Eating Healthy at a BBQ

By Susan Epstein, MS, RD, CDN

Summer is finally here! Part of the fun of summer includes lazy afternoons and backyard barbecues with family and friends. So many classic cookout foods including hotdogs, potato salad, and coleslaw, are not the healthiest choices. How can a person stay on track? Here are some tasty tips to help you enjoy the summer without straying from your healthy eating habits:
1. Look for protein first. Ideally, chicken or fish are always the best choices. If the only option is a burger, go for it, but leave off the bun. The protein will help satisfy you and will help reduce the temptation for starches and sugars.

2. Skip the Starchy Side Dishes. Chips, potato salad, and even baked beans are no-no’s. If you’re choosing side dishes, look for grilled vegetables and salad. If salad is not an option, use toppings that are cut up for the burgers like onions, tomatoes, and lettuce and make your own mini salad.

3. Bring your own healthy side dish. This can be a vegetable platter along with salsa or a homemade Greek yogurt dip. This will ensure that you have something nutritious to munch on.

4. Beware of condiments, especially mayonnaise. Ketchup can also contain too much sugar. Safe choices include mustard and salsa. If it’s possible, bring your own BBQ sauce. Walden Farms brand for example, is sugar free and calorie free. Many other brands are high in refined sugars including corn syrup and molasses.

5. You may also want to bring your own salad dressing. You’re looking for a “light” dressing that provides 30 calories or less per serving. If this is not an option, choose clear dressings such as Italian rather than creamy dressings such as Ranch or Blue Cheese.

6. Finally, be careful of what you drink. It’s important to stay hydrated, especially in the heat of the summer. Water is your best choice. Avoid carbonated beverages like soda and seltzer. Also stay away from beverages with sugar including juice, iced tea, and fruit punch.

Barbecues and cookouts are just part of the fun of summer. Enjoy the time with your family and friends and remember these tips to help you enjoy the summer in a healthy way!

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