Well, it's official ... the start of summer has FINALLY arrived! What are you doing to celebrate the kick off of the beautiful, sunny weather? Maybe you have kids who are just finishing up school, maybe you're planning a barbecue, or maybe you're just ready to head to the beach for some long tanning sessions. All of these summer activities make for a great time, but why not plan some sneaky ways to cut back on calories without feeling like we're missing out on any of the summer time goodies? Here are a few tips to help you eat, drink, and celebrate with friends and family all summer long, guilt-free!
One of the healthiest ways to cook a delicious meal, but it all comes down to what goes on that grill.
I know many people may be hesitant to skip the beef burger and go for something like a turkey burger instead (although, it CAN be delicious - I promise), so let's find some ways we can make a traditional beef burger a little healthier. Here are the tips I follow myself to indulge in an occasional juicy burger without breaking the bank on calories:
- Choose 90% lean beef to cut back on saturated fat and calories
- Top the burger with a reduced fat natural cheese to cut back on saturated fat and calories
- Add veggies! Veggies make delicious, flavorful toppings and are low in calories, while bringing along a punch of benefits for your health. My favorites are dark leafy greens, onions, and tomatoes!
- Choose the right mayo. Regular mayo can have too much saturated fat and sodium, but there are plenty of mayo options out there that can give you the creamy deliciousness you're looking for without all the negatives. Try a mayonnaise that is based with olive oil to get some heart healthy fats into the diet in place of saturated fats! Want something other than mayo for a creamy topping? Try a fresh mashed avocado to bring along a powerful serving of heart healthy fats to the meal!
- Skip the sugary ketchup. Ketchup does not have to be complicated. Nowadays it feels like i'm on a scavenger hunt when i'm trying to choose the right ketchup, but what i'm trying to find is simple really. Ketchup doesn't need the high fructose corn syrup, or even the artificial sweeteners. Go for a natural ketchup. It will have less of the processed ingredients, use regular sugar, and be naturally a healthier option.
- Mustard up! Mustard is one of my favorite condiments, not only for the awesome, vinegary flavor, but also because it is lower in calories and sodium than most other condiments. It's when we start getting into the flavored or sweetened mustard that we want to start taking a closer look at those ingredients to see just how much extra sugar and salt is going into the product.
- Choose a whole grain bun or sandwich thin. Although burgers taste so delicious on a fluffy white bun, it really can provide a huge boost of benefits to switch to a whole grain bun or a whole grain sandwich thin for extra fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Going the whole grain route will also help keep you feeling full even longer after eating!
Don't forget ... other lean meats and vegetables go great on the grill too! Try throwing a mixture of marinated chicken, shrimp, and vegetable onto some skewers to make some delicious kebabs, then serve with a whole grain for a balanced, delicious, burger-less cookout meal!
So you've got the burger down to a science now to keep your BBQ guests healthy, but don't forget the side dishes can make or break a meal too. Try some of these healthy side ideas for your next get together...
- Two words: Whole. Grains. Pasta salad is a common cookout dish, but why not spice it up with a healthy twist! Try whole grain pasta, or maybe even my favorite - quinoa! Both of these options can be used in place of regular white pasta and will add a lot more fiber to keep guests from getting hungry again shortly after eating.
- Add veggies! Any side salad, pasta dish, or snack platter could use extra veggies. Don't be afraid to experiment with recipes that you're following by adding an extra scoop of veggies for extra nutrition benefits!
- Fruit makes a great option to keep you cool on a hot summer day and it doubles as a healthy but sweet dessert post-burger.
- Dips & chips in moderation. Even as a dietitian, I am an avid chip lover, to the point where I try to not have them in the house because it is so difficult to moderate myself sometimes. However, on a special occasion i'm more than happy to indulge in some chips and dips, but it's important to remember to not over-indulge, at least not all the time.
Maybe you're used to choosing the healthiest meal options at a cookout, but is the drinking portion overpowering all of your healthy choices? Make sure to only enjoy the sugary beverages and alcohol in moderation, while staying hydrated with plenty of water in between. You can get creative and try making some of your favorite summer drink treats a little healthier too. My favorite is sneaking flavored seltzer water into my sangria mixtures (I've done it before for a cookout and no one noticed!) The little ingredient swaps can make a huge difference in your calorie and sugar balance for the day.
Now that you've got some healthy summer inspiration, go ahead and get planning your next summer BBQ! I'll be patiently awaiting my invitation (& I'll bring the quinoa salad). :)