If you don't have a smart strategy, summer cookouts can single-handedly sabotage your diet efforts. A few seemingly innocent forkfuls could tally up to a shockingly high calorie count. Learn how to save 1,200 (or more!) calories by swapping the "standard fare" for these "better bargain" or "best bet" choices.
1. Skip potato chips and creamy dips and instead choose hummus and veggies for about one-third of the calories. Standard Fare: Potato chips (1 ounce) and French Onion dip (2 tablespoons) -- 215 calories Better Bargain: Woven wheat crackers (1 ounce) and spinach dip (2 tablespoons) -- 170 calories Best Bet: Sugar snap peas (1 cup) and traditional hummus (2 tablespoons) -- 75 calories 2. Side-step tortilla chips & taco dip and instead choose a baguette slice with bruschetta to save about 200 calories. Standard Fare: Tortilla chips (1 ounce) with 7-layer dip -- 300 calories Better Bargain: Pita bread (1/2 pita) with guacamole -- 120 calories Best Bet: Toasted French baguette (1 ounce) with bruschetta -- 105 calories 3. Opt out of cheese and crackers and choose shrimp cocktail instead to save 130 calories. Standard Fare: Cheese (1 ounce) and crackers (4) -- 180 calories Better Bargain: Deviled eggs (2 halves) -- 130 calories Best Bet: Shrimp cocktail (6 shrimp with 1 ounce cocktail sauce) -- 50 calories
Grilled meats are typically the star of the show. A hotdog will save you more than 100 calories over a cheeseburger, but the best bet is a BBQ'd chicken breast. But no matter what you choose, remember to load up on the veggie-based condiments: lettuce, onion, tomato, pickles, etc. to get a dose of nutrition and feel full faster! Standard Fare: Cheeseburger on a Kaiser roll -- 425 calories Better Bargain: Beef hotdog on a bun -- 310 calories Best Bet: BBQ'd chicken breast on a sandwich thin -- 265 calories
1. Coleslaw would be healthy -- if those innocent shredded veggies weren't soaking in the high-calorie, mayo-based sauce. Try a tomato and mozzarella salad or veggie kabobs instead to save, on average, 180 calories. Standard Fare: Creamy coleslaw (1 cup) -- 290 calories Better Bargain: Tomato (1 whole) and mozzarella (1 ounce) Caprese salad -- 135 calories Best Bet: Grilled vegetable kabobs (1 cup) -- 80 calories 2. Swap the potato salad for smarter starchy sides such as baked beans -- they have more fiber and protein -- or corn on the cob for about 100 fewer calories. Standard Fare: Potato salad (1/2 cup) -- 180 calories Better Bargain: Vegetarian baked beans (1/2 cup) -- 120 calories Best Bet: Corn on the cob -- 75 calories
The average American woman would have to play an hour of yard croquet (about 50 minutes for men) to burn off the difference between one margarita and one light beer. If light beer just won't cut it, sangria can be a satisfying middle-of-the-road cocktail choice. Standard Fare: Margarita (6 ounces) -- 280 calories Better Bargain: Sangria (8 ounces) -- 160 calories Best Bet: Light beer (12 ounces) -- 100 calories
Don't deny yourself summery desserts, but instead of strawberry shortcake opt for sorbet or a watermelon wedge for a naturally sweet summer treat. Standard Fare: Strawberry shortcake with whipped cream -- 210 calories Better Bargain: Sorbet (1/2 cup) with vanilla wafers (2 whole) -- 155 calories Best Bet: Watermelon wedge -- 85 calories
The bottom line is, if you opt for "better bargains" or "best bets" at your next backyard bash, you'll save big!
Standard Fare: 2080 total calories
Better Bargain: 1300 total calories
Best Bet: 835 total calories
When In Doubt ... Serve Slimmed-Down Summer Fare
Gain control over the food frenzy by bringing your own reliable dish to share. Take a look at my recipes below for a few quick and easy dishes that promise to earn rave reviews from guests!
Artichoke & White Bean Dip
Serves 24 (serving size: 2 tablespoons, 25 calories per serving)
Non stick spray
1 sweet onion, chopped
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 can (16 ounces) white beans, drained and rinsed
1 can (14 ounces) artichoke hearts, drained
1 lemon, juiced
Spray frying pan with cooking spray. Cook onion, oregano and red pepper until onion is browned and slightly caramelized. Place cooked onion mixture, beans, artichokes and lemon juice in bowl. With a hand blender, blend until smooth. Serve with assorted vegetables.
Grilled Veggie Salad
Serves 6 (serving size: 1 cup, 80 calories per serving)
3 bell peppers (one of each: green, red & yellow), chopped, 1-inch pieces
1 red onion, chopped, 1-inch wedges
1 zucchini, sliced
2 Tablespoons grapeseed oil
Sea salt & black pepper, to taste
Balsamic vinegar, to taste
Chopped fresh basil, to taste
In a large mixing bowl, toss peppers, onion, zucchini, oil, salt and pepper. Stack vegetables on skewers and grill about six minutes or until desired tenderness. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Remove skewers. Drizzle grilled vegetables with balsamic vinegar and toss with basil.
Grilled Herbed Potatoes
Serves 6 (serving size: 1/2 cup, 100 calories per serving)
3 cups cubed potatoes, with skins
1 tablespoon grapeseed oil
2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
Sea salt and black pepper, to taste
1/2 lemon, juiced
In a mixing bowl, combine potatoes, oil, chives, parsley, salt and pepper. Place mixture on two-layers of foil and seal well into packet shape. Place packet of potatoes on grill for about 15-20 minutes, until potatoes are tender. Drizzle with lemon before serving.
Summer Berry Brulee
Serves 6 (serving size: 1/2 cup, 90 calories per serving)
3 cups sliced strawberries
1 1/2 cups low-fat Greek strained yogurt
3 tablespoons organic cane sugar
Put 1/2 cup sliced berries into ramekin. Top with 1/4 cup yogurt and sprinkle with 1/2 tablespoon sugar. Immediately use culinary torch to burn sugar until golden, about 3 minutes per ramekin. Put in fridge for at least 15 minutes to harden sugar and chill yogurt. Note: This recipe makes it worth buying yourself a culinary torch, if you don't already have one!
Follow Dawn Jackson Blatner, RD, CSSD, LDN on Twitter: www.twitter.com/djblatner