Hosting a summer bash? You don't need to throw your healthy eating goals out the window, or make guests feast on carrot sticks. Make cookout classics with better-for-you ingredients to create a spread full of slimmed-down favorites. It'll be so flavorful, your guests won't miss the extra fat and calories.
Here are some tips to slim down cookout favorites, and some recipes to get you started.
Spring and summer are prime time for burgers — they’re so perfect for cookouts. Calories and fat abound in many burgers because of fatty meats, huge buns and heaps of cheese and creamy sauces. Instead of banishing these from your plate, think about ways to trim them down. A little less of each will shave off calories, and you won’t miss a thing in the flavor department — promise!
Fatty cuts of meat are high in saturated fat and cholesterol (not so good for the old ticker). Leaner alternatives — 90 to 95 percent lean ground beef, chicken or turkey breast, bison and fish — make equally satisfying burgers. Jazz up lower-fat meats with herbs and spices, and add moisture to the patties with chopped onion and mushrooms or a tangy sauce.
If you love cheese and mayo, consider low-fat versions and opt for one, not both. Cheeseburger fans: Try topping your burger with a little bit of strong cheese for a burst of flavor without the high-calorie cost. Sliced avocado makes a creamy addition to a burger and offers less saturated fat and cholesterol than traditional mayo.
Then, don't forget to pile on the fresh vegetables like ripe tomatoes, onion, spinach, lettuce and cucumbers. Even with a smaller burger, you’ll still feel full with loads of fiber-rich veggies. Get more healthy burger tips »
Burger Recipes to Try:
Grilling is one of the lightest ways to cook, but to keep it that way, you want to pick leaner meats. Here are some healthy options for the grill:
- Poultry: Skinless, white-meat chicken or turkey; ground turkey breast
- Beef: Flank steak, top loin, sirloin, porterhouse, T-bone steak and tenderloin; 90% lean ground beef
- Pork: Pork chops or tenderloin
- Lamb: Look for the word “loin”
When shopping, look for meats that have the least amount of visible fat. If the cut is marbled, that means it’s streaked with fat. Get more tips for healthier meats »
Grilled Main Dish Recipes to Try:
Pasta salad: It seems like no cookout would be complete without it. Everyone has their favorite recipe, some lighter than others. Avoid the common pitfalls and keep your mix nutritious and delicious.
First off, cut the mayo. A typical 1/2-cup serving of classic macaroni salad contains 310 calories — about two-thirds of which come from fat. Fat isn't the enemy, but keep it to about one tablespoon of oil or two tablespoons of low-fat mayo or dressing per serving.
Once you've lightened the dressing, add a nutritional punch to the rest of the salad. Use whole-wheat pasta to up fiber and lower overall calories, and load up on veggies, like tomatoes, onions, celery, bell peppers and scallions. Get more tips for healthier pasta salad »
Pasta Salad Recipe to Try:
If you’re looking for a quick fix, deli counters often offer pre-made potato salads, but not so fast! Those versions can have more than 300 calories and 20 grams of fat per serving. Homemade recipes, meanwhile, often call for at least one cup of mayonnaise! Swap out some or all for a flavorful vinaigrette, pesto sauce, sundried tomatoes, Dijon mustard or lots of fresh herbs. If you favor the traditional creamy texture, a combo of mayonnaise and low-fat yogurt has flavor with much less fat.
Sturdy potatoes can stand up to lots of extra veggies, like green beans, tomatoes, celery, peas, carrots, bell pepper and red onion. The more veggies you add, the heartier (and more full of nutrients) your salad. Chopped pickles and olives also add a nice acidic bite. Also, try keeping the skin on the potatoes — they contain tons of nutrients like hunger-fighting fiber. Get more tips for healthier potato salad »
Potato Salad Recipes to Try:
Light, Fresh Side Salads
Once you've covered the essentials, fill your table with light, fresh salads made from farmers' market finds.
Salad Recipes to Try:
Finish your party with a dessert that's full of in-season fruit: Strawberries, blueberries and peaches all reach their peak midsummer. Make a fresh fruit salad, or throw heartier fruits like pineapple and stone fruits (like peaches, plums and nectarines) on the grill to bring out their sweetness. Serve with frozen yogurt or syrup.
Fruit Dessert Recipes to Try:
Portions of this article were written by Registered Dieticians Dana White and Toby Amidor. Get more of Dana and Toby's healthy ideas at FoodNetwork's Healthy Eats blog.