Hold that Hot Dog: 6 Tips for a Healthy Cookout

Processed red meat and salty, greasy side dishes dominate the cookout landscape. From burgers to hot dogs and all the heavy sides that go with them, eating well during the summer can seem like a challenge. Rest assured that you can still host your annual barbecue without serving up a platter of danger foods. Before you fire up the grill for the summer holidays, check out these six tips for transforming your fatty feast into something deliciously nutritious.

#1 – Swap Out Your Proteins

Ditch your regular hot dogs in favor of lighter, more nutritious proteins. Skinless, boneless chicken breasts can be marinated and grilled for full-flavor alternatives to red meat. If you want to keep red meat as the main dish, opt for leaner cuts of steak, such as sirloin, or extra lean ground beef for your burgers. For a completely different approach, try grilling shrimp, salmon and other healthy seafood.

#2 – Bulk Up Your Side Dishes

Regular mayonnaise ruins the nutrition of a perfectly good potato or egg salad. Choose lighter dressing options, or use a vinaigrette instead. For mac and cheese, swap out white pasta for the whole grain version, reduced fat milk for cream, and lighter cheeses, such as Parmesan, for fattier cheddar. Add in extra veggies to your sides as well, or try grilling vegetables on skewers along with your protein.

#3 – Change the Serving Sizes

Get creative when it comes to serving sizes. No one needs a half-pound burger loaded with toppings, but a slider or mini hamburger is the perfect size for most. You could also make kabobs instead, which are both fun to eat and less heavy on the stomach. Dice vegetables into dippable chunks, served with a lighter dressing or homemade sauce of course, and use smaller plates to encourage more mindful eating.

#4 – Mix Up Your Marinades

Pay attention to the dressings or homemade sauces that you use to marinate your proteins. Store-bought vinaigrettes can be loaded with sugar and salt, and some varieties use artificial colors or flavors. Keep your marinades simple by choosing whole ingredients whenever possible. And on that note, skip the butter when you’re grilling. No one will miss it with the right seasonings.

#5 – Don’t Drink Your Calories

Drinking soda or sweetened drinks can eat up your calories, and since the weather is warmer, you’re more likely to drink too many calorie-laden beverages over the course of a cookout. Instead of serving the usual cooler full of soft drinks, set out naturally flavored sparkling water, unsweetened tea with lemon or oranges, and freshly squeezed fruit juice that’s been lightly sweetened.

#6 – End on a Lighter Sweet Note

You might be tempted to whip up an apple pie or banana pudding for dessert, but there’s no need to indulge in baked goods when fruit can satisfy your sweet tooth. Summer offers the perfect chance to serve cold fruit salads and lighter fare since more produce is in season and readily available. For a fun twist on a classic, grill watermelon or peaches and drizzle with honey.

Sources:
https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/tips-for-eating-healthy-at-cookouts-heart-health/go-light-on-drinks
https://www.eatright.org/resource/food/planning-and-prep/cooking-tips-and-trends/get-fired-up-tips-for-healthy-flavorful-cookouts

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