Give your Fourth of July cookout a healthy makeover

Lose the calories, but not the taste with these menu substitutions.

grilled zucchini and tomatoes on plate

Hot dogs, hamburgers, potato salad – it’s the great American cookout! What better way to celebrate the Fourth of July than with friends, family and grilling.

This year, celebrate by keeping the flavor without the extra fat and calories. The ADC Health Risk Management department suggests the following alternatives from TODAY nutrition expert Joy Bauer to your cookout.

Traditional BBQ feast

Cheeseburger on white bun
1 beef/pork sausage
Large scoop macaroni salad
Handful of barbecue chips
Glass of lemonade
Blueberry pie a la mode

This adds up to 2260 calories, 126 grams of fat, 48 grams saturated fat and 109 grams sugar.

Healthier BBQ feast

Turkey burger with reduced-fat cheese on whole-wheat bun
1 turkey sausage
Grilled veggies (zucchini, portabella mushrooms, red peppers)
Baked sweet potato
Bottled water
Wedge of watermelon
Italian ice pop

Totaling 800 calories, 28 grams of fat, 5 grams sat. fat, 38 grams sugar. You can trim 1460 calories, 98 grams fat and 71 grams sugar… Bon appetit!

Healthier grilling tips

The grill’s high temperature can trigger substances in the muscle proteins of meat, chicken and fish to produce cancer-linked chemicals known as HCAs (Hetero-Cyclic-Amines) — especially if the meat is charred or well done.

To lower the amount in your BBQ food, follow these guidelines:

  • Keep gas jets low or wait until the charcoal turns into glowing embers before you start cooking.
  • Trim all fat and marinate your meat.
  • Flip meat often.
  • Enjoy kabobs. Small pieces of chicken, fish and lean beef cook faster and spend less time on the grill (and therefore produce fewer HCAs than large breasts and steaks).
  • Scrape off and discard visible charred pieces.
  • Shorten grilling time — by slightly precooking meat in the oven or microwave.

More alternatives

LOSE: High-fat hamburgers

  • Bison burgers
  • Garden burgers
  • Turkey burgers (make homemade with lean ground turkey, or buy Jenni-O and ShadyBrook Farm ready-made patties)

LOSE: Hot dogs, beef and pork sausage

  • Lean poultry sausage (try Casual Gourmet, Hans, Shady Brook Farms and Applegate Farm)
  • Soy sausages (try Boca)

LOSE: Fatty steaks, ribs, and chicken wings

  • Skinless chicken breasts
  • Chicken/fish-vegetable kabobs
  • Fish (wild salmon, halibut, shrimp)

LOSE Calorie-laden side dishes (full-fat macaroni salad, potato salad, coleslaw, chips)

  • Grilled vegetables (anything goes: zucchini, red pepper, portabella mushrooms)
  • Sweet potatoes and white potatoes
  • Corn on the cob

And if you must have the chips, go for healthier varieties:

  • Baked BBQ Lays
  • Terra vegetable chips
  • Stacy’s pita chips
  • FlatEarth Fruit/Veggie crisps

For more information about ADC’s Health Risk Management weight loss programs, call 512-901-4540.

Tips from Joy Bauer, the author of “Joy Bauer’s Food Cures,” a No. 1 New York Times best-selling book. For more information on healthy eating, visit TODAY nutrition expert Joy Bauer’s website.