Hamburgers are a classic American staple and a favorite among food lovers. But for those living with diabetes, the question remains – can they enjoy a juicy, delicious burger without it affecting their blood sugar levels?
People with diabetes can eat hamburgers, as long as they consider the nutrition content and portion size. Hamburgers are high in saturated fat, sodium, and calories, which may affect your blood sugar, your lipid profile, and your weight.
I recommend that people with diabetes opt for leaner cuts of meat, whole grain buns, non-starchy vegetables, and low-sugar condiments for optimal health results.
But before you decide to exclude hamburgers from your diet, keep in mind there are endless ways to modify your hamburger into a more diabetes-friendly version. Here is a quick guide to making healthier burger choices when you have diabetes.
Hamburger Nutrition Facts
It’s always a good idea to understand the nutrition value of your burger before eating it. It depends on the type of meat and the percentage in your burger, but the standard three-ounce single patty hamburger with a classic white bun (no condiments) contains the following nutrition profile:
From the information above, a standard hamburger is a protein-rich food. However, it contains high amounts of calories, fat, sodium, and carbohydrates.
Can Diabetics Eat Burgers?
Yes, hamburgers can be part of a healthy and balanced diabetes meal plan. But first, let’s break down why burgers can be an infamously unhealthy choice for people who have diabetes.
One of the biggest concerns when it comes to eating burgers if you have diabetes is the saturated fat content. Ground beef is the typical choice of meat for a hamburger.
However, ground beef is high in saturated fats, and on top of that, most people also prepare their burgers using additional fats like butter or oil. This is particularly worrisome for people with diabetes, as saturated fats can increase insulin resistance, elevated blood cholesterol, and promote the development of heart disease.
A second concern is, of course, the carbohydrate content. While ground beef is a low-carbohydrate food, a classic hamburger bun contains about 30 grams of carbohydrates. This may fit nicely into your meal plan, but it doesn’t take into account all of the refined sugars often hidden in condiments and toppings.
This information may make burgers sound like a terrible food choice for someone with diabetes. It’s not the hamburger itself that is unhealthy, but the type of burger and the way it is prepared will make a big difference.
Read on to learn how to build a diabetes-friendly burger no matter if you’re at home, eating in a restaurant, or going to other social gatherings.
Preparing Healthy Homemade Burgers for Diabetics
Your best bet to ensure that you are eating a burger that aligns with your nutrition needs with diabetes is to make your burger at home. This way, you know exactly what is going into your burger.
Here are a few ideas to take your favorite fast food burger and turn it into a hearty and healthy meal you can enjoy at home:
Knowing portion sizes is important for controlling your diabetes. It makes carb-counting easier, as well as weight management. According to the American Heart Association, the recommended serving size for a single beef patty is three ounces. That’s about the size of the palm of your hand, or a deck of cards.
Choose Lean Ground Beef:
Beef is rich in amino acids, B vitamins, iron, and other vital nutrients, but it’s always best to go as lean as possible. The saturated fats in fatty meats pose a threat to cholesterol levels and risk of heart disease, two things that are associated with diabetes. Leaner meats are more heart-healthy, help stabilize blood sugars, and are easier on the waistline. When shopping for lean beef at the grocery store, choose ones labeled at least 90% lean.
Grass-fed beef means the cattle were fed mostly grass and other foods found in their natural environment. This increases the amount of antioxidants, vitamin E levels, and healthy fats (like omega-3 fatty acids) present in ground beef.
Add Hearty Mix-Ins:
Add more nutritional bang for your buck by using egg whites mixed in with whole grains or nuts to bind the ground burger meat. Quinoa, bulgar, or almonds are low in sodium, high in fiber, and provide your hamburger with an extra boost of vitamins and minerals.
Season It: Hamburgers can be a very salty meal if you’re not careful. Dial back on the salt shaker and use other seasonings instead. Fresh onion, jalapeno, and garlic will give your burger an extra zest of flavor. Experiment with herbs and spices like dill, paprika, ginger, and chili powder to get creative with your flavor profile.
Cooking your burger patty in a frying pan allows the meat to sit in its own fat and absorb it. When you grill meat, the fat drains away and reduces the amount of saturated fat intake.
