Build a Better Burger: National Cheeseburger Day!

WHAT? Today is NATIONAL CHEESEBURGER DAY?! Sweet. Well, I think in honor of this grand event, I’ll talk a little bit about how to eat a SMARTER BURGER. Below, a few tips.

1.Enjoy yourself!

I am here, as a soon-to-be dietitian, advocating that it is not only OK to eat a burger from time to time—I’m in fact letting you know that there are actually BENEFITS to red meat. It is true that you can get the iron, vitamin B12, and protein for which red meat is so famed from other sources. So if you do not prefer red meat, you CAN save yourself from deficiency. Keep an eye on my Nutrient Spotlight page for updates on that. However, if you are a fan of beef, it is an extremely bioavailable source of iron—meaning your body absorbs it more easily than it does from other sources (e.g. leafy greens). And iron-deficiency anemia happens to be the most common and widespread nutrient deficiency worldwide, according to the World Health Organization. So don’t pour on the guilt—congratulate yourself for making a good choice that will provide your body with a ton of nutrients

2. Go Grass-Fed and Local

There is a fair amount of controversy surrounding the meat industry, and it’s often difficult to decipher what to avoid, and what is mainly hype. A safe bet is to choose local meats as much as possible, and look for organic grass-fed beef. This will ensure that the cows destined to be your burger were fed a diet that their gut could understand and break down properly, and that the animals weren’t treated with hormones or anything not naturally occurring in the animal already.


Happy cows come from….

3. Dress It Up Right

Many foods become demonized, thwarting high levels of not-so-good-for-us nutrients, and are forced to wear the diet-version of a “Scarlet Letter.” However, sometimes it’s not the food itself that has so many adverse effects as much as what goes with the food. Moderate amounts of ketchup and mustard (think: 1 Tablespoon) are great additions to a burger. But to get more nutrient bang for you calorie buck, try taking out high saturated fat condiments like mayonnaise to be replaced with avocado. It will introduce an interesting new texture to your burger, as well as some serious creamy goodness! And avocados provide healthy fats that are required for every day bodily functions, and can help prevent heart disease and inflammation, in addition to cancer-fighting antioxidants. Avos can also have a fab effect on hair, skin, and nails. It should be mentioned, however, that due to this super food’s high fat content (although it’s the GOOD KIND), avocados are high in calories, and should still be consumed in moderation.


Those are some delicious looking antioxidants.

ALSO—pile on as many veggies as you can! No reason to stop at the standard lettuce-onion-tomato. Through some peppers on your grill, and stack them on your burger. The hot ones have major metabolic benefits. Any non-starchy veg would probably go great on a burger—experiment! And let me know what works and what doesn’t!


One more note (as it is nat’l CHEESEburger day)… Cheese is a great source of calcium, and provides protein as well. I will admit to being an absolute cheese lover. But it’s a food to moderate, as it typically contains high amounts of saturated fat and sodium. Some cheeses are available in part-skim versions–go for those whenever possible. Or just enjoy a smaller amount of a full fat version. Either way–ENJOYMENT is very important!

4. Choose Your Bun Wisely

Not only can you pack an extra serving of veggies into your burger, but you can even utilize this meal as a chance to squeeze in an extra serving of whole grains. When at the store, all the choices we’re given in which to wrap our patties can certainly overwhelm a person. The simplest rule for choosing whole grains is this: the VERY FIRST INGREDIENT should read: WHOLE WHEAT FLOUR. If it doesn’t, it’s not a true whole grain.


images-3^Whole Grain


^Not a whole grain (the first ingredient is ENRICHED FLOUR)*

*I know this is a confusing topic. Please feel free to email me ( or comment with any questions.

If you’re not a bread lover, you can even wrap your burger in a lettuce wrap. I’d recommend choosing darker romaine leaves over iceberg—the darker your veggie leaves, the more nutrients they contain. But don’t be afraid of a few carbs—they can provide much-needed fiber, as most of us don’t get what we need from our diets.

If you’re trying to avoid red meat, or prefer a more plant-based diet, you can always go for a veggie burger! Just make sure you’re not replacing a beef burger with something that’s highly processed, because health-wise you are doing yourself no favors with that choice. Your best bet may be to make one at home using whole ingredients. Here’s a recipe for one that uses LENTILS (a great plant source of protein)! You may also see beans used, and any other starchy protein. I actually was recently at a restaurant that served a veggie burger made of quinoa and beets! If you prefer to purchase a packaged version, check the ingredients list, and choose one with a short list of ingredients, and words you can pronounce. Watch the sodium level on these items as well.

And remember–as with all things–moderation is key. A burger every once in a while can provide you with major benefits. But one every day may result in lethargy, fluid retention, high cholesterol, and weight gain. So have a happy National Cheeseburger Day! And enjoy yourself!!


The Power of Food Over Supplements!

This past month has been a special challenge. At work, we have seen rapid weight loss in so many of our patients. Naturally, I starting questioning: What is the variable in this situation? Well, isn’t the variable me? Aren’t I the one who took over, only to see insidious weight loss happening before my eyes? Could it be possible that there is a direct correlation between me accepting the title of Dietary Services Director, and weight just falling off of some of my most frail residents?

And then I stopped the self-interrogation, and tried to determine what was actually the cause of this. With my wonderful interdisciplinary team, I began to brainstorm. Something I have come to believe is that food should always be first when trying to improve nutritional status. Supplements are great for certain circumstances. However, most people get just what they need through a healthy, well-rounded, balanced and moderate diet. So, my team and I began to wonder… if this is our mind set, why are we handing out Mighty Shakes and Med Pass (high protein supplements) like they’re M&Ms on the 31st of October? And so we looked at our residents with significant weight losses, and looked at how many of them were on these food-replacements. The numbers were astounding. But what was even more astounding was seeing how many of these little cartons of artificial calories were going to waste every single day, since clearly, as evidenced by the weight losses, they were not being consumed.


The team decided we needed a game plan. We live in a country where one of our biggest health problems is a direct result of too many calorie dense foods; why are we providing supplements when we have an abundance of energy just waiting to be consumed right inside my giant walk-in fridge. And so we made a choice—for some people, these shakes are working. However, this long list of significant losses shows that for many, they’re not. So for those who are not benefitting, let’s recommend fortified diets, and/or snacks between meals, and see how things go.

………….. 2 weeks or so later……….. I bet you’re all on the edge of your set now…….

I received our list of weekly weights this morning upon arrival to work…….. ONE undesirable significant weight loss. And even that one was a slowed weight loss, showing much better results than in weeks prior. Not only did we not see weight losses in residents we usually expect to whither away, but I saw more weight GAINS on that list than I have seen the entire 4 months I’ve been at this facility.

So, moral of this story is, choose FOOD over SUPPLEMENTS. I know most Tumblers tend to be perusing the site for tips on how to LOSE weight, but the idea here is the same. Treat your body right, with the nutrients it was meant to break down, and beautiful results will come of it. Don’t expect it overnight, but stick with it. Your body will thank you for it!