It’s no secret that Americans love barbecuing: 80 percent of all US households own a grill or smoker, according to the Hearth, Patio and Barbecue Association. 60 percent of these households use the grill all year round.
For the other 40 percent, spring and summer are prime time, and no wonder: A. Barbecue party in the backyard is one of the cheapest, most fun ways to spend a day with family and friends – and it’s an invitation few people can turn down thanks to the incredible, flame-kissed food.
But don’t let those amazing, lazy Saturdays slow down all of the weight loss progress you’ve made Monday through Friday! Be wary of BBQ calorie bombs waiting to sabotage your success. Instead, fill your plate and enjoy the day with our 23 healthy grill dishes and these five easy BBQ swaps:
Instead of: Back for a second cheeseburger cheese
Try this: Start with one and get creative with your seconds
A lean burger with a slice of low-fat cheese won’t ruin your diet. And with veggies on top and to the side, it can make for a pretty balanced meal.
But if you’re the type of person who only has to go back to the grill for seconds, then wrap a small burger in lettuce the second time to save the calories from the bun. You can also cut up a small burger and use it as a topping on a salad plate so you can get the burger flavor without all of those extra calories.
Are you looking for tips on how to make a weight loss burger?
Read this article on How to Build a Healthier Burger for your barbecue schedule, then try one of ours Better burger recipes. Spices can be calorie bombs too, so check these out five low-calorie spices for a little more taste. You can also use your freezer with that Classic hamburger from Nutrisystem for a perfectly portioned option that’s ready in no time!
2. Pasta salad
Instead of: A large sip of mayo-heavy pasta or potato salad
Try this: Have a drink, then visit the vegetable drawer
There’s basically nothing wrong with potatoes or pasta, but when fast-acting carbohydrates like these are combined with saturated fats, eating them doubles the risks to your cardiovascular health. Not to mention the calories: a serving of homemade potato salad is 358 calories – more than the burger and bun you’ll be eating it with.
If your barbecue evening isn’t complete without a little bit of creamy stuff, take a small amount (no more than half a cup) then pile your plate of raw vegetables if you’re still hungry. Better yet, go straight to the vegetable drawer from the start. Once you’ve replenished the nutrient-dense stuff, you may not have room for calorie bombs like mayo-based side dishes.
Or, probably our favorite solution: whip a bowl of your own pasta salad or potato salad. We have a healthier recipe for pasta salad right here. And this article provides a guide to building a healthier potato salad.
3. Baked beans
Instead of: Canned baked beans spill over your plate
Try this: Freshly chopped vegetarian kebabs that you can eat all day
At an event full of fresh, homemade food, expertly prepared and lovingly prepared, canned baked beans are an odd staple – laden with preservatives that sit on a shelf for months, just waiting to drip over your burger bun, stain your watermelon slice and mix with your dessert.
All of this for nearly 20 percent of your daily sodium, 10 grams of sugar, and roughly the same amount of calories as two small ears of corn – and that’s only in half a cup serving. And who really only scoops half a cup of baked beans? In a list of BBQ calorie bombs, this can easily be replaced with something lighter and tastier.
Bring a page that is worthy of the occasion and that you can actually eat with your hands. Cut the onions, zucchini, bell pepper and yellow pumpkin into pieces and prepare vegetarian kebabs. Throw them on the grill until the pumpkins soften. Enjoy them, handheld, with your burger, dog and corn on the cob. You won’t mess your watermelon or bun with sticky residue, and you can eat as much as you want without deviating from your plan.
4. Potato chips
Instead of: Nibble on chips mindlessly
Try this: Play a game with the kids
Yes, the event is called the BBQ party, but it’s not just about the food. The reasons you came might be your aunt’s famous spice mix that makes the burgers absolutely amazing, but it can also be about the family or friends you might want to spend the day with.
So focus on them after you eat: talk to them, meet up, and move away from those tempting snacks – studies have shown that physical distance can keep you from chewing. In a study of a candy dish in the office, dieters ate 1.8 more candy per day when the dish was on their desk than when it was just 6 feet away. Move the chips away from you to combat pointless chewing.
And if you long to eat more than just one, keep in mind that your body is probably not looking for chips, but rather a change in your brain chemistry: when you eat a salty, savory, or sweet snack, your body releases a biochemical substance called a release Dopamine, which is associated with pleasure. But you can get this recreational chemical in other non-food ways – such as through exercise.
Instead of grabbing a handful of chips while your uncle tells another fish story, excuse yourself to play badminton or blow bubbles with your nieces and nephews. You’ll get away from the snacks (and this story!) And indulge in the dopamine release you crave.
Instead of: The sad wasteland of the dessert table
Try this: Bring something fruity and summery
There is no typical cookout dessert, and that is the problem: what is there is somehow only there to be something sweet. It’s calorie bombs like brownies that wither in the sun and cookies that melt into each other. When you’re on a diet, it’s not the kind of special, delicious treat that warrants a fall from the weight-loss cart. The worst thing is that it does not do without any of the things that make a grill item perfect: using the grill or removing the heat for a cool, refreshing treat.
Solve both problems: bring some peaches and a container of lightly whipped topping to make something healthy grilled peaches! Cut them in half and remove the pips. When the grill is almost ready for meat, place the peaches cut-side down for about two minutes until they soften and get cool-looking grill lines.
Serve each half with a large blob (about a tablespoon) of the whipped topping in the hole where the pit was. When it’s around, you can sprinkle a pinch of cinnamon on it for a summery, hot and cool treat that’s really special – and only available in summer.
If you don’t want to take over the grill, bring fresh blueberries and chop strawberries with the whip. Mix half a cup of each fruit with a tablespoon of the whip for a cool, refreshing treat that screams summer again. Oh, and it’s red, white, and blue – a dessert that’s almost as American as apple pie.
Check out this delicious recipe for Fruit on a stick with yogurt dip. Do you love something sweeter? How about a Healthy ice cream recipe, a Slushie recipe or a Popsicle Recipe?
Are you looking for creative ways to enjoy the best fruits of summer? Check out these great articles: