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This story is in partnership with National Cattlemen’s Beef Association on behalf of the Beef Checkoff. I received compensation, but all opinions are my own.

This spring I launched a podcast called Happy Eating with my colleague and co-host Brierley Horton, MS, RD, an amazing journalist and former Food and Nutrition Director for Cooking Light magazine. During this podcast, Brierley and I discuss how food and daily habits may impact how you feel and think. The initial idea to create this type of podcast was born after Brierley and I connected for the first time last summer over Zoom to, supposedly, talk work. However, we both quickly realized that each of us was really looking for an engaging adult conversation (work-related or not!) to keep us afloat while spending 24/7 at home with our kids during a pandemic.

During our Zoom call, we discovered that we both have professional and personal interests in understanding the connection between nutrition and mental health. Plus, we also had a lot of key learnings to share from our own personal experiences that we believed might benefit others. Even more importantly though, we felt there was a pivotal need to bring a voice to the nutrition-mental health connection, not only to address specific conditions like anxiety, depression, and ADD/ADHD, but also for everyday mental wellness, because no one is immune to the ups and downs of life. Fast-forward eight months later to the launch of the Healthy Eating podcast!

If you’ve tuned in, then you’ve heard Brierley and me chat up the benefits of eating more produce. If you haven’t, here’s why: fruits and veggies are packed with vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, and antioxidants that are not only great for your body, but also your brain. Produce also delivers fiber which feeds the good bugs in our gut – also something that seems to play a big role in the body’s overall health, including brain health. Depending on the topic, there are other vitamins, minerals, health habits, and diets that we highlight, but eating more produce is one thing that seems to pop up in almost every episode.

Basically, what I’ve been uncovering in my research for new episodes is that if it’s good for the brain, it’s almost always good for mental health, which gives us one more reason to really focus on eating more produce. So, I’ve been looking for creative ways to step up my fruit-and-veggie game, and I’ve found a few new tricks. Lately, my absolute favorite way to eat more produce is something you’re probably not expecting — incorporating more real beef burgers!

Not only are beef burgers a crowd-pleaser and perfect for summer grilling, but they can also be a great vehicle for getting in more veggies. This is a perk that I think often gets overlooked. To highlight this, I developed a delicious recipe for a Greek Tzatziki Beef Burger, full of great flavors and – you guessed it – packed with produce!  Still, I know some of you are probably wondering if a beef burger is really a good way to do this. The answer is “yes!” The key is using nutrient-rich and flavor-filled beef as the foundation to maximize the nutritional benefits of your veggie-loaded burger.

If you visit my site on the regular, you know that I like my proteins, and especially the kinds that come from land dwellers (sorry, seafood). I lean into lean proteins (pun intended!) like this beef burger recipe that uses Ground Sirloin and delivers 10 essential nutrients in just about three ounces.  And, when I top this real beef burger with tasty veggies that are full of fiber, the combination makes me feel satisfied and keeps me feeling full longer, regardless of if I serve it on a whole grain bun, over greens, or on top of brown rice or quinoa.

But back to the mental health side of things. Until recently, I really wasn’t sure exactly how red meat fit into an eating approach designed to improve your mood. So, I was pleasantly surprised when I was sifting through mental health research to find that lean red meat could potentially play a role in mental wellness because of the nutrients it contains. Yep, read that again: lean red meat may be beneficial to your mental health. Lean beef is a source of high-quality protein that delivers important nutrients, like B vitamins, iron, and zinc, which play key roles in neurotransmitter functions that can impact mood, attention, and thinking. And lean red meat is a good source of all these nutrients and provides them in a more bioavailable form.

So, I developed these Greek Tzatziki Beef Burgers to combine delicious lean beef with a hefty dose of veggies to maximize the nutrient offering and potential health benefits from both. I love using a hamburger as a delivery vehicle for produce. Plus, as a bonus, this is a type of healthy eating that appeals to most everyone! Load up on even more produce at a cookout by serving these burgers with fresh corn, a green salad, a black bean salad, or a summer fruit salad. The flavor combinations are seemingly endless!

Now despite all that fanfare, I won’t go so far as to promise this recipe as a cure-all for your mood. But, I can promise you that I had a lot of fun developing (and eating) it. Plus, this fresh, veggies-piled-on, Greek-inspired beef burger made everyone at my dinner table smile. Trust me there.

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Greek tzatziki burgers

Serves 6

A handful of simple ingredients pack big-time flavor into these beef burgers. I like to serve them on rustic bread like a multi-grain ciabatta roll but any type of bun can be used. Or serve them over greens and whole-grains as suggested in variation at the end. Roasted red peppers also make a great addition to these burgers if you’re not a fan of some of the other toppings. Side dishes like fresh corn, a green salad, a black bean salad, or summer fruit are easy ones to serve at cookouts to up that produce intake even more! 

Ingredients

  • 1 ½ pound Ground Sirloin
  • 3 tablespoons minced red onion
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 teaspoons salt-free Greek seasoning
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • ½ cup crumbled feta cheese
  • 6 ciabatta rolls
  • ¾ cup prepared Tzatziki sauce (or other yogurt-based cucumber-dill sauce)
  • 1 ½ cups baby spinach
  • 2 Roma tomatoes, sliced
  • ½ red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 cucumber, cut into thin slices or ribbons

Instructions

1. Combine the Ground Sirloin, red onion, parsley, Greek seasoning, lemon juice, garlic powder, salt, and pepper in a large bowl, mixing to combine well. Add the feta, mixing lightly to incorporate. Shape into six 3/4-inch-thick patties.

2. Place patties on grid over medium, ash-covered coals. Grill, covered, 8 to 10 minutes (over medium heat on a preheated gas grill, 7 to 9 minutes) until an instant-read thermometer inserted horizontally into center registers 160°F, turning occasionally. About 2 minutes before burgers are done, place buns, cut sides down, on the grid. Grill until lightly toasted.

3. Spread Tzatziki sauce on top and bottom halves of rolls. Serve burgers topped with spinach, tomato, red onions, and cucumber.

Grain & Greens Bowl Variation: Prepare and cook the burgers as directed, omitting buns. Toss 3 to 4 cups of cooked brown rice or quinoa (or blend) with 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil and ¼ teaspoon each of salt and pepper. Gently fold in 5 to 6 cups of baby spinach. Divide grain-spinach mixture evenly among 6 bowls or plates. Top with burger and dollop each with 1 to 2 tablespoons of Tzatziki sauce. Arrange other veggies around the burger.

Cook’s Tips

· To prepare on stovetop, heat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat until hot. Place patties in skillet; cook 12 to 15 minutes until an instant-read thermometer inserted horizontally into center registers 160°F, turning occasionally.

· To prepare in the oven, preheat to 375°F. Place burgers on a broiler pan lightly coated with cooking spray. Bake for 26 to 28 minutes, turning after 15 minutes, until an instant-read thermometer inserted horizontally into the center registers 160°F.

· Cooking times are for fresh or thoroughly thawed ground beef. Ground beef should be cooked to an internal temperature of 160°F. Color is not a reliable indicator of ground beef doneness.

Nutrition information per serving using 90% lean ground beef, 1/6 recipe: 430 Calories; 19 g Total Fat (7 g Saturated Fat); 90 mg Cholesterol; 690 mg Sodium; 34 g Total Carbohydrate; 6 g Dietary Fiber; 7 g Total Sugars; 31 g Protein; 0 g Added Sugars

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