Tag Archives: cookouts

5 Tips for Healthier Cookouts

It’s that time of the year again. Time to brush down the old grill and get ready to cook out.

Cooking food on an outdoor grill is nearly as much a part of the summer as music festivals and hanging out at the pool. It’s even better when the cook pays as much attention to nutrition and food safety as to the heat of the grill.

“It’s important to take some basic precautions when preparing food outdoors, and to make sure that you’re eating a well-rounded meal, not just gorging on bratwursts or burgers,” says registered dietitian Hannah Manella, MS, RD, CSO. She offers these tips for making your cookouts safe, healthy and even more delicious.

Photo by Gonzalo Guzman on Pexels.com

1. Don’t overcook meats.

Darkness is a great background for fireworks, but it may be harmful when it comes to the color of grilled meat. 

Heterocyclic amines (HCA) are unhealthy chemical compounds that can form when animal proteins (beef, pork, fish, poultry) are cooked using high-temp methods that result in blackening. Similarly, smoked meats can form polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH).

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How to Practice Weight Control at Cookouts

It isn’t easy. After all, the half the fun of a cookout is seeing the meat being grilled outside.

But WebMD has some words of wisdom regarding that grill full of goodies. “A 20 ounce T-bone steak can weigh in at 1,540 calories and 124 g fat.  An average cheeseburger has 750 calories and 45 grams of fat. What about pork or beef ribs? They come from the fattiest part of the animal.”


Remember, the average adult needs about 2200 calories to maintain body weight. Being careless at a cookout can put you way over budget as far as calories are concerned. Or, should I say, weigh over budget?

WebMD suggests going lean with cuts like pork tenderloin, skinless chicken breast and lean ground beef. If you can get these onto the grill without insulting your host, you are home free. If not, you need to be careful and cut way back when it comes to plate-filling. Those calorie bombs go down easy, but take hours of sweat to burn off. We all know the cliche Seconds on the lips forever on the hips.

One of the tricks that works well and is more subtle than bringing your own lean meat is to bring a tray of appetizers that includes carrots, celery, etc. You can work on filling up on those munchies so that a smaller portion of the high fat meat will satisfy you.

When the meal winds down to dessert time, beware of the cakes and pies. Once again, you can do an end run here, and bring some healthy pineapple slices or, better yet, watermelon. Everyone loves watermelon and it is minimal in calories. Watermelon happens to be one of my favorite foods. Check out How Healthy is Watermelon? to read further about how healthy it is.

There are few treats more refreshing than watermelon on a summer day.

There are few treats more refreshing than watermelon on a summer day.

The old saying an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure applies here. Paying attention to serving size and exercising portion control can keep you on the safe side. If you don’t overdo the eating and drinking, you won’t have to worry about extra exercise to work it off.

Focus on lean eating and conversation and avoid at all costs mindless munching.



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