Your Summer Party Survival Guide


By: , SparkPeople Blogger
  :  36 comments   :  16,065 Views

Today is Canada Day and Fourth of July is Saturday, which means plenty of celebrating across the continent. While a family cookout or a neighborhood barbecue is supposed to be a time to eat, drink and be merry, those of us trying to follow a healthy path can find such events to be more trying than entertaining.

The endless platters of grilled meats.

The bottomless bowls of mayo-laden salads.

The ceaseless parade of refined carbs.

A typical meal from a cookout can have more than 1,500 calories and almost as much fat as you should eat for an entire day. You can cut the calories in half and boost the flavor with a few simple tricks!

  • Choose extra lean ground beef or turkey to save more than 100 calories and more than half the fat of standard burgers. Bonus: Choose a veggie burger to save another 50 calories or a grilled portobello cap, which only has about 25 calories.

  • Opt for fat-free or low-fat all-beef hot dogs, turkey dogs or veggie dogs instead of bratwurst. Look for low-sodium, nitrate-free varieties. (Save 200 calories or so, depending on your choice.)

  • Choose vegetables, ketchup and mustard and skip cheese and mayo. (Save 100 calories.)

  • Drink water instead of soda, sweet tea or lemonade. (Save 150 calories or more.)

  • Make macaroni salad with whole-wheat pasta to boost fiber and give it staying power. Add chopped veggies for more crunch and nutrition.

  • Use light vinaigrette instead of ranch dressings of mayo-based sauces for potato salad and veggie dips. Even switching to reduced-fat mayo or sour cream can make a huge difference. One cup of lower-fat sour cream will provide all the flavor and texture of mayonnaise but cut 1,300 calories and 150 grams of fat.

  • Load up on fruit. Summer is the best time for melon and berries. They're ripe, juicy and in season. Bonus: Their high water content will help keep you hydrated.

  • Choose whole-grain buns, baked chips or pretzels and limit the baked goods.

  • Make kebabs using vegetables and lean meats for a lighter main dish.

Our Favorite Healthful Cookout Foods:
Veggie burger patty (2.5 oz)
110 calories
4 grams of fat
a turkey dog (2 oz)
45 calories
5g fat

on a whole wheat bun
110 calories
1.5g fat
lettuce, tomato, ketchup, pickles and mustard
25 calories
0g fat

Raw vegetables (1 oz)
16 calories
0g fat
with your choice of 9 Slimmed-Down Dips.

vegetarian baked beans (1/2 cup)
100 calories
1g fat

Angel food cake (2 oz) with fresh strawberries (1/2 cup)
120 calories
0g fat

All that food is about 500 calories, less than a third of the average backyard BBQ meal. While that might be higher than what you normally eat at one meal, it's still a healthy range.

Be sure to also read our Best and Worst Cookout Foods and 10 Tips to Keep from Overeating at a Party!

Will you be attending a cookout or barbecue? What is your favorite cookout food?

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  • 36
    I'm grilling on the fourth for my hubby and I. Actually, I just won through Keith Urban and his tour sponsors a Tailgate packace including a new 14" grill, new grill tools, a grill starter so I can use charcoal without the starter and some other stuff. I just can't wait to use them! I'm grilling steak. I haven't had a steak since before I started my diet in January. I plan on weighing it and eating a proper portion and not using my eyes as a measurement. I LOVE steak! I can taste it already!! - 7/3/2009   9:54:57 AM
  • 35
    No special plans here for the 4th... but our favorite grilling meal is Turkey burgers with some fresh green beans! YUMMY! - 7/2/2009   9:53:18 PM
    I plan to ride my bike 30 miles tomorrow to "pay in advance" for any 4th of July treats I may decide on. However, the menu for the 4th is mainly meat and vegetables here. - 7/2/2009   8:30:16 PM
    Hey All~ Thanks for your comments and inspiration. One of you (IMHER325)said you're making the Orange Dreamsicle Delight..... how'd i miss that one? Please send me the recipe or the link ~ I'd love to check it out and maybe make it for my BBQ on Saturday. Thanks :`) and have a great weekend everyone!!! - 7/2/2009   8:23:44 PM
  • 32
    One great thing about being on the Atkins Diet is that a thick steak with mushrooms and onions is a great way to celebrate Canada Day and not feel guilty! As long as I avoid the buns I can eat just about anything BBQ'd but the sauces can kill that. I hope all you Americans have a wonderful 4th, too. And thanks for including our holiday. - 7/2/2009   4:20:40 PM
  • 31
    The biggest changes for me since joining SP is paying attention to the full flavors of foods, paying attention to feeling full, & stopping when I am full.

