How to eat healthy at summer barbecues

It's never clear when a barbecue meal is over. Here's how to eat healthy instead.

How to eat healthy at summer barbecues
Family eating an al fresco meal

How bad can a barbecue be for you, right? It’s just some protein and veggies grilled up, isn’t it? Sure, maybe when it’s just you and your boo grilling on your balcony. But when your friends invite you over for pool parties and backyard grilling, the dishes become far more elaborate than tri-tip and corn on the cob. And, since people tend to make way too much food at barbecues, and it just keeps flying off of that grill, you feel pressure to eat more, so things don’t go to waste. Eating at a barbecue is deceptively similar to eating at a buffet; it’s never quite clear when the meal is over, and there are a lot of different dishes to try. Here is how to eat healthy at all of those summer barbecues (so you’ll still want to go swimming after).

Get your crunch from celery and carrots

The temptation, of course, is to balance out your soft burger bun with some crunchy chips, but chips are designed to make you want more as you eat more. Get your crunch from celery and carrot sticks.

If you must have chips

If you just can’t enjoy a barbecue without chips, bring a big bag of baked or popped chips just in case nobody else does. You could also consider making your own healthy tortilla chips by simply cutting corn tortillas into strips and lightly frying them in olive oil.

Don’t eat these dips

Dips seem so innocent when you’re just scooping them onto your plate, one tablespoon at a time. But by the time you’re done eating, you may have had a full cup of dip. Steer clear of any sour cream or cream-cheese-based dips. If you crave the creamy stuff, make your own dip from low-fat Greek yogurt.

Eat these dips

Your best bet for keeping calories low is to stick to the salsa—this could be your traditional chunky tomato salsa, mango salsa, black bean, and corn salsa—you name it. These offer nutrients without plenty of calories.

Avoid the pitchers and bottles

I’m talking about the pitchers of margaritas, mojitos and bloody marys, and the bottles of prosecco and white wine. It’s impossible to gauge your calorie intake when drinking from these bottomless-style containers, and they usually hold the sugary drinks.

Stick to beer

While beer may not seem like the healthier choice, you can at least keep exact track of your calories if you drink beer. Even if the label doesn’t list the calories, the Internet will. And beer doesn’t have all the sugar of the fruity drinks.


The biggest pitfall of any social event is forgetting to socialize, and just hovering around the food and drinks area. Make yourself a plate and grab yourself a drink you feel good about, then venture away from the table, and into the crowd. Before you know it, you could be lost in conversation, and the barbecue may almost be over.

Bring your own protein

There is a good chance that burgers and hot dogs will be the only things served at the barbecue. Be on the safe side, and bring chicken, turkey burgers or salmon. If you make these in a special marinade or with a fun salsa, it won’t look like you were stepping on the barbecue master’s toes but rather just wanted to share a special recipe.

Go skinless

Remember that the skin on chicken can actually contain quite a bit of fat. Go for the skinless, grilled chicken, or remove the skin from your chicken.

If burgers call your name

If you absolutely must have a red-meat burger, then bring buffalo burgers. These contain far less fat than traditional beef burgers and are typically made from grass-fed buffalo.

Be selfish with the garnishes

Most people only take a couple leafs of lettuce and two slices of tomatoes for their burgers. You, however, should go to town on that garnish table, adding as much lettuce as you would to a salad, tons of tomatoes, pickles, and onions. This way, you’ll fill up on veggies and won’t need a second burger patty.

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