The Best Choices at the Backyard Barbecue

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Grilled meat isn’t inherently unhealthy, yet for some reason when we gather around the backyard for a cookout with friends and family we inevitably go overboard with the eating and drinking. Traditional summer barbecue foods tend to be creamy, delicious, and loaded with calories and fat, but it’s possible to fill your plate and still feel satisfied without sabotaging your calorie goal for the day. Here are some swaps to consider.

MAINS

Skip… The Cheeseburger A patty with a slice of cheese can set you back 510 calories and 26 grams of fat. If you’re really craving beef, enjoy the burger without the creamy topper and use lettuce instead of a bun.

Savor… A Hotdog Lower in fat than you might think, hotdogs are typically accompanied by lower calorie toppings, too. Try yours “garden style” with shredded lettuce, diced tomatoes, onions, and mustard, for a tasty lunch around 300 calories and 17 grams of fat.

SIDES

Skip… The Potato Salad Potatoes are higher in calories and lower in vitamins than most veggies, which isn’t terrible, but when you slather them with mayonnaise things get ugly—one cup of typical potato salad is around 360 calories and 20 grams of fat.

Savor… The Coleslaw Yes, it’s also made with mayo, but cabbage contains fewer calories than potatoes, and raw cabbage is a good source of isothiocyanates, compounds that have been shown in studies to protect against cancer. One ¾-cup serving of coleslaw has about 150 calories and 11 grams of fat.

DESSERTS

Skip… The Strawberry Shortcake The jewels of summer, strawberries turn up in a number of popular backyard-barbecue dessert recipes, including cakes, tarts, and pies. While the berries are loaded with vitamin C and other antioxidants, the health benefits are blunted when sugar and cream are added to the mix. One average serving of strawberry shortcake can weigh in around 425 calories and 25 grams of fat.

Savor… The Watermelon Or any other fresh fruit. Naturally sweet, watermelon and other fruit can curb a dessert craving and help you stay hydrated in the hot sun. One cup of watermelon contains only 46 calories, and slips in about 170mg of potassium, too.

Where do you try to save calories and where do you splurge when you’re at a cookout with friends? Tell us in the comments!

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