Healthy eating at BBQs

Jun 17, 2013 at 6:00 p.m. ET

Hot summer days mean barbecues every weekend — and we love it! Learn tips on healthy eating and choosing the right foods at your next barbecue!

Healthy BBQ food

Though most barbecue food isn't considered super healthy, there are a number of foods you can choose that won't add an extra inch to your waistline. Here, we're looking at what those foods are plus providing tips on resisting the urge to overeat.

What to avoid

First, always remember that if you think it's bad, it most likely is. Anything covered in mayonnaise or cheese is something you'll want to avoid. We also recommend steering clear of chips and dips and other appetizers that seem to come in unlimited amounts. Other suggestions for foods to avoid include:

  • Hamburger buns. Burgers themselves aren't that bad — but by the time you add condiments, cheeses and buns, you're looking at 500 calories or more.
  • Potato or pasta salad. These dishes are always saturated in dressings and mayo. One scoopful is easily 300 calories or more.
  • Margaritas. Yes, we had to go there. Margaritas are one of the most caloric alcoholic drinks you can find. They average 400 calories but can be more depending on the size and types of mix-ins used.
  • Sugary treats. These are the foods that typically make appearances at every barbecue — brownies, cookies, cakes and other treats high in fat and sugar. Skip these altogether!

What to eat

Luckily, most barbecues have an array of foods to choose from that are healthy for you. Vegetable trays, fruit platters and salads are great to snack on while sitting around chatting. Be leery of salad dressings and veggie dips, though, since they're both packed with unhealthy fats and calories. Other tasty, healthy choices include:

  • Meat. Yes, we said it — meat is perfectly OK at a barbecue. Skip the fattening sauces and condiments and use dry rubs and seasonings to add flavor. Also, the crispy ends of briskets are the least fattening since the fat has been burned off — so enjoy!
  • Coleslaw. Coleslaw is made in a vinegar-based dressing instead of a creamy-based one. Calories are minimal — only 80 per cup. Check out this Napa cabbage coleslaw recipe.
  • Vodka-seltzers or light beer. If you're going to indulge in a drink or two, make sure it's light. There's no point in adding unnecessary calories to an already fattening day. Vodka mixed with flavored seltzer water makes for a refreshing beverage as does light beer from an icy cold mug.
  • Fresh fruit and low-fat pies. Dessert is a must at a barbecue, and while we don't think it needs to be skipped completely, we do think making healthier choices is a must. Indulge in fresh fruit with whipped cream or make this low-fat key lime pie!

How to avoid overeating

It's tempting and easy to overeat at a barbecue. You're chatting with friends, drinking and enjoying yourself. It's only natural to want to eat the whole time, too. To help ensure you don't go overboard, we recommend drinking plenty of water throughout the day, eating a healthy meal before leaving your house, participating in backyard games to keep you occupied and throwing your plate away immediately after finishing your first serving so you don't go back for seconds.

Tell us

We want to know — what are your tips for healthy eating at a barbecue? Share in the comments below!

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