    I take holidays from my eating plan on holidays. And I have discovered that I rarely go over my calorie range for the day by more than 200-300 calories (usually depending upon that holiday's traditional dessert--go figure...!).

    In exchange for giving myself permission to eat foods I usually don't have more than a taste, I take only appropriate serving sizes, I eat (& savor the bites) slowly, and I pay attention to fullness.

    These actions all safeguard my not overdoing it, so I no longer go, "$%%#! I blew it! Forget the whole thing!"

    I'm looking forward to celebrating Independence Day with good friends, good food, and good fun!

    - 7/2/2009   2:58:24 PM
  • 30
    No BBQ this year for the Fourth. Our oldest is in VA at a cousin's wedding, and our younger three are away at overnight camp. We are going to escape the rain-laden Northeast and head to Delaware, where we've heard they've got this Golden Orb called THE SUN. Hee!

    My fav BBQ food is corn-on-the-cob. If we have the chance to eat any while we're away, I'll be happy. - 7/2/2009   1:36:16 PM
  • 29
    we are haveing a 4th party with a lot of fresh veggies and fruit.. we will have the bbq with ribs and chicken.. - 7/2/2009   12:38:55 PM
  • 28
    My Canada Day barbecue consisted of venison burgers, which are naturally super-lean, and a romaine salad straight from my garden. No mayo-laden salads here! - 7/2/2009   12:17:14 PM
  • 27
    :) I'm not terribly surprised to see mostly vegan foods listed as the best at cookouts. I'm lucky in that non-vegan stuff doesn't tempt me in the slightest (after 6 years as a herbivore, meat and dairy just look icky) but I do need to avoid the temptation of the occasional vegan pasta salad. Mmmm... ridiculously good but I do not need the extra calories from the oily dressing on most of them.

