By Lynn Difley

It’s already past Memorial Day weekend, the launching of the summer barbeque season. Time to scrape off the grill and get ready for some good outdoor feasting. Summer barbeques can be a dangerous area for those trying to eat healthier or hold the line on the waistline.

If you are hosting, I know you are looking for the best and healthiest offering for your guests, and if you are visiting others, or attending a potluck, you want to enjoy the offerings without padding your hips.

Are you a burger and hot dog traditionalist? You can make alterations to enjoy healthier slimmer choices. Start by substituting a 100% wholewheat bun for the soggy white one to add fiber. And what about making it an open face, or single slice treat? Or use a big romaine lettuce leaf for the top layer.

You can also reduce the fat; instead of a pork hot dog (300 cals and 25 g fat) choose a turkey burger (160 cals and 9 g fat) or even better, a veggie burger (110 calories 4 grams of fat). Instead of adding cheese, mayo, or bacon to your burger, go for mustard, lettuce, onion, and tomato to add lots of vitamins and no fat.

Are you making a big potato salad?  Calorie red alert! More nutritious if you leave the skins on the potatoes–little red ones or Yukon gold have a delicious flavor on their own–no need to slather on dressings.  Substitute nonfat Greek yogurt for mayo. And add onions, celery, pickles, etc to add some crunch and zip.

What about making a delicious veggie platter as an alternative to the greasy macaroni and potato salads? Lightly steam or grill chunks of red peppers, yellow squash, zucchini, onion, eggplant, and any other fresh local veggie. Sprinkle with some balsamic vinegar and offer a healthy, low cal version.

How about dips? Whew! They can pack on the pounds! Two tablespoons of ranch dressing adds 180 calories and 18 grams of fat–and two tablespoons is not a lot of dip. Add the chips at 150 calories per ounce and you quickly reach your daily calorie allotment without even nearing the main meal. If you substitute a salsa you can indulge in ½ cup for only 60 calories and 0 grams of fat. And dipping raw veggies adds not only fiber and vitamins, but has practically no calories.

Then there are the beverages. You probably know the damage you can do with a few drinks. Your body needs liquids on a regular basis,  but if you want to stick to the same size bathing suit, you need to monitor what you drink. You already know that sodas are unhealthy, and that even diet soda, while the label reads no cals, has been found to cause you to eat and drink more.

Lemonade, made with sugar adds 120 calories–all of them sugar. If you add a squirt of lemon to your chilled water you get the flavor but no calories. Try unsweetened tea–lots of varieties make delicious sun tea to add a festive flavor with no calorie cost.

For the afters?  If you have berries instead of berry pie you reduce the calories by around 500, and at least 20 grams of fat. If you must, have a slice of angel food cake with fresh strawberries, for only 120 calories and 0 grams of fat.

Now that you have your list of healthy preferred choices, I think you’re ready to brave the summer picnic, barbeque, and potluck season. Take advantage of the occasion to organize some physical activity: hiking, catch, softball, horseshoes, doesn’t matter what, just get every body up and moving and you have the perfect prescription for a happy healthy summer.


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  1. Lynn’s potato salad is, indeed, quite good. I like it when she makes it with no fat or low fat Caesar salad dressing instead of mayo. I admit that I sneak in some bacon bits into my portion, and sometimes a sprinkle of parmesan cheese.

  2. Lynn,
    Thanks for the tips on potato salad! My family loves it but I’ve been racking my brain for ways to make it less fattening. I’ll have to try it with Yukon golds–they have such a rich buttery flavor on their own!