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Nothing says summer like a sizzling grill, cold beverages and lots of delicious, often times unhealthy, foods. I love all the traditional cookout foods, but they can wreak havoc on anyone’s healthy intentions. Like I’ve said before, I have yet to meet a potato chip I could resist. So what is one to do with so many backyard cookouts all summer long? I recently read an article that stated the number one behavior of healthy weight individuals is meal planning. Just like with our daily food routines, we should plan our eating for backyard parties. My favorite trick is to eat a healthy snack before the party, and bring something healthy I know won’t ruin my diet. Follow these tips below for navigating your next summer cookout.

Main Course Makeover

Most every barbeque has burgers and hot dogs as the star of the show. Fatty burgers covered in cheese and mystery meat hot dogs does not do a body good. Throwing the bun away, skipping the cheese, and going light on the condiments is NO FUN! I like to bring my own healthy options such as low fat chicken sausages, chicken kebabs, lean pork chops, or lean turkey burgers.

When it comes to turkey burgers, it is super important to read the package label. Did you know that most turkey burgers ADD fat to keep the meat moist? Turkey burgers generally have a 75/25 meat to fat ratio. A 93/7 meat to fat ratio ground beef would be a much healthier option in that case. Basically any lean meat trimmed of excess fat and not swimming in fatty or sugary sauces is a safe bet. Grilled fish would be another great cookout option, and cedar plank salmon is always a show stopper. Try marinating tuna or swordfish steaks in a lemon juice, soy sauce, sriracha, and ginger. Seer on both sides, slice against the grain, and serve as a flashy cookout appetizer.   

Slimmer Sides

Now that you’ve got your main course all figured out, it can be downright treacherous navigating the side dishes. In generally, I suggest avoiding anything creamy to keep the diet on track. If you can’t resist, then pick one decadent side and load up on the other healthy stuff. Yes, this does mean you should have mac and cheese OR potato salad not both. I like to bring my own healthy sides such as German potato salad with vinaigrette dressing rather than mounds of mayonnaise. A pasta salad full of fresh veggies is always a crowd pleaser with a light balsamic vinaigrette to keep it zippy. I also like a caprese salad with cherry tomatoes, fresh basil, and fresh mozzarella chunks drizzled in olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Beautiful colors, full of flavor, and low in calories.  


Another fun side dish to bring are vegetable skewers to throw on the grill. Pick a wide array of colorful veggies and slice thick to prevent burning. My favorite trick is to only one veggie on each skewer. Each vegetable cooks differently so having only one per skewer allows you to keep onions on longer than the mushrooms. Toss the grilled vegetables in a store bought pesto sauce for a fabulous grilled vegetable salad. Each of these sides will be delicious, healthy, and perfect for your next barbecue. And you thought I was surely going to recommend a kale salad!

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