The sound of burgers sizzling at a barbecue is synonymous with post-race fun. Unfortunately, fatty, cheesy beef patties are far from the ideal recovery fuel. But you can create nutritious and tasty burgers using healthier ingredients like salmon or sweet potato. “Burgers made with items like fish or beans offer higher amounts of omega-3 fats and fibre that are beneficial to runners,” says marathoner and sports dietitian Anthony Meade. These five flavour-packed burgers won’t leave you craving the cow.
MEDITERRANEAN CHICKEN BURGERS
Chicken burgers often end up dry and tasteless. The key is to add moisture- and flavour-packed mix-ins, like the following Mediterranean-inspired ingredients. Roasted red capsicum adds vitamin C, an antioxidant important for a runner’s immune system, says Meade, “especially people in heavy training who begin to feel run down.” Feta cheese delivers bone-building calcium and phosphorus, while olives provide disease-fighting phenol antioxidants. Top them with sun-dried-tomato spread for a dose of lycopene, a carotenoid compound that may help lessen the damaging effects of the sun’s UV rays and lower skin-cancer risk.
Grill it: In a large bowl, mix 450 grams lean chicken mince, 1/2 cup chopped feta cheese, 1/2 cup chopped roasted red capsicum, 1/3 cup chopped fresh basil, 1/3 cup chopped Kalamata olives, and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper. Form into 4 patties and grill 6 minutes per side, or until cooked through. In a blender or food processor, combine 1/2 cup oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, 1/3 cup olive oil, 2 tablespoons red-wine vinegar, 2 teaspoons fresh thyme, 1 garlic clove, 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika, and 1/4 teaspoon each salt and black pepper. Blend until smooth. Serve burgers topped with the spread.
ASIAN SALMON BURGERS
Use salmon to load up on omega-3 fats. Researchers in Britain found that eating more fish fat improves immune function, which may help runners fend off colds and infections by fighting inflammation and stimulating germ-fighting cells. To bind the patty together, use wheat germ instead of white bread crumbs, as the former is rich in fibre and nutrients, including B vitamins, magnesium, zinc, and the antioxidant selenium. Grilled pineapple makes for a sweet, juicy topping that’s abundant in vitamin C and manganese, a mineral required for proper carbohydrate metabolism and bone formation.
Grill it: In a food processor bowl, combine 225 grams skinless salmon fillet, 2 tablespoons reduced-salt soy sauce, 1 tablespoon sesame oil, 2 teaspoons chilli sauce, 2 chopped garlic cloves, 2 teaspoons minced fresh ginger, 1 teaspoon orange zest, and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper. Blend into a pasty puree. Finely chop another 225 grams salmon and pulse into the pureed mixture, along with 1/2 cup wheat germ, 3 chopped spring onions, and 1/4 cup chopped coriander. Form into 4 patties and grill 4 minutes per side, or until cooked through. Brush 4 pineapple rings with oil and grill for 2 minutes per side, or until they have grill marks. Top each burger with 2 teaspoons hoisin sauce and a slice of grilled pineapple.
SWEET POTATO–BEAN BURGERS
Combine sweet potato and navy beans for a veggie burger packed with carbs, protein, vitamin A, and fibre. “Vitamin A improves vision and immune health,” says Meade. Fibre slows digestion and keeps you feeling full. Mix in nutrient-dense walnuts for some crunch, and swap out mayo for a spread of olive oil and parsley. The herb is rich in vitamin K, which bolsters bone health.
Grill it: Steam or boil 2 medium peeled and chopped sweet potatoes until tender. Let cool, then mash together with 1 can (400g) drained cannellini or butter beans. Stir in 2/3 cup wheat germ, 1/2 cup chopped red onion, 1/2 cup chopped walnuts, 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard, 1 teaspoon ground cumin, and 1/4 teaspoon each salt and black pepper. Form into 6 patties and grill 4 minutes per side, or until crust is crispy. In a blender, combine 1 cup parsley, 1/3 cup olive oil, juice of 1/2 lemon, 1 chopped garlic clove, and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Blend until smooth and spoon onto burgers.