How to Host a Better Barbecue: Tips From the Nutrition Pros

Let’s celebrate barbecue season! Dietitian Julie Upton, MS, RD, of Appetite For Health, has all the tips for hosting a fun and healthy barbecue.

Use these good-for-you grilling tips for your Fourth of July barbecue. Your guests will thank you!

Eight in 10 Americans will be hosting or going to a BBQ this Fourth of July holiday, making it the most popular grilling day of the year. While grilling is considered one of the healthiest and tastiest ways to cook, a typical cookout menu of burgers, brats, and dogs, served alongside mounds of creamy sides, can be a diet disaster. In fact, you could easily scarf down more than 2,000 calories ¡ª and two days’ worth of harmful saturated fat. Holy smokes!

Serve Smokin’ Veggie Starters

Instead of munching on high-calorie fried chips and dips, serve a tray of mixed veggies with healthy dips like hummus and the walnut- and red-pepper-based muhammara. If you want a chip, serve whole-wheat pita chips.

Slimmed-Down Sides

Traditional cookout sides ¡ª coleslaw and creamy potato salad ¡ª can pack in more than 350 calories per cup, so go with a lighter, veggie-rich Mediterranean-style pasta salad. While cooked pasta has a low glycemic index because it’s a complex carb, when the starch is heated then cooled, the glycemic index drops even lower, which keeps your blood sugar levels stable and increases satisfaction. Here are two recipes to try.

Even the most veggie-averse guests will enjoy grilled veggies, because the intense heat brings out the natural simple sugars in the veggies. Kebab them for convenience and use mushrooms, onions, Summer squash, asparagus, and bell peppers. Be sure to cut the veggies into similar-sized pieces and toss with olive oil, salt and pepper, fresh squeezed lemon, and herbs before grilling.

Marinate Like a Pro

If you’re grilling beef, chicken, fish, or veggies, be sure to marinate it first. Marinades amp up flavor, act as a tenderizer, and help reduce the formation of harmful, cancer-promoting compounds called heterocyclic amines by as much as 88 percent, according to one study.

Build a Better Burger ( . . . or Dog)

A typical cheeseburger can pack in 500 calories or more, while a hot dog or brat with all the fixings has more than 400 calories. Biting into a turkey breast burger in place of ground beef will trim more than 100 calories and 5.5 grams of saturated fat from your burger. Enjoy with whole-grain buns for the fiber and antioxidants they provide.

Decadent, Guilt-Free Desserts

For something sweet, in-season fruit is the perfect choice. I use whatever is in season, and Summer is full of fresh picks, so there’s really no excuse for not serving fruit-based treats. Summer stone fruit is great when grilled, including peaches and nectarines. And for a red, white, and blue option, try a berry trifle made with strawberries and blueberries, Greek yogurt, and angel food cake.

Sip Smarter

If you want to be bathing suit ready all Summer, stick with calorie-free options like water as much as possible. Limit alcohol because summery frosty drinks can be shockingly high in calories and added sugars (a single margarita can pack in more than 300 calories!), and the ethanol stimulates your appetite and makes you crave high-calorie foods. If you really want an adult beverage, stick with ultralight beer, as they range from about 55 to 100 calories per bottle, or have distilled spirits with a calorie-free mixer like sparkling water.

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