Ah, summertime. Clothing gets lighter, days get longer, and who can resist a good meal made on the grill? Summer barbecues are notorious for greasy burgers, fattening hot dogs and carb-laden potato chips. While there is nothing wrong with any of these things in moderation, eating these types of foods every time you cook out is likely to have you start feeling lethargic and maybe even packing on the pounds. Luckily, there are plenty of ways to have a health summer barbecue.
Start With Your Entrees
For most people, the meat is the most important part of a barbecue, but the grease buildup in most beef can make for some heart attack-inducing hamburgers. If you absolutely must have a burger made of beef, purchase the leanest kind you can find. If you want the sensation of eating a burger, but don’t necessarily need it to be beef, ground turkey is a much leaner option.
Of course, you can grill plenty of other meats too. Many health experts recommend grilling fish. Not only are salmon and trout tasty, but they are also high in omega-3 fatty acids, which are good for your heart. Don’t forget the chicken breasts, either. Skinless, boneless chicken breasts are leaner, healthier, and taste great on a wheat bun.
Make Healthier Side Dishes
Skip the chips and dips at your next barbecue in favor of more colorful options. Green salads and fruit salads taste great and can be filling when mixed with walnuts or almonds. If you can’t have a barbecue without a finger food, try raw vegetables instead of potato chips. You can add texture and flavor to your side dishes by grabbing pineapple, plums, and other fruits and sticking them on the grill. As they heat up, their natural sugars will make them more flavorful. The sweet taste pairs well with fish without adding on the calories found in fruit-based condiments.
Get Rid of Fattening Condiments and Breads
There’s no denying just how tasty a creamy condiment is, but more often than not, the creamier it is, the more fattening it is. Skip creamy salad dressings and unhealthy mayonnaise-based products in favor of fat-free versions. They taste just as great. If you’re someone who likes salty flavors, switch table salt out for soy sauce or teriyaki sauce. Your cheese and bread are calorie culprits as well. If you must have cheese, try fat-free versions or split a slice with someone else. Whole grain breads are higher in fiber and often taste better than traditional white breads.
Think About Drinks
Sodas may be easy to grab, but they are also high in calories and likely to make you feel bloated. Diet versions are a better choice if you simply can’t skip the soda. Water or water-based drinks are even better. Make all-natural lemonade, try some liquid water enhancers or go all out and make smoothies for everyone. Do you plan to have alcohol at your barbecue? Dark liquors tend to be less healthy than white ones, and beer, like soda, can make you feel bloated. Try gin- or vodka-based drinks mixed with sugar-free mixers or soda water.
Don’t Forget Dessert
No cookout is complete without a few sweet treats. The aforementioned grilled fruit also works well as a dessert, as do fruit salads. If those aren’t sweet enough for you, don’t worry. You do have other options. Gelatin with low-fat whipped cream is usually a crowd pleaser.
If you’re looking for a baked good, make some cookies! Hampton Creek cookie dough products use no dairy products, meaning they are free of most allergens and healthier for those who need to watch their cholesterol. If you’d like, you can even make something a bit fancier by filling two cookies with low-fat ice cream or frozen yogurt. Who doesn’t like a good, old-fashioned ice cream sandwich?
Other Tips and Tricks
A healthy cookout isn’t just about the foods you choose. How you prepare them is just as important. Be sure to cook meats over a rack so that excess fats can drip down. Always be sure meats are thoroughly cooked, and never let cold items set in the sun or warm temperatures for too long. Before cooking food, always thoroughly clean the grill. Not doing so can cause a buildup of dangerous carcinogens. It is also important not to overcook food for the same reason.
By following these tips and making healthy food choices, you, your family, and your friends will be able to grill out all the time without worrying about your health. Of course, you can always throw in fun activities like swimming or kickball tournaments to help burn off the calories!
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