A Nutritionist’s Guide To Ordering Burgers

A Nutritionist’s Guide To Ordering Burgers


Sometimes nothing but a burger and fries will do. But in those moments of need, how much thought do you put into your order? To help you make a considered choice, we asked three nutritionists what they do when they get the urge – and they also rated the best options at six big-name chains.
Photography PEXELS/ RON LACH

Look For Lean Protein

“If you want to indulge in a burger without (totally) sacrificing your health goals, opt for a lean protein filling. If choosing between beef, lamb, chicken or plant-based protein, go for one of the latter two options. Veggie burgers don't always offer the best protein, but those containing pulses or soy tend to have a higher protein count and fewer calories. Another great option is turkey, which is typically leaner than beef or lamb. If you're uncertain about ingredients, ask the restaurant for the nutritional information booklet. Also, it might sound obvious, but steer clear of fried options which are typically high in trans-fat and not the best for waistlines or maintaining a healthy diet.”– Rachael Sacerdoti, nutritionist & fitness coach

“A protein-heavy burger will be far more filling compared to non-protein options like portobello mushrooms. Protein is our most filling macronutrient, so I’d look for chicken which will be lower in fat, particularly saturated fat, salt and calories.” – Lucy Jones, associate nutritionist

Go Grilled Not Fried

“If I was going to avoid anything, it would be double burgers or anything fried, like buttermilk chicken. Instead, choose something that’s been grilled and ‘home made’ with decent ingredients. You’re more likely to find this in a good-quality restaurant than at a quick takeaway or street stand.” – Rob Hobson, registered nutritionist

Don’t Ditch The Bun

“It might seem like the healthier option to skip the bread and choose a lettuce leaf ‘bun’, but burger buns offer carbohydrates which are digested into glucose – the nutrient that our brain is fuelled by. Just look for wholegrain buns which contain more fibre.” – Lucy


Easy On The Sauce

“Stay away from creamy dressings like mayonnaise and opt for lighter options such as mustard, salsa or hot sauce. Ketchup and BBQ sauce are high in sugar, preservatives and sodium so it's best to avoid or limit them too. Asking for condiments on the side is a good way to help with portion control. You could also ask if a low or no-sugar alternative is available, or add sauce at home if you’re getting a takeaway.” – Rachael

“Tomato and BBQ sauces often have lots of sugar hidden in them, while burger sauces and coleslaw tend to be higher in fat. I’d stick to just one sauce to help limit added sugar, fat and salt.” – Lucy

Load Up On Veg

“Avoid excessive amounts of cheese, bacon and fried toppings as they can seriously increase the calorie and fat content. Instead, load up on veggies like lettuce, tomato, onion and pickles to add nutrients and fibre to your burger, while keeping the calories down. It's important to remember that moderation is key. Enjoying a burger occasionally as part of a well-balanced diet can still be a part of a nutritious lifestyle. It's all about finding a balance – for example, the 80:20 principle says you can afford to make unhealthier choices 20% of the time.” – Rachael

“I’d look for healthier fillings like salsas, grated carrot, beetroot and avocado. Gherkins can be a little high in salt but I don’t see anything wrong with a few. I would also recommend adding lentil sprouts which are really tasty, as are fresh chillies.” – Rob 


Five Guys

“Five Guys is known for its customisable burgers, allowing you to choose from a range of toppings. While it doesn't offer many healthy options, you can still make mindful choices. Try a lettuce wrap instead of a bun, load up on vegetables, and go smaller on sizes. Avoid adding excessive cheese and limit the amount of mayo or other high-calorie sauces. I’d stick to the ‘Little’ patty option and avoid the milkshakes.” – Rachael 

“I’d go for the single burger in a bun with lots of the veggie fillings like lettuce, raw onions, jalapeno peppers and tomatoes. The relish is a good option as it looks low in calories and salt. The side of fries looks very generous – even the small one has more calories than the burger – so you may want to share those with a friend.” – Rob 

Visit FiveGuys.co.uk

Honest Burgers

“I would choose the Beef or Smashed burger with a single patty. On the more decadent side, the Chilli burger is one I’d have less often given it’s the highest saturated fat option. It also contains 5.3g of salt – the daily recommended maximum for salt is 6g. If you’re after a chicken burger, choose the Pesto burger, which is grilled and lower in fat and salt than the fried Buffalo chicken burger. Regardless of your choice, pair it with a seasonal salad to make sure you’re getting your veg.” – Lucy 

“The healthiest sauce option is the hot sauce. Interestingly, the Vegan Bacon Ketchup is the highest in calories at 300 a serving. Avoid this and add on a portion of coleslaw which isn’t too rich in mayonnaise.” – Rob 

Visit HonestBurgers.co.uk


“It’s easy to assume GBK’s bun-less burgers are lower in calories and healthier – but you’d be wrong. Surprisingly, some of the ‘Go Naked’ burgers contain more calories than their counterparts with buns. Go for the classic beef or chicken burger which both come with house mayo and relish, meaning you’ll still get a burst of flavour without excessive added fat, sugar or salt. Choosing a grilled chicken burger over fried will reduce the fat and calories.” – Lucy 

“If you're vegetarian or vegan, GBK has plenty of options. Make your order healthier with a wholegrain bun or lettuce wrap and select lean protein, like chicken or veggie patties. Go light on the cheese and sauce, and load up on fresh veg. I’d choose the Classic Chicken Chargrilled without mayo and avoid the halloumi, chicken tenders and chunky chips.” – Rachael

Visit GBK.co.uk

Shake Shack

“Healthier choices at Shake Shack include its cheeseburger or ‘Shack Burger’, but make sure you go for a single patty rather than a double one to cut down on fat, salt and calories. Another healthier swap would be switching ale-marinated shallots for fresh onion slices. Not only is this going to add a refreshing crunch, it’s going to massively cut down the fat in your burger, while adding prebiotic fibres.” – Lucy 

Visit ShakeShack.co.uk

Patty & Bun

“These burgers are pretty full on, but that’s why you visit this restaurant. Try adapting your order and remove some of the sauces. I would order the Jose Jose chilli burger with several adaptations. Remove the cheese, mayo and ketchup, and stick with the chilli relish. Chips come in one size but they look homemade with the skin on, which is a little better than a frozen thinner chip.” – Rob

“Avoid the Lambshank Redemption burger which is loaded. My top pick would be the vegan Ari Gold Cheeseburger which has a protein-based patty that’s likely lower in saturated fat than a standard cheeseburger.” – Lucy 

Visit PattyandBun.co.uk

Meat Liquor

“Meat Liquor’s menu screams indulgence, but there are a few ‘healthier’ options. The only single patty burger is the Plain Jane which you can dress up with added salad. Alternatively, if you love the look of another burger on the menu, swap down to just a single patty to save on fat and calories. If you’re looking for meat-free choices, sway towards the Tempeh Tantrum for a good helping of protein, which the Burgaloo 2 and Garlic ’Shroom burger lack.” – Lucy 

“Meat Liquor’s fries come in at nearly 1,000 calories, so it’s probably best to leave these alone. The healthiest sauce on the menu seems to be the BBQ option so you could add some of that to your burger.” – Rob 

Visit MeatLiquor.com

For more information and nutritional advice, visit RobHobson.co.uk and Lutrition.co.uk – and follow @ItsSoSimple_RS on Instagram

DISCLAIMER: Features published by SLMan are not intended to treat, diagnose, cure or prevent any disease. Always seek the advice of your GP or another qualified healthcare provider for any questions you have regarding a medical condition, and before undertaking any diet, exercise or other health-related programme.

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