I’m always bummed when Labor Day weekend is here, because it means the end of another summer (Sigh!) But don’t feel too bad for me because since I live in NorCal, September and October are generally warmer and nicer than July and August, so really, we have at least two more months of summer.
While grilling is one of the healthiest ways to cook food because it minimizes any added fats and the high-heat brings out the natural flavors of food, a typical BBQ menu of burgers, brats and dogs, and creamy potato salad can pack in more than 2,000 calories and more than two day’s worth of fat.
Labor Day Healthy Grilling Guide
Appetizer calories (think creamy side dishes and sour-cream dips) can really pile up, so make sure you have a lot of fiber-rich and calorie-poor veggies with healthy dips, like black bean dip, hummus and Greek-yogurt based dips.
I’ll prepare grilled vegetables including corn on the cob, summer squash, bell peppers and eggplant are perfect appetizers. All you need to do is put in a plastic bag with a little olive oil and salt and pepper or your favorite seasonings.
For a better chip to go with your lighter dips, use our chip-buying guide.
I’ll also serve a mixed fruit salad, and this year, I’m doing grilled Romaine lettuce with a Caesar-style dressing and toasted pepitas.
To build a healthier burger, use the leanest ground beef possible (I often buy ground sirloin for my burgers as it’s leader) or use skinless turkey breast or Portabella mushrooms. If you use breast meat, be sure not to overcook and I find that they’re best when you add an egg and chopped onion and other veggies to them to lock in more moisture.
For dogs, refer to our guide for the hottest diggity dogs. In addition to myriad chicken or turkey based dogs, you can also find vegetarian dogs on the market that are extremely low in calories and saturated fat.
I’m having beef, turkey and salmon steaks with a soy-ginger glaze at my party because of all the special requests that my health-conscious friends will enjoy and feel good about.
For something sweet, go for in-season fruit like berries or watermelon. There’s all kinds of healthy desserts you can make when you start to incorporate sweet fruit into treats. It can be as simple as a fruit dessert topped with fresh mint sprigs or a Greek yogurt and fruit layered parfait or a cobbler.
When it comes to waist-management, it’s important to eat your calories not drink them because liquid calories aren’t filling. And, there are plenty of reasons why alcohol is considered the leading diet wrecker.
If you want to enjoy an alcoholic beverage at a cookout, try a light or ultra-light beer. Some have as few as 55 calories now a bottle. Or, you can have an ounce of distilled spirits with a calorie-free mixer. I’ll have lots of still and sparkling waters available, light and regular beer at my party.
A great idea is to make a fruit-infused mixed drink. I have made this watermelon wine spritzer recipe and love them.