Food Fight: Turkey Burger vs. Beef Burger

It’s an all-out war! With grilling season here, which type of burger should you be tossing on the barbecue?
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It's an all-out war! With grilling season here, which type of burger should you be tossing on the barbecue?
Turkey Burger

Ground turkey has a reputation for being a very lean meat, but that's only the case if you choose ground turkey breast. Unless otherwise specified, the dark turkey meat and skin gets mixed in with the light making it fattier than you may think.

A 4-ounce cooked turkey burger (made from a combo of dark and light meat) has 193 calories, 11 grams of fat, 3 grams of saturated fat and 22 grams of protein. It's an excellent source of niacin and selenium and a good source of vitamin B6, phosphorus and zinc. Choosing ground turkey made from only breast will have 150 calories, 1.5 grams of fat, and 0 grams saturated fat. Since it's so lean, it can end up being too dry and not-so-tasty.

Undercooked ground turkey has been associated with salmonella, so make sure your turkey burger is safe to eat by cooking it to 165 degrees Fahrenheit. Check that the proper temperature is reached by using a thermometer.

Beef Burger

You can definitely find lean cuts of ground beef on market shelves. Look for ground sirloin or ground beef that is 90% lean. For a 4-ounce cooked lean beef burger you'll take in around 225 calories, 12 grams of fat, 5 gram of saturated fat and 27 grams of protein. It's an excellent source of niacin, vitamin B12, zinc and selenium and a good source of vitamin B6, iron and phosphorus. Fattier ground beef is all over store shelves, so be sure to read labels carefully.

Undercooked ground beef has been associated with the bacteria E. Coli, so make sure your beef burger is safe to eat by cooking it to 160 degrees Fahrenheit.

The Bread

This is a good time to choose a whole-grain bun to help meet the USDA's Dietary Guidelines to make half your daily grains whole. Choose a whole wheat bun, or if you're trying to cut calories go for half a bun, English muffin or wrap your burger in a lettuce leaf.

The Toppings

Pile high the veggie toppings like lettuce, tomatoes, and onions or add some extra flavor by grilling onions and mushrooms in a teaspoon of oil. If you're a cheeseburger lover, stick with one slice of cheese or you'll send the calories and sodium through the roof. Also be mindful with condiments like catchup, mayo, and barbecue sauce because of the extra fat and sugar and keep portions to 1 tablespoon.

Healthy Eats Winner: A cookout just wouldn't be the same without a good old beef burger. The calories between the two burgers aren't significantly different. Buying turkey can be tricky and if you aren't careful, it can actually have much higher fat and calories than you think. Whichever type of burger you choose, keep cooked patties at 4-ounces with modestly portioned toppings to make it healthy eats.

Want to try the recipes in the photo on top?
Turkey burger, left: Bobby Flay's Turkey Burger
TELL US: Who gets your vote: turkey burger or beef burger?

Toby Amidor, MS, RD, CDN, is a registered dietitian and consultant who specializes in food safety and culinary nutrition. See Toby's full bio »

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