How-to Guide to Summer Barbecues

Updated: Jul 10, 2018

Summer is here! It's time for fun in the sun, lighter clothes and my favorite, the backyard barbecue. There's nothing better than getting a group of friends together for an impromptu cookout after a long day. Unfortunately, the spontaneous nature of these outings often leaves us eating a variety of grilled meats and pre-made grocery store salad sopping in mayo. It's my mission this summer to give these events a dietitian's makeover!

All of your best efforts to stay on track with your eating habits is out the window when it comes to standard summer favorites. Let's do the math:

1 cup of potato salad: 400 calories

1 cup macaroni salad: 250 calories

1 hot dog: 150 calories and a whopping 550 grams of sodium

1 hot dog bun: 120 calories

1 ear of corn with butter: 150 calories

1 handful potato chips: 150 calories

Plate full of cookout food
Delicious? Yes.

In total, that's about 1,200 calories! Add in any obligatory alcoholic beverages to that and consider yourself well-done.

What can we do about it while still enjoying the flavors of summer?

1. Balance your plate: All of the foods listed above are fine if eaten in moderation. Try just a taste of the big-hitters (potato and macaroni salad) by serving a total of 1/2-1 cup to yourself. Eat your burger or dog and fill up on veggies to make up the difference.

2. Add a veggie: If this is your shindig, balance out your heavier menu choices by adding grilled veggies, or a simple salad. Make half your plate veggies and go easy on the rest. If you are a guest, bring a salad so you know it will be there! Try this dill cucumber salad to liven things up!

3. Lighten up your meats: Standard BBQ fare is burgers, dogs, BBQ chicken and sausage. Try adding lighter options like grilled chicken without the sauce, grilled shrimp or fish.

Staying on a healthy meal plan doesn't need to be difficult. If you find yourself at a barbecue without any of these options, just do the best you can. Enjoy the surroundings and if you go a little overboard, remember it's only one meal. You'll make up for it next time!

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