This weekend marks the official start to BBQ season—yay! I love the traditional foods of summer: burgers and dogs, creamy salads, yummy desserts. While cookout fare tends not to be the stuff that’s going to win any nutrition awards, you can partake and still walk away with your shorts buttoned. (Check these 7 tricks for staying slim through BBQ season.) It just means making the right choices—and, no, you don’t have to limit yourself to the corn on the cob and watermelon. Just skip (most of) the worst choices; the best ones are often just as satisfying.
1. Bad BBQ main dish:A cheeseburger. A quarter-pound beef burger with a slice of cheese will set you back 510 calories (26 grams of fat). Skipping the cheese will save you about 100 calories. But if you love a good burger, go for it. It’s an excellent source of iron.
Better BBQ main dish:A hot dog is lower in calories than you might think. Enjoy one on a roll with your favorite toppings (with lower-cal toppings like mustard, relish or just a little ketchup) and you’ll come out around 300 calories, 17 g fat.
Related: Can’t live without your burger? Try one of these delicious, better-for-you burger recipes.
2. Bad BBQ side dish:Potato salad. There’s nothing inherently bad about potatoes: they’re actually a great source of vitamin C and fiber, but they contain more calories than other veggies. Plus, most potato salads are smothered in way too much full-fat mayo and will cost you about 360 calories and 20 or so grams of fat per cup.
Better BBQ side dish:Coleslaw can satisfy a craving for something creamy for far fewer calories (83, with 3 grams of fat per cup). Low-cal cabbage is also a rich source of isothiocyanates, compounds that amp up the body’s natural detoxifying enzymes.
Related: Low-Cal Potato Salad Recipes That Won’t Pack Pounds
Find the perfect coleslaw or summer salad to bring to the party.
3. Bad BBQ appetizer:Potato chips with French Onion dip. A large handful of chips delivers about 150 calories and 10 grams of fat. Add to that 60 calories and 4.5 grams of fat from 2 tablespoons of dip. Tortilla chips and guacamole deliver about the same calories (about 140 calories, 7 grams of fat, plus 50 calories and 4.5 grams of fat in the guac). The problem with these snacks isn’t so much how many calories one serving delivers, but rather how darn hard it is to stop there.
Better BBQ appetizer: Veggies with hummus. You can have a full cup of sugar snap peas for 60 calories (0 grams of fat). Add 2 tablespoons of hummus (50 calories, 3 grams of fat) and you have a nice fiber-rich (read: uber-filling) snack for just a little more than 100 calories.
Related: Skipping the chips is no sacrifice when 100-calorie finger foods like EatingWell Deviled Eggs and Tomato-Basil Skewers are on the table.
4. Bad BBQ drink: Margarita (or most other cocktails). Between the alcohol and mixers, a small 3.5-ounce drink packs about 160 calories (0 grams of fat). If you’re staying away from alcohol, you might want to stay away from soda, too: a 12-ounce can delivers about 150 calories—all from added sugars.
Better BBQ (alcoholic) drink:Light beer. A 12-ounce bottle generally has a little less than 100 calories. Or go for the best choice of all: zero-calorie flavored seltzer.
5. Bad BBQ dessert:Strawberry shortcake. Just because it contains fruit doesn’t mean it’s the healthiest or lowest-calorie choice. Between the cake and the loads of whipped cream that typically tops this summer favorite, you get a lot more calories than you may be bargaining for: about 425 (and around 20-25 grams of fat).
Better BBQ dessert:A frozen fruit bar (100 calories, 0 grams of fat). Or even a scoop of vanilla ice cream: 140 calories, about 5 grams of fat.
Related: Craving a brownie or bar instead? Browse these rich-tasting, low-calorie recipes.
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