The Dietitians' Guide to a Healthy Summer Barbecue

“A barbecue party is a great excuse to try new recipes and spice up the healthy foods that we try to incorporate into our diets all year round,” says Alissa Ritter, a registered dietitian at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center.

Jessica Miller, a registered dietitian at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center, adds that “Every season offers us new ways to improve our diets, and the summer is no exception. By making a few slight changes to your cooking routine and adding seasonal vegetables and fruits the summertime can become an ideal time to lose weight and keep it off.”

Alissa Ritter and Jessica Miller offer the following guide to stay healthy and enjoy those summertime barbecues:

  • Ditch the beef. Try bison or vegetarian burgers instead of beef burgers. Beef can have up to six times as much total fat as bison meat and about seven times as much saturated fat. If you want to stick with beef, choose lean cuts such as a loin, round or extra-lean hamburger meat, and trim any visible fat.
  • Avoid using mayonnaise on your salads. Use mustard or low fat plain yogurt in place of mayonnaise in potato or pasta salads.
  • Add non-alcoholic options to your beverage selection. Have a bar of fresh-squeezed juices and flavored seltzer waters so that guests can make their own non-alcoholic drinks. Use blends of fresh or frozen berries, peach nectar and ice for refreshing smoothies; add low-fat yogurt for protein and a more filling snack.
  • Make seasonal vegetables the focus of your meal. Indulge in salads and steamed vegetables. Season vegetables with spices, lemon and balsamic vinegar, a little Parmesan cheese and low-fat dressings. Make these the largest items on your plate and add small portions of protein and/or starch.
  • Grilling your food is a great way to add flavor while reducing fat and calories. Grilling meats allows some fat to drip off, which lowers fat and calorie content. Try wrapping fish or chicken in foil and add vegetables and seasonings to the grill.
  • Satisfy your sweet tooth with fresh fruits. Bypass cakes, cookies and ice cream and opt for fresh berries, melons and even some of the more exotic fruits that are available instead. Fruit is fat-free, high in nutrients and fiber, and a natural energizer.
  • Try “calorie banking.” Cookouts with family and friends should not signal a diet disaster. By cutting back on your calories a week before special occasions, you can indulge a little more and enjoy yourself. Once at the event, you can use a smaller plate such as the ones usually put out for dessert or fruit. This will prevent you from taking extra-large servings.
  • Stay away from empty calories. It is important to drink plenty of fluids during these warm summer months, but juice, whole milk, regular soda and alcoholic beverages are high-calorie drinks that you want to avoid. Alcoholic beverages contain empty calories and may stimulate your appetite. Instead, fill up on water, seltzer, juice diluted with seltzer, low-fat milk or iced tea.

NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital

NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, based in New York City, is the nation’s largest not-for-profit, non-sectarian hospital, with 2,353 beds. The Hospital has nearly 2 million inpatient and outpatient visits in a year, including more than 220,000 visits to its emergency departments — more than any other area hospital. NewYork-Presbyterian provides state-of-the-art inpatient, ambulatory and preventive care in all areas of medicine at five major centers: NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center, NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center, NewYork-Presbyterian/Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital, NewYork-Presbyterian/The Allen Hospital and NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Westchester Division. One of the most comprehensive health care institutions in the world, the Hospital iscommitted to excellence in patient care, research, education and community service. NewYork-Presbyterian is the #1 hospital in the New York metropolitan area and is consistently ranked among the best academic medical institutions in the nation, according to U.S.News & World Report. The Hospital has academic affiliations with two of the nation’s leading medical colleges: Weill Cornell Medical College and Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons. For more information, visit

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