Summer in New England always feels to me like trying to pack a year’s worth of outdoor fun into 90 days. It seems like there’s a BBQ, happy hour, sporting event, or party every weekend to tempt me with beer, chips, and all sorts of less than healthy fun. And while having a “cheat day” isn’t the worst thing in the world, having them three times a week all summer can add up. And since the BBQ is the most ubiquitous summer activity, here is a little advice on making at least some of those BBQ’s a little bit healthier.
- Don’t show up hungry – snacks at BBQs plentiful in calorie and fat content (think chips, boxed cookies, etc), with scarce vegetable offerings. Have a salad or some fruit before you go so you’re not starving.
- BYO… If you want to be sure there’s something healthy there (like delicious kebabs, see below) or grass-fed, humanely raised hamburgers (instead of Bubba Burgers) then the safest bet is to bring it yourself.
- Stay hydrated. Alcohol and heat can combine to cause dehydration. Water will also make you a little less hungry. Try to drink a glass every hour, or alternate a glass of water with each alcoholic beverage.
Why: One hot dog (with bun) has 365 calories, 24 grams of fat, and 1150 mg of sodium (or over half the recommended daily amount!), and one hot dog is usually not filling enough. Plus, most hot dogs are highly processed. On the other hand, one beef kebab with veggies has about 175 calories, 6 grams of fat, 570 mg sodium (half that of the hot dog) and 23 grams of protein. Not only will the vegetables and protein in the kebab be more filling, but you can eat more of them. Plus, bell peppers and onions taste awesome when grilled adjacent to meat.
Why: While salsa is fairly healthy, low calorie, and a good source of a few key vitamins, just 1 serving of 7 tortilla chips packs 140 calories, 7 grams of fat, and 16 grams of carbohydrates. Tortilla chips are notorious for being super easy to overeat. While guacamole is also higher in calories – for 2 tablespoons, or about 2-4 dips – you get 50 calories and 5 grams of fat, the vegetables contain few calories, and it’s difficult to overindulge in vegetables because they are higher in fiber. As a bonus, avocados are a healthy fat providing key nutrients like vitamin K, fiber, vitamin C, folate, B6, and vitamin E. (Hummus pictured here, as Flickr had no pictures of veggies with guac).
Why: The vodka or gin and tonic (with 1 oz of booze) will set you back about 100 calories, include minimal sugar, and taste pretty refreshing. The rum runner or tequila sunrise (or whatever fruity drink) on the other hand could have upwards of 300 calories and 20 grams of sugar per drink. The sugar will also get you drunk faster and increase your likelihood of experiencing a not-so-fun hangover that can impact your ability to exercise (or do anything else productive for that matter).
Why: You’d think I’d have chosen something like Miller 64 for “Drink This” since it’s so low in calories. But it’s also low in alcohol (2.8% ABV compared to 3.5-5% for most lite beers) and probably taste like crap. And only a foolish dietitian tells you to eat/drinks something that tastes like crap just because it’s low in calories. Guinness is only 126 calories and 10 grams of carbs, with a 4% ABV. If, like me, you’re not a Guinness person, stick to the lagers like Yuengling and Rolling Rock (both of which are around 132 calories for 4.5% ABV).
Of course, this is my advice to just enjoy your BBQ and not get too drunk. If your end game is getting as drunk as possible in as few calories, check out this website Get Drunk, Not Fat.
What are your favorite healthy BBQ/beach day swaps?
Photo 1 c/o John Kay Photo 2 c/o The Culinary Geek Photo 3 c/o Eric Kilby Photo 4 c/o Tatiana Mik Photo 5 c/o Nathan Earixson Photo 6 c/o Will Norris Photo 7 c/o Angel Apellido Photo 8 c/o Joey Parsons