You might think that a 4th of July backyard barbecue is pretty much the worst thing that can happen to your weight loss plan this summer.
You know what? You could be right. Giant bowls of chips and dip, burgers, brats and dogs piled onto white bread buns, “salads” that start with great big gob of mayonnaise, the traditional red, white and blue sheet cake slathered in cream cheese frosting and dotted with blueberries and strawberries, plus ice cream … yeah, that’s a real problem, alright.
But the minefield that is the backyard barbecue can be easily defused by just a few simple hacks. Here are seven tips for a healthy 4th of July food ideas and tips!
1. Build a better burger.
BYOM (bring your own meat) if you’re a guest and pre-make your lean beef (or even ultra-lean bison!) patty into a reasonable, two-ouncer. Don’t eyeball it.
Fast-food restaurant portion sizes have grown over the last few decades. So what you consider a “small” burger might actually be super-sized. Rule of thumb: Your two-ounce burger should be about two-thirds of the size of a deck of cards. Make it even healthier by bringing your own whole wheat bun or even switching to chicken or turkey. Lettuce wraps are also a smart and low-calorie option instead of a regular bun.
Check out these five better-for-your burger recipes for other healthy burger ideas!
2. Go fish.
Who says barbecue has to be all about meat? Firm-skinned fish such as salmon and tuna are great on the grill, as are the shrimp and scallops bathed in a garlic-infused butter sauce in this delicious seafood kebab recipe. >
Fish contains heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids and other nutrients that can help lower your blood pressure and heart rate, improve the health of your blood vessels, and prevent stroke and heart attack. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends that you have two servings of fish weekly.
3. Totally veg out.
Instead of snacking on chips, hit up the veggie tray. The fiber will help fill you up so you don’t overindulge. Skip the burger bun and use romaine or butter crunch lettuce as a burger wrap. And consider adding veggies to the grill menu.
Instead of whipping up a creamy coleslaw, put cabbage to better use by cutting a head into four thick slices, brush each with olive oil, sprinkle on salt and pepper and grill them for five to six minutes a side. Total damage: 121 calories per slice. Get the full Grilled Cabbage Steak recipe here! >
If you can’t live without slaw, try one of these healthier, low-cal slow recipes. >
Veggie skewers are another colorful and creative way to get in your four daily veggie servings on Nutrisystem. Thread some chunked onion, sliced zucchini, carrots, peppers and whole mushrooms onto skewers and grill them alongside the meat. You can also use a red wine vinegar-based marinade to add a big dose of flavor to your healthy kebab.
4. Choose your condiments wisely.
Sadly, some of your favorites may be high in sugar (ketchup) or fat (mayonnaise). While there are slimmed-down versions of these condiments, try to get a little more creative while you’re getting healthier.
Use mustard to make your own marinade for grilled meat or as the basis of a light salad dressing. Our Creamy Honey Mustard Dressing recipe uses nonfat Greek yogurt, honey, Dijon mustard, apple cider vinegar, garlic powder, salt and pepper to make a zingy dressing or even chicken marinade.
Top your burger or grilled chicken with a spoonful of salsa (check ingredients on store bought salsas for sugar content) for a more exotic flavor. Apple cider vinegar or balsamic vinegar, especially infused with herbs, are also great salad toppers that can double as a meat marinade.
5. Make yours a “mocktail.”
In addition to healthy 4th of July food, make sure you also have smart beverage options on hand. You can certainly mix your favorite wine with seltzer or have one low-cal beer. But the truth is that when you’re trying to lose weight, alcohol is not your friend. Studies have found that alcohol makes you overeat. A study, published in the journal Nature, found that alcohol can stimulate nerve cells in the hypothalamus of your brain to increase your appetite.
That’s not something you want happening when you’re faced with the incredible bounty at a backyard barbecue. Lucky for you, there are plenty of delicious alcohol-free drink ideas and recipes that will keep you happy and hydrated.
6. Don’t bypass the volleyball net.
One single game could burn around 216 calories, depending on how competitive you are.
Exercise certainly helps burn calories, but its real importance for weight loss is to slow the loss of muscle mass, an unfortunate side effect of simply dieting off weight, says the American College of Sports Medicine. Muscle mass is what helps your body burn those calories, so holding onto it while you’re losing fat is crucial. Exercise also helps us keep the weight off. So take every opportunity—volleyball, badminton, a pick-up basketball game, backyard softball—to make it part of your life, even when you’re partying.
7. Toss another peach on the grill.
If you’d like to avoid that patriotic cake and ice cream topper, take advantage of the hot grill to make a dessert that just seems decadent. Grilled fruit is the perfect healthy 4th of July food idea!
Just cut several peaches in half, flip them on the grill and cook for about five minutes per side. The heat brings out their sweetness, and if you eat a couple just like that, they’re only 50 calories. They jump to only 95 calories when you top them with a mascarpone cheese mixture (honey and vanilla extract) and raspberry sauce made with raspberries, water and stevia that you cook on the stove until they’re sauce-y. You’ll find this low-cal peach melba recipe here! >
Instead of peaches, you can also grill some fresh pineapple; it’s even sweeter when its natural sugars caramelize over the heat.
Looking for another fresh and fruit ideas? Thread your favorite fruits onto a skewer, like melon, pineapple chunks, grapes, strawberries and kiwi. Serve your fruit kebabs up with a spoonful of low-fat yogurt.