Blot The Excess Fat:
Once your burger patty is done cooking, gently soak up any extra fat and/or oil on the patty with a paper towel. This is an easy way to help reduce your calorie and fat intake.
How to Make Fast Food Hamburgers Healthier
If you’re in a pinch for time or just really craving a fast food or restaurant burger, you don’t have to feel guilty. There are several ways to modify a greasy takeout burger into something that better aligns with your dietary goals.
Before you go out to eat, check online to see if the restaurant has nutrition information about its products. This is a great starting point to help you determine the calorie, carbohydrate, and fat content of the item you want to order.
Next, make yourself a list of suggestions, and try your best to follow them.. Some ideas that will make your meal more diabetes-friendly include:
- Always order your burger grilled or broiled to reduce the fat, and avoid fried meats and fish
- Order only single burgers, not double or triple patties
- Instead of beef, order their chicken, turkey, or veggie burger option
- Load up on fresh veggie toppings like a slice of tomato, lettuce, and raw onion.
- Limit or avoid high-fat, high-calorie sauces, dressings, and mayonnaise.
Lastly, pay attention to the sides you order. The classic hamburger meal comes with fries and a soda. Swap your fries out for a fresh salad, sauteed veggies, or sliced fruit. Choose water or unsweetened iced tea as your beverage to avoid the extra calories and sugar.
What to Eat At A Cookout
Barbeques are a fun social event centered around eating, so your food choices are plentiful. While it’s great to let loose with your neighbors and friends, it’s still important to keep track of your carbohydrate intake.
If you’re eating a three- to four- ounce hamburger, typically a regular sized bun will add at least another 30 grams of carbs from the bun to your meal. That equals two carb choices if you use the carb counting meal plan (where one carb choice = 15 g carb).
To cut down on your carbs, eat the patty without a bun, or eat only half of the bun. When it comes to veggies, reach for more non-starchy vegetables, like leafy greens, tomato, and onion, that are lower in carbs (about five grams per serving). Try to eat starchy vegetables like potatoes and chips sparingly, as they contain around 15 grams carbohydrate per serving.
Making healthier burger decisions at a cookout can help you cut down on overall carbohydrate, fat, and calorie consumption:
- Choosing leaner protein options like a chicken, veggie, or even salmon burger. If you like beef burgers but are unsure of how lean of meat the host is grilling up, bring your own beef patties that are 90% to 95% lean.
- Kebabs are another BBQ classic that’s a healthy choice for people with diabetes. Chunks of steak, chicken, or shrimp skewered with chunks of vegetables, all coated in olive oil and seasonings help keep portion sizes under control, increase your veggie intake, and is a delicious low-carb option.
People love bringing side dishes to a barbeque! Again, choose wisely, as some classic side dishes are more diabetes-friendly than others:
- Choose a fresh bean salad. Baked beans are higher in sugar, so choosing a lighter bean for your salad is a healthier choice.
- Watermelon and other fresh, raw fruits and vegetables.
- Corn on the cob, just go light on the butter and salt!
- Top your burger with guacamole, hummus, or salsa instead of the traditional high-sugar ketchup and high-fat mayonnaise.
- Or make your own side dish to share. You can take any traditional recipe and use low-fat yogurt or vinegar instead of sour cream or mayonnaise. For some more BBQ side recipes, check out Diabetic Friendly Side Dishes For BBQ (dealingwithdiabetes.org).
Lastly, after enjoying your burger, it’s always a good idea to get in 15 to 30 minutes of light exercise, like walking. This will help stabilize your blood sugar levels and help promote a healthful weight.
Just because you have a diagnosis of diabetes, that does not mean you are limited to what you can eat. It just means you may have to get a little creative with your favorite dishes. Eating hamburgers is possible for a person with diabetes when they put thought into their food choices. Add more lean protein and fiber-rich items to the plate and avoid the high fat, carb, and calorie options.
Feel free to request a referral from your primary care provider to see a registered dietitian or diabetes care and education specialist to help you with an individualized plan that can help manage blood glucose levels, especially when taking insulin medication.
Thanks for stopping by my Dealing With Diabetes blog! My name is LeeAnna.