Memorial Day weekend is almost here – the unofficial start to the summer season. Long days, family gatherings, beach days, and of course, barbecuing! What better way to celebrate the season than with a barbecue?

It’s easy to see why barbecue is a summer staple for many. The flavorful, savory warm weather dishes make it easy to indulge resulting in bloated waistlines and Monday morning regrets. Typical barbecues make it difficult to eat healthy, so as long as you’re filling your plate with nutritious food, you won’t have to feel too guilty about what you’re eating.

Here are some tips for healthy eating at a summer cookout:

– Go light on the red meats – Red meats typically have more saturated fat and are higher in calories. Choose a lean cut of meat such as fish, skinless chicken breast and lean ground poultry are all healthier choices. Avoid grilling hot dogs and other processed meats. If red meat is a guilty pleasure, go with a lean 96/4 blend and add pureed vegetables, such as spinach or red onions for moisture and extra nutrition. Whether you are vegetarian or not, including some meatless alternatives to the menu never hurts. Beyond Meat’s 100% plant-based products are perfect for a vegetarian summer barbecue!

– Add colorful veggies to your plate – The more colorful the plate, the better! Try grilling vegetables such as zucchini, squash, eggplant, portobello mushrooms, peppers and onions, and carrots. Corn on the cob is another great vegetable option, as long as it is not smothered in butter. Throwing some veggie kabobs together is a fun and easy way to get your vegetable fix.

– Portion control – Portion control is key for any meal of the day. Larger portions contain more calories and cause people to underestimate how much food they are actually eating. To help control portion sizing, fill half the plate with veggies or a salad first. Also, downsizing the plate size tends to reduce the amount of food consumed.

– Choose healthier side dishes – Side dishes are always a hit at summer barbecues. However, they can become a nutrition nightmare. Many sides such as potato salad, macaroni salad, and coleslaw are made with tons of mayonnaise adding extra fat and calories to your meal. Instead, swap the mayo for nonfat plain greek yogurt for the creamy sides and a use mustard or vinegar-based dressing for the cole slaw.

– Grill your dessert – Skip the cake, cookies and ice cream and grill your dessert instead. Grilling fruits such as peaches, watermelon, apples pineapples or mangoes are a healthy alternative to artificial, sugary desserts. Grilling fruit intensifies the flavors and caramelizes the natural sugars, leaving the fruit sweet and juicy.  

– To drink or not to drink –  What’s better than a cold alcoholic beverage on a hot day? Let me answer that for you; nothing! People tend to forget that beverages can account for a sneaky amount of unnecessary calories. If you choose to drink alcohol, grab a light beer or a 100 calorie White Claw gluten-free spiked seltzer! Be sure to steer clear of high-calorie juices and sodas. Instead, grab a club soda with freshly squeezed lemon or lime. Trust me, your jeans will thank you later! 

You don’t have to give up your weekend cookout to stay healthy this summer. Follow these tips, portion your meals, load up on fruits and veggies, and remember to have fun and enjoy yourself!

– Gabriella Costantini



Smart Lifebites