Step Ahead Wellness Center Blog

Tips to Build a Better Barbecue Diet

Posted by Sari Greaves on Wed, Jul 16, 2014 @ 02:56 PM

One great way to cut the bad fats from your summer diet is to grill some veggie burgers instead of beef patties.

Sometimes, the temptations of summertime barbecues make maintaining a diet difficult. However, there are a few tricks to enjoying summer foods in a healthier way.

Many condiments are swimming in fat (think mayonnaise and sour cream), sodium and sugar (think ketchup and barbecue sauce). The good news is that there are healthy alternatives for adding flavor to your barbecue favorites.

 The make it better strategy:

  1. Choose low-sodium ketchup (15 calories, 0g fat, and 3 mg sodium) instead of regular ketchup (15 calories, 0g fat 167 mg sodium).
  2. Choose fat-free mayonnaise (11 calories, 0g fat, and 120 mg sodium) instead of regular mayonnaise. (57 calories, 5g fat, 105 mg sodium) – you save calories, but you don’t save on sodium.
  3. Choose low-sodium Barbecue sauce (52 calories, 0.1g fat, and 47 mg sodium) instead of regular Barbecue sauce (52 calories, 0.1g fat, and 392 mg sodium)
  4. Mustard is hard to beat because it has minimal calories and fat, but the sodium can add up quickly by the teaspoon. People on a salt restricted diet are better off using spices for flavor. 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard (5 calories, 0.2g fat, 120 mg sodium) yellow mustard (3 calories, 0.2g fat, 57 mg sodium)

* Ketchup and mayonnaise dietary values are based on measurements of ONE tablespoon. Be sure to practice portion control when using condiments. Make the “OK” sign with your thumb and index finger. The circle you create with your fingers is about 1 tablespoon- keep you portion to 2 tablespoons maximum.

* Barbecue sauce dietary values based on 2 tablespoons.

* Mustard based on 1 teaspoon (about the size of a thumb tip)

Jazz up leaner animal protein foods such as fish, seafood, white meat poultry, pork loin, top or bottom rounds of beef or veggie burgers with some of the following seasoning and marinade suggestions:

  • American Style: Low-sodium barbecue sauce
  • Italian Style: Tomatoes, oregano, garlic, basil, dash of olive oil OR light Italian dressing
  • Mexican style: Cilantro, cumin, oregano, garlic, chilies, dash of olive oil or lime.
  • Greek style: Lemon, garlic, rosemary, mint, oregano or fat-free Greek yogurt
  • French style: White wine, tarragon, thyme, mustard
  • Russian style: Paprika, fat-free sour cream, onion
  • Asian Style: Ginger, sesame seeds, low sodium soy sauce, garlic OR low sodium teriyaki sauce diluted with pineapple juice.
  • Indonesian style: Peanut, lime and ginger
  • Caribbean style: Lime, rum, allspice, ginger, garlic
  • Indian style: Curry powder, garlic, chili powder, cinnamon

Always feel free to add extra vegetables like tomatoes, onions and peppers instead of loading on more sauce.

You can tenderize lean cuts meat to increase flavor and texture. Marinate meat in salsa, low-calorie salad dressings, wine, pineapple, papaya or citrus juices such as orange, lemon or lime. Cover meat with about a quarter-inch of marinate and refrigerate for up to 24 hours. When it’s time to cook, place the meat on a clean, slightly oiled grill. Baste with fresh marinade or heat the marinade until it reaches a rolling boil before using it. Grill steaks until they are at least 145 degrees Fahrenheit and ground meat until it is at least 160 degrees Fahrenheit internally.

You can lighten up your favorite dishes with a few simple ingredient swaps:

  1. Lighten your potato salad by downsizing the amount of real mayonnaise from 1 cup to ¼ cup and mixing in 3/4 cup fat-free sour cream instead.
  2. Lighten your pasta salad by using a light dressing to cut fat in half.
  3. Lighten a vegetable side dish by broiling it instead of sautéing it in oil. For example, broiled peppers are delicious.
  4. Try replacing the classic white rice with couscous the next time you cook.Think beyond white rice. Whole grains such as quinoa and whole wheat couscous make fine additions to a barbecue meal. Prepare a grain pilaf by adding diced carrots, celery, onions and pine nuts to the dish.
  5. Edamame (green soybeans) can be served as a sweet & satisfying side which provides both protein and fiber. You can find them in the frozen section of the supermarket. For the healthiest results, boil edamame or steam them in the microwave.
  6. Spicy flavors satisfy. Prepare a noodle side dish using soba noodles (buckwheat). Cook these noodles according to the package’s directions. Toss noodles with 2 teaspoons peanut oil (heart-healthy fat), ½ teaspoon of crushed red pepper flakes, chopped scallions, 3 tablespoons reduced sodium soy sauce and 1 teaspoon of hot sauce.

As always, be mindful of food allergies when preparing foods with ingredients such as peanut oil.

Menu Makeover:

With proactive eating and planning ahead, your next barbecue can be a healthy experience. From the menus below you can see that if you are not careful, calories and fat creep up quickly. 

Typical Barbecue Meal:

Calories Fat (in Grams)
Cheeseburger, 3 oz. 315 15
1/2 Cup Potato Salad 180 10
1/2 Cup Coleslaw 120 12
16 Potato Chips 150 10
Hot Dog (with Roll) 310 18
Two 24 oz. Beers 300 0
Apple Pie (1 Slice) 300 12
TOTAL 1675 77

Compare this to:

Revised BBQ Meal Calories Fat (in Grams)

Plain Burger, 3 oz.

(Made from 90% lean beef) 

184 10
Fresh Vegetable Salad, 3 Cups 30 0
Light Dressing, 2 Tbsp. 50 2

Chicken Kabob, 3 oz.


110 3
Hummus, 2 Tbsp. 50 2
One Mini Whole Wheat Pita 65 0
Lite Beer, 12 oz. 100 0
Seltzer with Lime 0 0
Fruit Salad, 1 Cup 120 <1
TOTAL 709 17

Calories Saved: 966

Fat Grams Saved: 60

Save an additional 64 calories and 7 fat grams by swapping the hamburger for a veggie burger!

Final Tip: Summer is not only about food.

Do stay active. Exercise is an effective way to prevent weight gain and stay energized. Exercise does not have to be limited to a 30 minute walk on a treadmill. Take advantage of the hot weather and engage in fun outdoor activities such tossing a Frisbee with friends, family and pets, swimming, rollerblading, or playing tennis. Enjoy the company of family and friends away from the comfort of your indoor couch and go for a nice brisk walk together outside instead.

Download the Optifast Tip Sheet

Tags: diet, healthy eating, summer recipes