Ready, set…Grill! Memorial Day weekend is the official start of barbecue season. To help you keep your backyard BBQs from becoming diet disasters, use our healthy grilling ideas to plan your party menu.
Although grilling can be one of the healthiest and tastiest ways to cook, a typical BBQ menu of burgers, brats and dogs, and creamy sides can be a diet disaster totaling more than 2,000 calories and two days’ worth of harmful saturated fat. Use these tips to create a leaner BBQ menu.
Nix the Chips
Instead of crunching on high-calorie chips, serve up a tray of mixed baby veggies with a trio of healthy dips like hummus, black bean dip and muhammara. (Check our favorite summer dip recipes.) Mixed nuts are always a crowd-pleaser and reams of research show that eating nuts improves markers for health.
Serve Slimmed Down Sides
The main dishes of BBQs—grilled meats, poultry and fish—are generally considered good-for-you but the creamy side dishes can be diet disasters. Skip the creamy potato and pasta salads, which often pile in more than 350 calories per cup, and enjoy summer veggies grilled to perfection. Corn on the cob, summer squash, asparagus, bell peppers and eggplant are sure to please your taste buds while adding less than 50 calories per cup. Just pick your favorites and toss in plastic bag with oil, pepper or your favorite seasonings.
Build a Better Burger (…or Dog)
If you’re opting for burgers, use the leanest ground beef possible (I often buy ground sirloin for my burgers, as it’s leaner) or use skinless turkey breast or Portabella mushrooms. For added moisture, mix meat with an egg, chopped onion and other veggies. If you choose breast meat, be sure not to overcook.
For hot dogs, you can slash saturated fat by choosing chicken or turkey based options over beef. There are also some great tasting vegetarian dogs on the market that are low in both calories and saturated fat. In fact, with some brands of veggie dogs you can slash calories and saturated fat by over 50 percent vs. regular beef hot dogs. Use this chart to see the healthiest options when purchasing hot dogs and here for a guide to help you find the best portable grill.
Instead of sweets like pie, ice cream or brownies to end your meal, opt for guilt-free choices that are fruit-based and good for you too. There are an endless number of healthy desserts you can make when you start with fruit. It can be as simple as individual servings of fresh berries or a fruit cobbler. We also individual Strawberry Cheesecake Bites (just 40 calories each) and these festive blueberry-yogurt parfaits.
Rethink Your Drink
If you want to be bathing suit-ready all summer long, one of the best tips we have is to cut back on liquid calories, because beverages don’t provide the same feelings of fullness compared to the same calories of real food. Skip sodas and other sugary beverages and reach for sparkling water (or plain tap) or unsweetened iced tea instead. As for alcohol, it can be a triple-threat to your waistline. Alcoholic beverages are often high in calories and alcohol stimulates your appetite while it chips away at your resolve to eat healthier. For more about alcohol, check out how to put the brakes on booze to lose lbs.