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The skinny on BBQ

Aly Walansky is a freelance writer and editor based in New York City. She lives with her two Shorkie-Tzus, Scarlette and Max, and a display of pink polka-dot-themed home decor -- not to mention a selection of flavored vodka. Check out he...

10 Tips for healthy grilling

Summer is the time to enjoy outdoor parties and delicious BBQ feasts. But your traditional backyard party fare could be causing you to age faster, and putting you at risk for diabetes, weight gain and other health problems. Use these 10 easy, healthy grilling tips to lighten up your menus and keep that bikini (okay, tankini) bod bangin’ all summer long.

Woman bbqing veggies

1. Say 'sayonara' to sugary drinks

Cocktails and sugary sodas are cookout staples, but those empty calories can really rack up. For example, a strawberry daiquiri will cost you about 6 Weight Watchers POINTS. That's like eating an entire candy bar. Instead, opt for cocktails with low-calorie sweetener or light beer. For kids, substitute soda for low-sugar drinks like club soda with pomegranate or cranberry juice.

2. Peel yourself out of that lawn chair

Most main dishes take about 20 minutes to cook on the grill, just enough time to burn off some extra calories with the kids. Toss around a Frisbee or play a friendly game of kickball for 20 minutes and burn nearly 100 calories.

3. BYOF -- Bring your own food

If you're not sure if the host will provide healthy options, offer to bring a favorite dish or two -- with plenty to share. You can also bring along recipe cards in case anyone asks how you made such tasty, healthy food!

4. Fruit & veggies as condiments & sides

Instead of slathering mayonnaise on your burger or mindlessly munching chips, get creative with in-season fruits and vegetables. Sear them on the grill for extra flavor and sweetness. Pineapple, mango and peaches make delicious toppings for meats. Mix fruit with veggies in a foil packet, or thread on a kebob for simple sides.

5. Put chicken on a diet

Ditch the skin on your grilled chicken breast or thigh and save nearly 50 calories, 4 grams fat and 1 gram saturated fat. Use a light BBQ sauce, simple vinaigrette or a flavor-packed, calorie-free spice rub and get all of the flavor without the fat and calories.

6. Make burgers with leaner meats

Choose 93 or 95% lean ground beef or ground bison or buffalo, which are lower in saturated fat and cholesterol. You'll leave that much more room for a slice of cheese on your burger and a serving of guacamole and tortilla chips.

7. Say "no" to mayo

Swap mayo-heavy salads for a French or German-style potato salad made with olive oil. Or go for an ear of fresh grilled corn on the cob and a pat of butter, or a whole-wheat pasta salad.

8. Skip fatty chips & dips

Keep tabs on portion sizes and boost up protein, fiber and whole grain ingredients with blue corn or multigrain chips. Choose a light dip like a low-fat onion or veggie dip made with low-fat sour cream or yogurt. A flavorful hummus or summery peach-cilantro salsa are also healthy choices.

9. Boost flavor, not fat

Since the intense heat of the grill brings out food's natural flavors, there's no need to cook with a lot of calorie- and fat-laden oil or butter. Instead, use lower-calorie spice- or citrus-based marinades, sauces, and rubs to add flavor.

10. Mix in veggies

Grilled kabobs are a guaranteed crowd pleaser and easy way to work in vegetables at a cookout. When grilling kabobs that incorporate meat, chicken or shrimp, make sure the skewer goes through the food twice so each piece will stay in place. Or, cut the meat into cubes and spear once for an even, easy cook. Also, soak wood skewers in water for an hour or so before putting them on the grill, dry skewers burn.

With these tips your family cookout will be a huge success and help you look and feel your very best. And the best part is no one will ever miss all of the added fat and calories. Nice work, skinny!

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