The barbecue season is upon us. The warm weather and longer days entice us outside and it is fun to fire up the grill and enjoy some of our summer favorites. This summer, commit to having healthier choices when it comes to planning meals and events. A few healthy substitutions can save calories, reduce fat and add vitamins and minerals to your diet.
When most of us plan a meal, we still consider meat as our main entre. Old favorites may include T-bone steaks and bratwursts, but choosing lean meats such as sirloin steak, chicken, turkey or pork loin can really cut the amount of fat and calories in your main entre. If you like hamburgers, choose lean or extra lean hamburger or even veggie burgers. Have you considered serving kebabs with smaller chunks of lean meat and an emphasis on the vegetables? Making changes such as these can save 100-200 calories per serving.
Salads are an item that are popular side dishes and many come loaded with fat. Potato salad and macaroni salads can be laden with mayo and cream. Alternatives to these types of salads can be grilled vegetables, fresh fruit salads or vegetable salads made with oil and vinegar. There are grilling accessories now that include baskets or trays to put vegetables on that make grilled vegetables a great accompaniment to grilled meat. Adding fruits and vegetables to your menu adds fiber as well as vitamins and minerals, and it cuts the number of calories and grams of fat as well.
How about chips and dip? This is another stand-by when it comes to picnic fare. Most chips are fried, but there is a good variety of baked chips available that are quite tasty and quite a bit lower in fat. How about using salsa instead of dips made with sour cream or cream cheese? Baked chips and salsa instead of regular chips and dip can save a lot in the calorie and fat department.
Condiments can add calories and fat, too. One tablespoon of mayo has about 100 calories and 11 grams of fat. Can you use mustard on your burger instead? One tablespoon of mustard is virtually calorie and fat free. One tablespoon of ketchup has about 15 calories and 0 grams of fat. Either would be better choices than mayo with regards to fat and calorie content.
What's for dessert? Cookies and bars are typical choices. But what about slicing wedges of a cool, juicy watermelon? Or having fresh strawberries on angel food cake? Or a fruit smoothie or sorbet? All these choices are lower in fat and calories and refreshing for hot summer days.
Of course we need cool things to drink. It's important to stay hydrated, especially if it's hot outside or if you are active. Water is a good choice, as are some of the low calorie flavored waters or spritzers. Iced tea is a popular choice for warm days and green tea is especially good as it adds anti-oxidants to your diet. Have you seen a new product called a Fruit Infusion Natural Fruit Flavor pitcher? It has a removable hollow rod down the center that you can fill with pieces of fresh fruit or citrus wedges to infuse the flavor into the surrounding liquid in the pitcher. It's an attractive and tasty way to serve a cold beverage on a hot summer day. Considering that a 12 ounce can of soda contains about 150 calories, these lower calorie suggestions can save 100-150 calories per serving.
A little planning can go a long way to helping cut calories and fat in your backyard barbecue fare this year. You can easily save hundreds of calories and many grams of fat by making simple substitutions to some of your food choices. The reward is a healthier diet and the time to start is NOW. Happy Summer!
(Cheryl Rude is a registered dietitian at Avera Marshall Regional Medical Center.)