    I tend to bring Field Roast sausages and whole wheat buns to cookouts, put on some mustard and ketchup and eat raw fruit and veggies. The sausage is super filling, tons of protein and has good fats. Plus, so delicious and made with mostly whole foods instead of processed soy. - 7/2/2009   12:10:10 PM
  • 26
    I am attending a BBQ on the 4th, and I'm just going to make sure I get a LOT of activity in the next few days (I have a monster workout planned Friday morning, running to the gym, weights at the gym, running to the dance studio, and then a Zumba class), so I don't have to worry too much. My friends all make excellent food, and I don't want to miss out! - 7/2/2009   12:00:45 PM
    I will be cooking out at home before attending the Nashville Sounds baseball game. I love BBQ ribs and chicken with watermelong and ice cream. - 7/2/2009   11:42:51 AM
  • 24
    Perfect timing on this article. Thank you. My husband and I do an "annual" BBQ and invite literally everyone that we know to it. If we've crossed paths in the last year, you will get invited (hey.. you guys wanna come?). We don't do the bbq like most.. we actually make turkeys! True story. Last year we made 7.. this year with the extra people, it will likely be about 12 turkeys. Fruit baskets and platters.. and even though there will be a keg (or 2) and I currently have 53 cases of pop for the event.. I never drink anything but water. Good to know which salads are best. Thanks again! - 7/2/2009   11:05:11 AM
  • 23
    YESTERDAY was Canada Day. Hmmm... the article would have been evn BETTER a FEW DAYS BEFORE CANADA DAY! - 7/2/2009   10:56:12 AM
  • 22
    I don't know. One day of eating not so healthy isn';t going to throw me off my plan here. Sunday will be a new day. - 7/2/2009   10:52:45 AM
  • 21
    This year will be a 'dud' 4th for me. No barbeques or family get togethers because everyone is spread out around the country. But when we do get together to grill, we like to do chicken fajitas with grilled peppers, onions, and squash. We also like to grill up pineapple and other fruits. Yummy! - 7/2/2009   10:22:40 AM
  • 20
    As far as I know, we're not attending a bbq or any party type thing, but I did "break down" and buy (walmart brand) baked beans. To help cut down on the sodium/sugars I'm right now cooking up 1 cup dried white kidney (great northern) beans to add to the canned beans and heat up later in the crock pot IN CASE we get invited somewhere. If not, we do like baked beans and I'll probably be making up some burgers on whole wheat buns with LOTS of fresh veggies to go along with them.
    Not only will this help on the sodium/sugars, but it will make more servings, and I'll freeze them into meal portions for the 2 of us for other days. Save some $$! - 7/2/2009   9:34:54 AM
  • 19
    Some fantastic suggestions! I love kebabs (ever tried making some with fruit? A lot of summer fruits grill well) and I like the idea of a vegetable plate with low-calorie dips. For meats, we like grilling chicken or poultry sausages and burgers. It definitely saves on calories. Vinaigrette salads like marinated vegetables and anti-pastas without the salami and cheese also make good additions. - 7/2/2009   9:32:30 AM
  • 18
    MAGS84, that's wonderful that others are also trying to be healthy! We eat very healthy too. I don't eat red meat so a lot of traditional BBQ foods aren't an issue for me. Indeed, turkey burgers and chicken sausage are quite yummy.
    LITTLEMOONIMP, good luck with having 25-30 people over! - 7/2/2009   9:28:33 AM
  • 17
    I have been fortunate enough to have family and friends who have weight-loss goals similar to mine, and we try to include healthy choices into our BBQ's!
    Happy Canada Day :) - 7/2/2009   8:10:49 AM
  • 16
    We are going to my sister's for a party. I am going to make the Orange Dreamsicle Delight that was posted a couple days ago, it sounds really good! - 7/2/2009   8:10:43 AM
  • 15
    We are having a cookout on Saturday. I bought steaks but plan on watermelon, strawberries (with choc sauce) and veggies with dip to go with it. - 7/2/2009   7:30:20 AM
  • 14
    I have no plans. I live in an apt. building that my mom lives in also and the building is having ice cream and watermelon. I can stay away from a lot of ice cream. I'll take the watermelon. If they have any left over I'll take it home with me. Then my daughter is picking us up at night to watch the city fireworks from a distance where everyone else is going - 7/2/2009   6:47:31 AM
  • 13
    I will be hosting this years 4th, for 25 to 30 people. My favorite foods at a bbq used to be everything. *Smile*. Now with my new lifestyle change, my favorite food is cantaloupe and watermelon. - 7/2/2009   6:39:25 AM
  • 12
    Favorite cookout food, no question: any pasta salad dish w/ dressing (usually italian type dressing). Ohhhhhhhhhhh SO bad for me! - 7/1/2009   11:41:41 PM
  • 11
    No, I won't be doing anything for 4th of July. After 5 kids, I'm happy to be finished with all of that stuff. Like my father use to say, but I didn't understand back then but do now, "If you've seen ONE you have seen them all." LOL - 7/1/2009   9:43:29 PM
  • 10
    We didn't do anything special today for Canada day because I had to go to work. But we will be doing something on the 4th, probably BBQ Teriyaki chicken and corn. - 7/1/2009   9:05:53 PM
  • 9
    My favorite way to cook in the summer-and camping. - 7/1/2009   6:51:12 PM
    Yes, I will be attending a cookout at my daughter's house. Ribs are my favorite. - 7/1/2009   6:02:51 PM
  • 7
    We'll be having lots of BBQ's this weekend! For me, my absolute favorite BBQ item is watermelon. So I will make sure to eat more of that than the other stuff! - 7/1/2009   4:53:19 PM
    So nice to get a nod on Canada Day! Not minding being in the minority, but it is still nice to get acknowledged. Happy holidays to all - Canadians today, and Americans on Sat. Celebrate healthy!! :) - 7/1/2009   4:30:13 PM
  • 5
    Celery cut into 2-inch pieces and a variety of salsas for tasting. Chips for those who want them. (But they're required to keep the chip bowl far, far away from me! hehe) - 7/1/2009   4:10:41 PM
  • 4
    We are having a BBQ in an hour or so and these tips will come in quite handy! Thank you. - 7/1/2009   3:17:46 PM
  • 3
    Chicken Sausages are other good alternatives to brats - and they're tasty!! - 7/1/2009   3:13:42 PM
  • 2
    I like to be the host of the bbq, that way I know exactly what I am consuming. I make many of my favorites which are low fat. Some of my low fat dishes have become favorites of my friends, they have asked for my recipes and now serve low fat, healthy dishes at their bbq's as well. - 7/1/2009   2:39:10 PM
  • 1
    WOW!! This is right on time. I'm going to a BBQ in a couple of hours and this is great advice that I will use. Thanks... - 7/1/2009   2:17:06 PM

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