Nothing says summer like a backyard barbecue, whether it’s to celebrate Father’s Day or the Fourth of July.
But if you’re watching what you eat, grilling out can feel more stressful than scrumptious. We asked UAB EatRight expert Megan Davis, MS, RD, for her top tips on enjoying the ‘cue in a healthy way.
1. Plate Proportions. “Stick with the basics of healthy eating, like filling half of your plate with vegetables and using smaller plates—9 inches or less in diameter,” Davis says. “These tactics can drastically reduce the number of calories you eat while allowing you to grab a plateful of grilled goodness.”
2. Think Outside the Bun. We’re not talking Taco Bell, but getting creative with your protein options. “Rather than cooking up the same old burgers and hotdogs, opt for salmon, chicken breast, pork loins, or leaner cuts of beef,” Davis says. “You’ll save about 120 calories by skipping the bun.”
3. A Better Burger. If it’s a burger you crave, answer the call, but do it in a healthier way. “A typical beef burger has roughly 200 calories and 5 grams of saturated fat,” Davis says. “Instead, go for a leaner alternative such as a turkey, black bean, or even a lean ground beef burger as a satisfying way to save calories.”
4. Guilt-Free Dips. Put the ripe vegetables of summer to work with Davis’ homemade salsa recipe. “At 20 calories per serving, it’s a great alternative to the usual backyard barbecue dips, which can have 100 calories or more in two tablespoons.”
Healthy Backyard Salsa: Combine: 4 tomatoes, chopped 1 cup corn kernels, grilled or boiled ¼ cup red onion, chopped ¼ cup cilantro, chopped 1 jalapeno pepper, chopped Juice from 1 lime
5. Grill it All. “Veggies like zucchini, squash, tomatoes, peppers, onions, mushrooms, and asparagus taste wonderful when tossed with olive oil, salt, and pepper, and grilled,” Davis says. “Corn can be cooked right in the husk, and veggies like broccoli, cauliflower, green beans, potatoes, and carrots can be seasoned and wrapped in a foil packet for a healthy steamed side. The bonus? No clean-up required!”
6. End on a Sweet Note. The main course isn’t the only thing fit for the grill. “Fruits like pineapple, peaches, and nectarines caramelize and get even sweeter when grilled,” Davis says. “Serve them topped with with low- or non-fat frozen yogurt, and enjoy!”
7. Feel the Burn. “Take advantage of being outside and play a fun game like tag, bocce ball, or horseshoes; toss a football, kick around a soccer ball, or take a walk,” Davis says. Every bit of movement helps you burn extra calories for an even fitter fete.