Feeling anxious about what to eat can sabotage a summer cookout, and that's no fun at all. Let us do the worrying for you, and slim down your grill fest with these skinny swaps - they're so simple, you hardly have to think about them. By Holly Corbett, REDBOOK.
1. Be sides savvy
Take advantage of fresh and tasty seasonal produce while slimming your waist: Trade a side of traditional creamy potato salad for sliced tomatoes, cucumbers, and onions tossed with fat-free Italian dressing and you'll save yourself 258 calories.
2. Dip wisely
Instead of coating greasy chips with fat-packed sour cream, try serving baked tortilla chips or better yet, whole-wheat pita wedges with low-fat refried beans and chunky salsa. The swap makes a big - 109 calories to be exact - difference. Bonus: It's a tasty way to sneak in an extra serving of veggies.
3. Load burgers with flavor, not fat
These sneaky ingredients will make chicken or turkey burgers taste so much better, not to mention up their healthiness factor. "When you make the patties, mix in robust flavors to blow your guests' minds, such as chopped roasted garlic and shallots, jalapeno, grilled onions, and lots of herbs and spices," says Greenleaf ChopShops chef and owner Jonathan Rollo. "These are practically calorie-free additions, but the flavor boost means you don't need to slather a bunch of sauce or cheese on the burger to make it taste great."
Related: 25 Lazy Ways to Burn Extra Calories Just Like That
4. "Green" your vinaigrette
People get into trouble by dousing healthy foods like potato salad, sandwiches and pasta salads with heavy, cream-based dressings or mayo. Instead, try subbing in Rollo's heart-healthy, greener topping.
1 cup + 1 tbsp olive oil
1 avocado1 tbsp sugar
1 cup balsamic vinegar
1/2 red onion
2 cloves of garlic
1/4 cup Worchesterire Sauce
In sauté pan, slightly brown chopped onion, shallot and garlic with one tablespoon of olive oil. Remove and cool. Add all ingredients to blender except the remaining oil. Begin to blend and drizzle oil slowly into mixture to emulsify and make it creamy.
5. Put veggies front and center
Rather than relegating vegetables to a small corner of your plate, make them the star of your meal. You'll fill up on fewer calories by placing your protein - such as a grilled chicken breast or sliced steak - over a bed of grilled vegetables, says Amy Eubanks, executive chef of BLT Fish in New York City.
6. Grill your dessert, too
You'll hardly miss belt-busting peach cobbler if you have other good-for-you options on hand. Try making grilled fruit kebabs to save 166 calories and score some filling fiber: Slice one peach and one small banana into quarters, thread four pieces fruit each onto two skewers, and brush with one tablespoon of honey each. Throw it on the barbecue and grill each side for about four minutes, or until flesh is tender but still firm, and sprinkle with cinnamon. Or just chop up fresh fruit and drizzle with chocolate sauce for a fiber-filled sweet treat.
7. Try this trending side dish
"Last year, quinoa was the 'it' ingredient. This year it's kale - a versatile and nutritious champ," says Rollo. "It's easy to make kale chips for your next BBQ: All you have to do is tear the leaves into bite-size portions, toss in olive oil and lemon juice, and season heavily with whatever kind of salt, pepper, and dried herbs or spices you like." Bake in the oven on 275 for 20 minutes, flipping leaves a little longer than halfway through. If you're feeling adventurous, you can add Parmesan, cayenne pepper or truffle oil.
Related: 31 Days of Snacks for Grown-Ups
8. Go for leaner meat
Swap pork sausage for turkey sausage. Or if you can get it past the men in your party, opt for grilled fish, such as tilapia brushed with olive oil and herbs, over fattier cuts of meat like chicken legs. This will save you about 135 to 145 calories so you can sip a brewskie, guilt-free.
9. Don't clean your plate
We know it's easier said than done, but leaving a few small bites of any potato or noodle side dish automatically cuts up to 100 calories because those starches almost always have added butter, oils, or other fats. Stand up from the table to asses your fullness, or pop a piece of gum in your mouth once you've gotten your fill.
10. That's a wrap
Ditch the bun - the white bread won't fill you up anyway - and place pulled pork or shredded chicken on a large lettuce leaf to save 110 calories. Layer with carrots, tomatoes, cucumbers, and onions, and roll up to eat.
Related: 21 Ways to Burn Fat Faster
11. Spread the wealth
Before you bite into that sandwich, know you could swap mayo for hummus or mustard, and a roll for sliced bread to cut about 200 calories. Go for mixed greens instead of macaroni salad to slash about another 300 calories, and you'll save a belly-busting 500 calories overall - that's about as many calories as you'd burn exercising for an hour with a whole lot less pain!
12. Sip smarter
Choosing the right alcoholic beverage can save you literally hundreds of empty calories. As a general rule, most regular stouts have up to twice as many calories as "lite" beers. One bottle of Samuel Adam's Boston Lager, for example, has nearly 200 calories compared to Beck's Premier Light's 65 calories. One surprisingly low-calorie dark beer is Guinness, which has only 126 calories in a 12-ounce bottle. If it's a Mexican fiesta you fancy, go for tequila mixed with club soda and lime to save yourself extra sugar and calories from those pre-packaged margarita mixes. And opt to have your drink on the rocks - ice cuts down on the amount of liquid in your glass, nixing even more calories.
More from REDBOOK: