The Dietitians' Guide to a Healthy Summer Barbecue

Apr 10, 2012


Warmer temperatures mean a lot of time spent outdoors and at social functions – both of which can offer plenty of opportunity to indulge in your favorite foods. Sadly, these frequent splurges also lead to an expanding waistline.

"A barbecue 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 Judy Prince, a registered dietitian at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center.

Nancy Addison, a registered dietitian at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/ Columbia University Medical Center, adds, "Every season offers us new ways to improve our diets, and the summer is no exception. The warmer months make it easier to eat healthier because of the abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables. By making a few slight changes to your cooking routine by adding seasonal vegetables and fruits, the summertime can become an ideal time to make lasting healthy changes, lose weight and keep it off."

Judy Prince and Nancy Addison offer the following to stay healthy this summer:

  • Ditch the beef. Try bison or vegetarian burgers instead of beef burgers, which can have up to seven times more saturated fat than bison meat. If you want to stick with beef, choose lean cuts and trim any visible fat. You can also go beyond burgers and try grilling healthy chicken breast, turkey burgers, vegetables and salmon.
  • 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. Alcoholic beverages contain empty calories and may stimulate your appetite. Also, it is important to stay hydrated during warmer weather. Have a supply of fresh-squeezed juices and flavored seltzer waters to make non-alcoholic drinks. Use blends of fresh or frozen berries, peach nectar and ice for refreshing smoothies. Try adding 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 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. Also, tenderizing the meat by marinating them in acidic juices will increase the flavor.
  • 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. Remember - fruit is fat-free, high in nutrients and fiber, and a natural energizer.

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 is committed 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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