Just about everyone loves a good cheeseburger. Unfortunately, cheeseburgers have gotten a bad reputation and are generally shunned by the fitness community. I’m here to tell you that cheeseburgers are not bad and can be a central part of your regular diet if you apply a little common sense. In this post I’ll go over the nutritional aspects of burgers and lay out the cheeseburger diet.
Why the Bad Reputation
Most dieters fall into one of two camps: low-fat or low-carb. The low-fat camp won’t go near a cheeseburger because of the high fat content. The low-carb camp won’t go near them because of the bun. Vegetarians and vegans won’t touch them because of the meat. And the medical community frowns upon them for the high saturated fat which is a risk factor for heart disease. No wonder burgers get so little love from dieters outside of the occasional cheat day.
The Realities of Healthy Eating and Cheeseburgers
The most important aspect of your diet is the total caloric intake in relation to the calories that you burn throughout the day. There’s no need to follow a very low-fat or very low-carb diet, and there’s no solid evidence that either of those approaches are healthier or more effective for weight loss than a more balanced diet. Regarding the risk factors for heart disease, maintaining a healthy body weight and a healthy lifestyle are much more important than the amount of saturated fat in your diet.
Another reality is that many people eat their cheeseburgers loaded with high calorie toppings, along with a side of fries and a soft drink, which makes for an extremely high calorie meal that’s sure to ruin any diet. Fries and soda are some of the worst things you can consume, as I discussed in my blog post “five steps to a lean physique”. If you drop those items and are smart about how you prepare your burger, you’ll be nearly ready for the cheeseburger diet.
Burgers have many nutritional benefits. They’re an excellent source of complete protein, and they’re rich in minerals and B vitamins. They also contain athletic performance enhancers such as creatine, L-carnitine, carnosine, and conjugated linoleic (CLA).
How to Prepare Your Cheeseburger
I recommend using a Foreman type grill to cook your burger, which can reduce the fat content by 40%. A large ½ pound patty made from 80/20 ground beef cooked on a Foreman grill has roughly 400 calories. A bun has roughly 150 calories, and a slice of cheese has roughly 100 depending on the type. Feel free to add low calorie toppings such as lettuce, tomato, pickles, onions, ketchup, and mustard. The total calories in the cheeseburger will be roughly 700. Do not add mayo, which is pure fat. If you must have mayo or other fat-based sauces on your burger, then drop the cheese to compensate. If a half-pound patty is too big for you, feel free to downsize to 4 or 6 oz.
The Cheeseburger Diet
As much as I enjoy burgers, I wouldn’t recommend eating them at every meal! For one meal per day, eat a cheeseburger prepared as described above, along with a low-calorie side such as broccoli, green beans, or baked potato chips. For your remaining meals, eat a balanced diet including some fruits and veggies, to fill your calorie allotment for the day.
Here’s a sample diet in the range of 2,500-3,000 calories designed for someone who’s active and lifts weights. If you don’t weight train, I’d drop the post workout and evening snacks.
Breakfast (600-700 cals) – Fruit and Veggie Protein Smoothie or 5 eggs & cup oatmeal & piece of fruit
Lunch (700-800 cals) – Large cheeseburger & cup of greens or baked potato chips
Post Workout (300-400 cals) – piece of fruit and a protein drink
Dinner (600-800 cals) – 8 oz. of chicken, fish, or lean steak & cup of rice & cup of greens
Evening snack (300-400 cals) – large protein bar or half cup of nuts
Limit your beverages to water and coffee, except on special occasions.
The above meal plan is just an example. It can be scaled up or down based on your goals and caloric needs. The point is that cheeseburgers are not to be feared, and you can eat this delicious food on a regular basis if you’re smart about preparing it and mindful of your total caloric intake.