How to Host a Healthy Cookout

Rethink your Drink

Often beverages make up a surprising percentage of our daily calories. Think about providing some zero- or low-calorie options for your guests at your next bbq. Some ideas include carbonated water infused with fresh fruit and/or herbs, unsweet tea, and non-alcoholic spritzers made with tonic water and light fruit juice. Remember that alcohol counts, and the calories add up quickly. A single regular beer has at least 125 calories, and a hard lemonade has 220 calories!

Pick your Protein

If you plan to grill, chances are meat will be involved. To air on the healthier side, make sure you choose lean cuts for your meat of choice. Safe options are chicken, pork tenderloin, fish, shrimp, sirloin/round steak, 93% lean ground beef and turkey sausage. These cuts provide a low amount of artery-clogging and cholesterol-raising saturated fat. If you see a lot of white marbling on the raw meat, this indicates that it is high in fat. Also consider offering vegetarian options like black bean burgers.

Go Heavy on the Veggies

There’s something about grilling that seems to infuse vegetables with an abundance of flavor. Use a veggie pan to grill squash, peppers and onions or broccoli, Brussels sprouts and cauliflower. All you need is a drizzle of olive oil and some seasonings, and these veggies will speak for themselves. If you want to branch out a bit, make veggie kebobs.

Be Selective with your Apps

Even if you provide that creamy buffalo dip or indulgent spinach/artichoke spread, make sure to offer other nutritious alternatives when planning appetizers. Raw vegetables with a Greek yogurt dip or hummus hit the spot. You could also try pretzels with a low-calorie honey mustard dip.

Spread Thin

Condiments can often make or break the calorie bank at a meal. Choosing low-calorie options like mustard, ketchup, bbq sauce, salsa, horseradish, pickles, lettuce and tomatoes will provide harmless and tasty choices. Mayonnaise, aioli, butter and cheese all tend to be much heavier.

That Sweet Spot

Dessert is often a staple at a cookout. Try having options like fresh-cut watermelon, berries, fruit popsicles and angel food cake with whipped cream as alternatives.