Test Your Barbecue IQ

Make the best of a ‘worst-case scenario’ at the grill

Summer grilling

Spring brings the start of barbecue season, but your New Year’s resolution was to eat healthy all year long. Must you politely decline that cookout invitation?

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No. With the right information, you can make better choices and still have a great time. Here are a few “worst-case scenarios” — and how you can get around them.

Scenario 1: Your only options are a hot dog or burger

Your best choice: Burger.

A study in the journal Circulation showed that burgers were a better bet than hot dogs and other processed meats. Processed meats are more likely to raise the risk of both heart disease and diabetes. Hot dogs also contain nitrates, which have been linked to cancers in lab animals. In addition, processed meats are usually higher in sodium — a problem if you’re watching your blood pressure.

Just remember that the hamburger is still high in saturated fat and calories. Request a smaller (4-ounce) portion, about the size of a deck of cards. And consider bringing your own 100 percent whole wheat buns.

“Offer to bring a side dish or an appetizer so that you can count on at least one healthy dish.”

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Kristin Kirkpatrick, MS, RD, LD

Wellness Institute

Scenario 2: The only toppings are mayo, mustard, onions and ketchup

Your best choices: Mustard and onions.

Steer clear of mayonnaise, which may be high in saturated fat, and avoid ketchup because most grocery-store brands contain added sugars. A growing body of scientific evidence associates a high intake of added sugar with an increased risk for obesity, pre-diabetes, type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

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Reach for the yellow (not brown) mustard. Yellow mustard gets its color from turmeric, a spice shown to reduce inflammation. And throw on some onions, a great source of vitamin C and fiber.

Scenario 3: The only sides you see are potato salad and cole slaw

Your best choice: Cole slaw.

First, determine if the side dishes are made with mayonnaise or with a vinaigrette base. Those with a vinaigrette base contain a lot less saturated fat. If they’re made with mayo, choose cole slaw over potato salad. Cole slaw is made with cabbage, a cruciferous vegetable high in vitamin K, which may help lower your risk of prostate and bladder cancers. Just go easy on the portion sizes.

Bonus tip

Offer to bring a side dish or an appetizer so that you can count on at least one healthy dish. This is a good opportunity to encourage your friends and family to step outside of traditional barbecue foods and explore healthier alternatives. A few ideas to consider: fruit skewers, hummus with chopped vegetables, grilled eggplant, black bean and corn salad, 100 percent whole wheat pasta salad or quinoa salad. 

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Kristin Kirkpatrick, MS, RD, LD

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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