5 Smart Ways to Cut Calories at a Barbecue

Neil Kremer/Stocksy United

Who says barbecues are bad news for calorie counters? Unlike a field trip to a candy factory or a deep-fried-food festival, there are usually lots of good options to choose from at a backyard barbecue. And you can always bring your own guilt-free contributions! Here are a few tips to keep your barbecue calorie-friendly. 

Be Picky With Finger Food

First off, avoid mindlessly munching on bite-sized snacks. A potential problem with barbecues is that they revolve around food—the party is even named after a style of cooking! Pre-meal finger foods like chips and dip or cheese and crackers might be tempting, but the calories in those nibbles add up fast, especially since it's so easy to lose count of how much you've had.

Do yourself a favor and save your appetite (and your calories!) for the main portion of the program. If you do want to indulge in a finger food or two, look for cut veggies with salsa and fresh fruit.

Tip: Eat a healthy breakfast or a light lunch, depending on the time of the event before you hit up the barbecue. This way, you won’t make a beeline for the potato chips the second you arrive.

Your Best Barbecue Bets

It’s totally possible to get in and out of a barbecue feeling satisfied but not stuffed. The barbecue grill itself is pretty diet-friendly—you get lots of smoky flavor without any additional calories. But you might run into trouble when it’s time to choose what to put on the barbecue.

There are some amazing picks in the fridge and freezer aisles. I’m a fan of Hebrew National 97 percent Fat-Free Beef Franks, Amy’s Texas Veggie Burgers, and Jennie-O All White Meat Turkey Burgers. And you can’t go wrong with a grilled chicken breast or shrimp.

It’s also important to be smart about your buns. Try 100-calorie flat sandwich buns or small hamburger and hot dog buns. If the only available options are oversized, skip the top half of the bun and enjoy your sandwich open-faced, or wrap the whole thing up in a big piece of lettuce.

Bring a Dish

Want to be the most popular person at the party and ensure you've got something smart to chew? Cook up a healthy recipe. And don’t shy away from bringing some food to throw on the grill. Skewers are the perfect thing to prepare at home and cook at the party. 

Slim Down Your Sauces

Sauces can be surprisingly high in fat and calories. The last thing you want to do is eat 200 calories worth of condiments when you could be eating a 200-calorie grilled-cheese sandwich, so be mindful of your toppings.

The good news is that there are tons of great-tasting sauces that won't break the calorie bank. When it comes to barbeque sauce, the key is to find one with less than 45 calories per 2-tablespoon serving. As for condiments to toss on your burger, hot dog, or chicken sandwich, stick with ketchup and mustard and skip out on the mayo.

Get Active With Games

There’s a good chance you’re in for some sunshine and outdoor events. Get the partygoers together for a game of volleyball, touch football, kickball, or even some old-fashioned tag. You’ll be avoiding the finger foods and getting in some exercise! 

For guilt-free recipes, food finds, tips 'n tricks, and more, sign up for free daily emails or visit Hungry Girl!

Was this page helpful?