Grilling Out? Try These 7 Healthy Delicious Food Swaps

Delicious substitutions for your summer cookout

woman cooking on grill

What better way to enjoy your meals than by cooking out? But you don’t have to chuck your diet into the grill, too.

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Here are some tips to make your cookouts healthier, which often involves making simple substitutions. Besides making better food choices, you also want to watch your portion size so you don’t go overboard on calories.

Start with your burgers and dogs

You can start by swapping out enriched, white hamburger and hot dog buns for whole-grain buns.

Make sure you’re using 100 percent whole grain bun instead of your standard white bun because you and your family will get a lot more vitamins and minerals.

Another quick way to make a cookout healthier is to swap out the beef burgers for fish.

Salmon burgers are a great, healthy choice. Put them on the grill and you can serve them on buns like you normally would a hamburger. Just add some lettuce and tomato and you have a delicious omega-3 rich offering.

For a healthier cookout, try these 7 simple swaps:

Instead of: Try:
1. Enriched, white hamburger and hot dog buns Whole grain hamburger and hot dog buns
2. Beef burgers Salmon, veggie or black bean burgers
3. Regular hot dogs turkey hot dog, nitrate-free hot dog
4. Potato salad Whole wheat pasta salad
5. Potato chips baked corn chips
6. High-fat side dishes Grilled fruits and vegetables, hummus
7. Soft drinks Water

Swordfish and tuna also hold up great on the grill. An all-white meat turkey burger is also a good option, as is a black bean or veggie burger.

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But if you’re talking texture, a mushroom burger will most resemble a beef burger on your taste buds. And before you buy your hot dogs, check the label.

You either want to choose an all-beef nitrate-free hot dog that is low in saturated fat or a turkey dog that is lower in saturated fat. Going nitrate-free is important because additives in processed meats have been shown in studies to increase your risk for certain cancers.

With the turkey dogs, you have to watch and make sure that they’re not made with a lot of skin or a lot of dark meat because that is going to raise your saturated fat.

Make smarter side dishes

For side dishes, park the potato salad in favor of a whole wheat pasta salad. You can cover it in extra virgin olive oil, fresh vegetables, some lemon juice, and a touch of parmesan.

You can also chuck the potato chips for multi-grain corn chips. She says they offer less saturated fat than chips and more vitamin B.

Homemade hummus is a hit at any picnic or grill out.

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A lot of times people will bring the old standard chip dip or ranch dressing and those are really high in fat, saturated fat and cholesterol. A much healthier swap would be to use a hummus or make your own hummus. It’s super easy. Blend some chick peas, blend them up with some extra virgin olive oil and some lemon and it’s fabulous.

You can also grill fruits or vegetables for your side dishes. Try wrapping some veggies in foil and create a grilled vegetable medley. Or you can make grilled fruit kabobs for the kids.

Consider calorie-conserving H2O

As far as beverages go, swap your soft drinks with infused water. Add your favorite fruit or vegetable to a pitcher or a glass of water and let it soak in the flavor along with its vitamins and minerals.

Eat well at your cook out and with these tips, enjoy fireworks on your taste buds – without the extra calories and fat.

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Kristin Kirkpatrick, MS, RD, LD

Kristin Kirkpatrick, MS, RD, LD, is a registered dietitian and wellness manager for the Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute.
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