Keeping Your Cookout Healthy
There are few better things to do during the summer than gather with friends and family for a cookout. Whether its Memorial Day, the Fourth of July, or any day in between, cookouts are part of what makes summer summer. However, just because you’re celebrating does not mean you have to fall of the wagon and overdose on sugar, junk food, and fat. Burgers, sausage, hot dogs, lemonade, sweet tea, and even deserts can all be healthy if prepared correctly. This summer, celebrate with confidence, knowing your diet isn’t getting derailed.
It isn’t a cookout without hotdogs and hamburgers on the grill. Unfortunately, when prepared wrong burgers can be a heart-seeking missile of fat, salt, chemicals, and calories. How can you be sure the burger you’re grilling isn’t out to get you? First, make your own patties rather than buying pre-made frozen burgers at the store. Frozen patties are often made from scrap cuts of beef, loaded with sodium, and high in unhealthy saturated fat. For instance, a popular frozen option at most grocery stores clocks in at 420 calories per patty, with 15 grams of Saturated Fat. Another common frozen option lists “Beef Hearts” as its top ingredient. Who wants to eat ground up cow hearts?
When you go to make your own patty, choose a leaner category of ground chuck for lower fat content and lower calories. The most common, and usually the cheapest, option is 80/20 chuck. This means it is 80% beef, 20% fat. The average quarter-pound patty is going to have over 300 calories with 8 grams of saturated fat, and 20 grams of fat total. If, however, you choose a leaner 93/7 option, the same size patty will only be 182 calories with 3.5 grams of saturated fat!
If you’re feeling adventurous, you could also replace traditional beef chuck with bison, elk, or venison. A quarter-pound bison burger has 190 calories, 4 grams of saturated fat, and 23 grams of protein. The same size venison burger has only 160 calories, 3 grams of saturated fat, and 22 grams of protein. Plus, most venison and bison are raised organically.
Unfortunately, the patty itself isn’t the only calorie culprits when it comes to burgers. The bun, cheese, and condiments can also pack a diet-killing punch if you aren’t careful. Wheat buns are more nutritionally dense than their white-bread counterparts. Wheat will have a higher fiber content and often contain less calories. As for condiments and cheese, check out the charts to see which ones are best.
Hotdogs & Sausage
If you aren’t careful, hotdogs and sausage can pack hundreds of calories and loads of sodium and saturated fat. The average hotdog has nearly 200 calories, over 5 grams of saturated fat, and 5 grams of protein. It also will have an ingredients list longer than the average person’s grocery list. Luckily, there are great alternatives out there. All-beef hotdogs like Applegate’s Uncured Beef Hot Dogs have only 70 calories, 2 grams of saturated fat, and the same 5 grams of protein! There are also great turkey and chicken sausage substitutes that will save you loads of fat, calories, and sodium.
Lemonade & Iced Tea
No cookout is complete without lemonade or iced tea. If you aren’t careful, both can pack tons of sugar, causing your blood sugar to spike, your metabolism to stall, and your energy to bottom out. Choosing a cup of light lemonade instead of the regular version can save you over 125 calories and 32 grams of sugar, and a cup of diet iced tea will save you 90 calories and 25 grams of sugar! Homemade lemonade and iced tea can even be made significantly better than store bought, full sugar versions.
While no beer is technically “healthy,” some are definitely better than others. Knowing the difference between common brands can save you hundreds of calories throughout the course of a summer weekend.