Here’s how to fire up the flavor—not the calories—in your cookout menu.
Three-quarters of all Americans plan will fire up the grill this summer. Because I live in CA, we grill all year long, but I plan several BBQs with friends over the summer months, starting with one this weekend.
While grilling is one of the healthiest ways to cook food because it minimizes any added fats and the high-heat brings out the natural flavors of food, a typical BBQ menu of burgers, brats and dogs, and creamy potato salad can pack in more than 2,000 calories and more than two day’s worth of fat.
Memorial Day Healthy Grilling Guide
With a few tweaks to your menu, you can cut the fat—and fire up the flavor—of your Memorial Day menu.
Appetizer calories (think creamy side dishes and sour-cream dips) can really pile up, so make sure you have a lot of fiber-rich and calorie-poor veggies with healthy dips, like black bean dip, hummus and Greek-yogurt based dips.
I’ll prepare grilled vegetables including corn on the cob, summer squash, bell peppers and eggplant are perfect appetizers. All you need to do is put in a plastic bag with a little olive oil and salt and pepper or your favorite seasonings.
For a better chip to go with your lighter dips, use our chip-buying guide.
I’ll also serve a mixed fruit salad, and this year, I’m doing grilled Romaine lettuce with a Caesar-style dressing and toasted pepitas.
To build a healthier burger, use the leanest ground beef possible (I often buy ground sirloin for my burgers as it’s leader) or use skinless turkey breast or Portabella mushrooms. If you use breast meat, be sure not to overcook and I find that they’re best when you add an egg and chopped onion and other veggies to them to lock in more moisture.
For dogs, refer to our guide for the hottest diggity dogs. In addition to myriad chicken or turkey based dogs, you can also find vegetarian dogs on the market that are extremely low in calories and saturated fat.
I’m having beef, turkey and salmon steaks with a soy-ginger glaze at my party because of all the special requests that my health-conscious friends will enjoy and feel good about.
For something sweet, go for in-season fruit like berries or watermelon. There’s all kinds of healthy desserts you can make when you start to incorporate sweet fruit into treats. It can be as simple as a fruit dessert topped with fresh mint sprigs or a Greek yogurt and fruit layered parfait or a cobbler.
Best Summertime Sips
If you want to enjoy an alcoholic beverage at a cookout, try a light or ultra-light beer. Some have as few as 55 calories now a bottle. Or, you can have an ounce of distilled spirits with a calorie-free mixer. I’ll have lots of still and sparkling waters available, light and regular beer at my party.
Julie Upton, M.S., R.D., CSSD, Appetite for Health
Co-Author, 101 Fat Habits & Slim Solutions (Penguin, 2013)