One of the biggest questions I get asked this time of year is how to eat healthy at a BBQ. I know with tasty options like hot dogs, potato salad and coleslaw, it can seem impossible to even have options, but there truly are great options out there. Last summer when coaching a friend in nutrition, I helped her find all kinds of great ways how to eat healthy at a BBQ after a little creativity. Read on to find out how you can have a great meal, and save your waistline this summer.
1. Stick with Protein
No matter what type of BBQ you are at, the best way how to eat healthy at a BBQ is to stick with protein. Whether it be hot dogs, hamburgers, steaks, chicken, pork or fish. If you’re eating hamburgers and hot dogs, leave off the bun and just eat the meat to avoid refined flours and carbs lacking in nutrients. Protein fires your metabolism and keeps you fuller longer. It also reduces your cravings for starches and sugar.
2. Pass on the Starchy Sides
Instead of loading up on baked beans, coleslaw and potato salad or chips, stick with sides like pickles, grilled veggies, grilled corn, or plain sweet potatoes. An idea I like to use is to make my own salad out of the hamburger toppings like lettuce, tomato and onions, and then just top my salad with the meat.
3. Bring Your Own Sides
One great option I recommend is to offer to bring a side dish. This way, you control what that is. A great option is to choose a raw veggie tray with cucumbers, celery, carrots, grape tomatoes, broccoli and cauliflower, and bringing hummus, salsa and/or Oikos Greek yogurt dips as a dipping sauce. This is a guilt-free side that you can feel good about eating and someone else there will more than likely appreciate it too.
4. Ditch the Nasty Condiments
Instead of using mayo as a topping, or sugar-laden ketchup, stick with mustard, with is basically calorie free and even contains some antioxidants from the turmeric that makes it yellow. If you don’t like mustard, either top your hot dog or hamburger with tomato and onion, or even salsa, which is a neat option instead of ketchup.
5. Bring Your Own BBQ Sauce
Most typical BBQ sauces are filled with high fructose corn syrup, molasses or other sources of refined sugar. I have found one amazing gluten-free, calorie-free and sugar-free brand that tastes just like the real thing that I always recommend people buying. It is a BBQ sauce by Walden Farms brand. You can find it where you find the ketchups and other BBQ sauces in your store, or buy it online. It really is so delicious and totally guilt-free.
6. Stick with Low-calorie Salad Dressings
If a salad is served, I actually top mine with salsa or a little balsamic vinegar, but if you don’t have those options, stick with a low-calorie dressing. If that isn’t available either, choose Italian over Ranch to avoid too much saturated fat, and too much sugar from Thousand Island, French or honey mustard varieties.
7. Bring the Beans
Most BBQ gatherings have baked beans, which are full of added sugars, which will put the weight on quick. Instead, I recommend bringing your own! My favorite is to bring green beans cooked in a little olive oil, salt and pepper, or just heat up one of the cans, but choose low-sodium varieties. Green beans are lower in carbs than any other bean, easier to digest, full of protein, and fiber. If you don’t like green beans, consider bringing some zucchini squash or yellow squash and ask it to be grilled.
8. Choose Berries over Cream
If ice cream is being served for dessert, opt for a bowl of strawberries or blueberries, or both, instead! Offer to bring some if none will be there, or just show up with a bushel, which the host will appreciate. Bring enough for everyone, since they may want to use the berries to top off their ice cream. Another great option is to bring a pineapple to cut for the crowd, which you can enjoy, and pineapple also contains great enzymes that aid digestion and plenty of Vitamin C.
Most importantly, you should have fun! Be sure to stick with these smart options and enjoy a summer tradition that is a favorite of many. Do you have any tips for eating healthy at a BBQ?