Which dishes to eat at a BBQ and which to avoid

Find out what summer foods to skip and healthier choices to eat instead.
EatingWell // EatingWell

I love the traditional barbecue foods of summer: burgers and dogs, creamy salads, yummy desserts. While barbecue foods tend not to be the stuff that’s going to win any nutrition awards, you can partake and still walk away with your shorts buttoned. It just means making the right choices—and, no, you don’t have to limit yourself to the corn on the cob and watermelon. Just skip (most of) the worst barbecue dishes; the best ones are often just as satisfying.

Nicci Micco, M.S.

Related: 8 Healthy Summer Foods to Add to Your Diet

1 of 10 Photo: Ken Burris

Bad barbecue dish: A cheeseburger

A quarter-pound beef burger with a slice of cheese will set you back 510 calories (26 grams of fat). Skipping the cheese will save you about 100 calories. But if you love a good burger, go for it. It’s an excellent source of iron.

Related: 6 Tips for Cooking a Better Burger

Related recipe from EatingWell: Inside-Out Cheeseburgers

2 of 10 Photo: Blaine Moats

Better barbecue dish: Hot dog

A hot dog is lower in calories than you might think. Enjoy one on a roll with your favorite toppings (with lower-cal toppings like mustard, relish or just a little ketchup) and you’ll come out around 300 calories, 17 g fat.

Related: Can Hot Dogs be Healthy?

Related recipe from EatingWell: Salsa Hot Dog

3 of 10 Photo: Ken Burris

Bad barbecue side dish: Potato salad

There’s nothing inherently bad about potatoes: they’re actually a great source of vitamin C and fiber, but they contain more calories than other veggies. Plus, most potato salads are smothered in way too much full-fat mayo and will cost you about 360 calories and 20 or so grams of fat per cup.

Related recipe from EatingWell: Mama’s Potato Salad

4 of 10 Photo: Andy Lyons

Best barbecue side dish: Coleslaw

Coleslaw can satisfy a craving for something creamy for far fewer calories (83, with 3 grams of fat per cup). Low-cal cabbage is also a rich source of isothiocyanates, compounds that amp up the body’s natural detoxifying enzymes.

Related recipe from EatingWell: Mexican Coleslaw

5 of 10 Photo: Andy Lyons

Bad barbecue drink: Margarita (or most other cocktails)

Between the alcohol and mixers, a small 3.5-ounce drink packs about 160 calories (0 grams of fat). If you’re staying away from alcohol, you might want to stay away from soda, too: a 12-ounce can delivers about 150 calories—all from added sugars.

Related recipe from EatingWell: Blueberry-Lime Margarita

6 of 10 Photo: Peter Krumhardt

Better barbecue (alcoholic) drink: Light beer

A 12-ounce bottle generally has a little less than 100 calories. Or go for the best choice of all: zero-calorie flavored seltzer.

7 of 10 Photo: Ken Burris

Bad barbecue dessert: Strawberry shortcake

Just because it contains fruit doesn’t mean it’s the healthiest or lowest-calorie choice. Between the cake and the loads of whipped cream that typically tops this summer favorite, you get a lot more calories than you may be bargaining for: about 425 (and around 20-25 grams of fat).

8 of 10 Photo: Blaine Moats

Better barbecue dessert: A frozen fruit bar

A frozen fruit bar (100 calories, 0 grams of fat). Or even a scoop of vanilla ice cream: 140 calories, about 5 grams of fat.

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