Cutting Cookout Calories

Last updated: Jun 11, 2012

Would you like healthy choices for your next cookout? Then try these helpful hints!

Go With Grilling 
To cut fat and calories when cooking out, use an olive oil spray and:

  • Grill fresh fish such as salmon for a heart-healthy main dish
  • Grill kabobs with small chunks of skinless chicken, fish, or shrimp and large chunks of seasonal vegetables such as green and red pepper, onion, tomato, zucchini, cucumber, summer squash, mushrooms, and green peas
  • Exchange beef burgers for low-fat turkey burgers
  • Use 95 percent lean hamburger meat
  • Limit beef and turkey patties to 1/4 pound or less
  • Remove the skin from grilled and barbecued chicken before cooking it
  • Choose lean cuts of beef or pork, trim the fat from them, and serve 3- to 6-ounce portions
  • Offer low-fat veggie burgers made from beans, grains, and soy
  • Try portobella mushrooms as an alternative to a meat pattie
  • Dress your dish with low-calorie options such as pickles, lettuce, tomato, onion, ketchup, and mustard; avoid mayonnaise and cheese 
  • Use toasted whole-grain English muffins or whole grain buns for burgers to add fiber to and cut calories from your meal

Savor Skinny Sides

  • Replace mayonnaise in potato and macaroni salad with a low-calorie, low-fat vinaigrette
  • Use reduced-calorie, low-fat mayonnaise in cole slaw
  • Dip raw vegetables in a high-protein, low-fat dip such as hummus or plain yogurt instead of mayonnaise-based dips
  • Offer whole-grain tortilla chips and salsa
  • Offer rinsed, drained black beans, red beans, and white beans alone or in salads for a filling, high-protein, high-fiber, low-calorie, and low-fat side dish 
  • Serve raw or grilled vegetables
  • Serve a fresh, cold, leafy green salad lightly tossed with an olive oil and vinegar dressing

Design Delicious Drinks

  • Replace high-calorie, sugary drinks such as soda with chilled seltzer and slices of lemon or lime, unsweetened iced tea, or unsweetened iced coffee with fat-free or low-fat milk
  • Add a splash of fruit juice (1/4 cup or less) to your seltzer
  • Choose a calorie-free drink
  • Choose light beer
  • Add ice and seltzer to wine for a refreshing spritzer that's lower in calories than a glass of straight wine 

Focus on a Fruitful Finish
Instead of cupcakes or cookies, try cold, colorful fruit salad for a refreshing, low-calorie treat at the end of a warm summer day.

  • Try a mix of blueberries, strawberries, and blackberries, which are loaded with fiber and antioxidants; add a dolop of fat-free, plain yogurt for added protein and calcium
  • For a twist, try bite-sized, grilled fruit kabobs made with fresh grapes and chunks of pineapple, mango, apple, and pear 

Remember that even low-calorie, low-fat foods can add up to more calories than you need! If you're watching your weight, it's important to track your calories throughout the day to ensure that you don't get more calories than you use.