With summer in full swing and the 4th of July right around the corner, you are bound to be hitting up your fair share of barbecues and picnics. Juicy, mammoth cheeseburgers and mounds of creamy macaroni salad will beckon you. But before you succumb to the salty allure of those potato chips and expand your bikini-ready waistline, consider opting instead for the following healthy alternatives to classic BBQ fare. Try these nutritious (yet still satisfying) swaps, and you can grub without sabotaging your health.
The Main Course
Skip This: Hamburger or cheeseburger
No barbecue would be complete without a good ol’ all-American hamburger or cheeseburger. Unfortunately, a beefy burger is not the healthiest option out there. Consisting of a saturated fat-laden patty enveloped in a white bun that packs negligible nutritional benefits, hamburgers will usually set you back at least 250-500 calories. Make it a cheeseburger and you’ll add on another 50-100 calories and more saturated fat. But, fear not, there are more nutritious ways to satisfy your burger craving.
Pick This: Turkey burger on whole grain bun
A turkey burger has fewer calories, less fat, and a bit more protein than a hamburger—even an extra lean cut. Certified health coach Laurie Brownstein explains that since turkey has less saturated fat than meat, it is considered a better quality protein.
If you’re a vegetarian (or even if you’re not) go for a veggie burger, which contains little to no saturated fat. Look for ones made with soy or nuts to get protein and other nutrients.
The classic white bun that hamburgers and cheeseburgers are served on is a refined starch food. According to goodcarbs.org, refined starches are referred to as “empty-calorie” foods because they lack nutrition, fiber, and vitamins. Registered Dietitian and Licensed Nutritionist Roberta Laredo explains that “starches and sweets don’t fill us like higher fiber and higher protein foods do so we feel hungry quicker, which can then lead to eating too much too soon.”
By going whole grain, you’ll boost the health benefits of your burger. Whereas refined starches are zeroes, whole grains are heroes—they are “an excellent source of fiber, protein, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants” and “can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes in addition to reducing blood pressure and obesity.” A pretty substantial health upgrade for a nominal change in flavor!
No turkey burgers or whole grain buns in sight? Go for a naked hamburger. If you go bunless and hold the cheese, you’ll eliminate the bulk of the calories but still be filled up from the protein. Can’t bear to pass up the cheese? There are still ways for you to moderate the calorie and saturated fat content. Laredo advises, “choose lower fat cheese when possible. There are many reduced fat cheeses on the market now that have great taste.” She suggests opting for a cheese that packs a lot of flavor per serving, like sharp cheddar and real Parmesean Reggiano, so that “you can use less, but still get great taste.”