Summer cookouts are an American tradition, and there’s nothing like gathering around a grill to share food and fun with your loved ones while you wait for the evening to cool off. The staples of the summer cookout – like juicy burgers, hot dogs, and potato salad – may make your mouth water, but aren’t exactly what you picture when you think of healthy eating. But not to worry! This summer, declare your independence from high-fat festivities and embrace the healthy cookout. Get all of the flavor and fun of the BBQ you know and love without having to fear the scale the next day. Try these five tips (with recipes!)
1. Build a Better Burger
A good burger is a great source of protein, and can be a good way to sneak in some veggies – lettuce and tomato, anyone? You have plenty of healthy choices when it comes to picking your patty: try lean (10% fat or less), grass-fed beef, which can have more Omega-3s and antioxidants than regular grain-fed beef.[i] Or try turkey burgers, veggie or quinoa burgers, or even extra-firm tofu! You have lots of different flavor options for meatless patties, and you get to keep that burger experience.
Just remember, a serving of meat is three ounces, and should be about the size of a deck of cards. Keep your burger to a single serving size, so you don’t have extra fat and calories sneaking in!
2. Fire up the Fish
Oily fish like tuna and salmon pack a protein punch and a heaping helping of Omega-3 fatty acids, which are good for essential organs (you know, like your heart and your brain). The trick to grilling fish is to get a crispy outside while making sure the inside is cooked all the way through. Be sure to pat your fish dry before grilling, or else it will steam, not sear. Also, make sure to clean your grill thoroughly and oil lightly with paper towels before putting on the fish (and before lighting the fire, of course – paper towels and fire don’t mix).[ii]
Not sure how to cook up your filets? You can keep it simple by rubbing the fish with lemon juice and rosemary or parsley, or if you’re feeling fancy, try these Salmon and Lemon Kebabs from Skinnytaste.
3. Move Over, Mayo!
You can still have a fantastic potato or pasta salad without all the fat and calories added by mayo. Not to mention, who hasn’t looked dubiously at a bowl of mayo-based potato salad sitting in the sun? Try this fresh and beautiful Potato Salad with Scallions and Dill from Delish or this Zesty Tortellini Salad from The Kitchn.
4. Grill up Your Veggies
Summer is a great time for fresh fruit and veggies, and the grill is a great way to get your daily servings in! Corn on the cob is fantastic on the grill – just leave it in the husk and grill over medium flame for about 30 minutes. All you have to do is turn it every so often.[iii]
Or you can make veggie kebabs! Summer squash, zucchini, cherry tomatoes, onions, peppers and mushrooms all make great skewers – but these aren’t your only options! Feel free to experiment! Just spray or brush your veggies with olive oil before you grill, and cook until they’re starting to blacken.
5. Well-Done May Not Be Done So Well
Overcooked or charred meats can contain heterocyclic amine and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, both of which can increase the risk of pancreatic cancer. One study found that people who regularly ate well-done meat were at 60% higher risk.
Marinate your meats before you grill to help reduce the level of hydrocarbons. Also, clean any leftover char from your grill before you cook, and don’t cook your meat to well-done.[iv]
Have a fun, healthy, and delicious summer!