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Dawn Jackson Blatner, RD, CSSD, LDN

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Easy Swaps To Shave Calories Off Your Barbecue

Posted: 07/03/11 02:56 AM ET

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.

Get A Grip On Grazing
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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
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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!


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