There may not be a more American event than the barbecue. Whether you call it a picnic, a throwdown, a BBQ or just ‘lunch’, it’s the one event that has a little something for everyone. In the warm weather climates BBQs are year-round endeavors, while even in the dead of winter you’ll see the die-hards outside in a foot of snow with steaks on the grill. There’s just something about the sizzle of meat, the smell of charcoal and the varied and colorful side dishes that scream of a good time. Yet while most people look forward to BBQs with family and friends, they surely dread what the scale will say the next morning. You’ll never think of a BBQ as a diet event, and it can be difficult to maintain control with all of those delicious foods laid out. But some dishes at the picnic should fit your dietary goals better than others. Just make sure that you avoid these unhealthy foods at BBQs and picnics whenever possible.
One dish you’ll find at almost every picnic or BBQ is the cheeseburger. These perfect meaty sandwiches look so good in your hand, and when prepared well there’s few things quite as delicious. But an average-sized beef burger with cheese will cost you upwards of 500 calories, and that’s before any of the tasty condiments you pile on top. If you simply cannot live without it you’ll have to make some other concessions, as that’s a huge chunk of your daily calorie limit. Worst of all, a cheeseburger also contains more than 25 grams of fat, so these aren’t lean calories. Look for turkey or chicken alternatives, and skip the cheese to instantly lighten up the meal.
If you’ve ever had fresh potato salad, you know that nothing can beat it. And it sure looks and smells great on your plate. While potatoes on their own are quite healthy, they’re also calorie-rich. And potato salad is loaded with mayonnaise. You’ll tack on more than 350 calories in a single cup of potato salad, with a whopping 20 grams of fat. And let’s face it, you’ll most likely eat more of a cup of the stuff. So try to resist the potato salad and replace it with coleslaw. You’ll still geet that creamy goodness you crave, but with a lower-calorie cabbage base.
Perhaps you’ve skipped over the cheeseburger and gone with the hot dog instead. You may think that their small package means they can’t be nearly as bad for you. While they are definitely not as high in calories as some of the other options, you are going to be taking in a ton of salt this way. A single hot dog could be more than 30% of your daily maximum sodium allowance. And you also can’t always be sure what mystery meat is inside that odd little package. Consider grilled mushrooms instead. They have a similar texture, but are far healthier for you.
So what do you wash all of this down with? If you’re like most people you crack open one of the picnic coolers and reach for something frosty and frothy. But be wary of blowing your calorie count with drinks. BBQ staples like beer, margaritas and frozen cocktails are packed with sugar and calorie-heavy alcohol. If you can’t see yourself having a good time without it go with light beer instead. But if you can skip the alcohol try a sparkling water or a diet soda. If you’re good about the drinks you may be able to sneak another delicious rib or two onto your plate!