Chances are, you’ll be hosting or attending a cookout this Fourth of July weekend. While I’m all for enjoying your favorite summertime treats in moderation, I also think you can’t go wrong with making a few easy swaps to instantly make classic cookout fare a little bit healthier. When planning your cookout (or scoping out the food table and planning what you’re going to put on your plate), try to employ at least one of the following strategies to boost the nutritional value of your meal:
- Opt for grilled chicken, seafood, or Portobello mushroom caps instead of burgers and dogs. If you choose chicken or a mushroom cap, you’ll save at least 4g of saturated fat and between 35-150 calories (obviously, you’ll save the most by choosing the low-calorie Portobello). You’re also likely to feel more satisfied by choosing one of these two options over a hamburger or hotdog.
- Use whole grain buns for added fiber. The extra fiber in whole grain buns vs. white buns will make your meal seem more filling.
- Avoid creamy condiments and salads. Anything containing mayonnaise or creamy sauces or dressings (whether they’re used on a burger or a potato, pasta, or green salad) is going to be high in empty calories. Instead…
- Choose lower-calorie condiments that give you the most bang for your buck. You can’t go wrong with including fresh vegetables on top of burgers or sandwiches, or almost anything else on your plate. Mustard and ketchup (in low-sodium varieties if possible), salsa, and strong-flavored cheeses are also great ways to add a lot of flavor to your food without breaking the calorie bank.
- Follow the MyPlate rule and fill half your plate with fruits and vegetables, a quarter of your plate with lean protein, and a quarter with whole grains. Fruits and veggies are great foods to have at a cookout, especially on a hot day, due to their high water content. They’ll help keep you hydrated and fill you up thanks to their high fiber content.
- Forgo unnecessary empty calories from beverages. The calories in soda, juice, lemonade, and alcohol can add up fast. Smarter choices to help you stay hydrated include water, naturally-flavored seltzer, and unsweetened iced tea. If you do choose to indulge in a higher-calorie beverage of the alcoholic or non-alcoholic variety, aim to alternate each one of these drinks with a glass of water.
As you can see, it’s certainly possible to enjoy all your favorite cookout foods while stealthily upping their nutritional value. It’s easier than you think to make small changes toward improving your health, so why not give one or two of these swaps a try this holiday weekend?