For most, barbecues are a quintessential part of summer. But unfortunately, quintessential barbecue foods aren’t always the most nutritious options.
Of course, it’s perfectly fine to dig in to a big juicy hamburger or a loaded hot dog every now and then, but any nutrition expert will tell you they’re definitely not foods that should make a regular appearance in your diet.
Whether you’re working towards building healthier eating habits or you’re aiming to lose some weight, with food-centric summer get-togethers popping up every other weekend, sticking to your goals might feel like a challenge.
No doubt, opting for the healthier option while everyone else is chowing down on your favorite barbecue foods isn’t an easy thing to do, but it is the smarter option and the one that will help you reach your goals more quickly.
To help us highlight some of the better, more nutritious foods typically available at barbecues we consulted three nutrition experts: Dr. Caroline Cederquist MD, creator of bistroMD and author of “The MD Factor Diet”; Sarah Hallenberger, lead dietician at bistroMD; and Susan Bowerman, M.S., R.D., C.S.S.D., director of nutrition training at Herbalife.
These are their suggestions for making healthier choices without sacrificing enjoyment.
Grilled Chicken Instead of Hamburgers & Hot Dogs
“Have barbecue chicken breast instead of hot dogs and hamburgers,” says Cederquist. “Chicken contains less saturated fats and does not have nitrates like hot dogs.” She also recommends avoiding “well-done” red meats since some research shows that carcinogens may form in red meat cooked at high temperatures.
Grilled Fish Instead of Other Red Meats
Bowerman also recommends against typical barbecue meats like sausages and hot dogs. “It’s the higher fat meats that get you into trouble—particularly sausages or hot dogs, which have the most fat,” she explained. “Burgers are generally made with a higher fat meat, so if that’s your only option, don’t add insult to injury by slathering it with melted cheese or mayo.” Instead, if there’s fish or poultry on the grill, Bowerman says either is always a good choice. “One good thing about grilling is that it’s a low-fat cooking method,” she added.