

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