Skip to main content

Avoid overeating at a cookout: 7 healthy tricks from a dietitian

| Healthy You | Eating Right

Potlucks and barbecues don’t have to wreck your diet.

Potlucks and barbecues don’t have to wreck your diet.

Summertime and grilling go hand-in-hand. For some, a barbecue can seem like a pit of unhealthy, albeit delicious, eating options. PeaceHealth Registered Dietitian Cecelia Jacobson offers advice on making healthy choices at your next cookout.

  1. Season with herbs. Consider swapping salty season blends with fresh herbs. Use your favorite combination or a blend of thyme, basil, oregano, rosemary, garlic or sage. This can cut down on the salt without losing flavor.
  2. Load up on vegetables. Fill your plate with colorful veggies like grilled peppers, fresh corn, roasted carrots, asparagus, green beans and sugar snap peas. They boost your fiber intake. And that helps fill you up so you’re not as tempted by foods that aren’t so healthy.
  3. Use fruits as a sweet treat. Make fruit kabobs as a sweet and tasty dessert. Or try grilling fruits like pineapple, nectarines, peaches or plums. When you grill these, the natural sugars caramelize with the heat and give them great flavor. “Fruits are loaded with vitamins, minerals and fiber. Plus, they’re low in calories,” says Cecelia.
  4. Pick lean proteins. Boneless, skinless chicken breast has less fat than a burger or steak. Better yet, try salmon or other fish that gives you omega 3’s to support all aspects of health. Plus a 3.5 ounce serving of salmon provides 25 grams of protein, which helps your bones and muscles. You can also opt for plant-based patties or sausages. Or try making a homemade black bean burger.
  5. Skip the bun. If you’re trying to cut back on carbs, one easy way is to go bun-less. Use a knife and fork to eat your meat. Or try wrapping a burger in some butter lettuce. Just grab a few extra napkins.
  6. Go for colorful side dishes. Look for side dishes with lots of natural color. Dark green leafy salads. Strawberry spinach salad. Mixed greens with orange slices. “Add toasted walnuts or almonds instead of croutons for a nutritious crunch,” says Cecelia.
  7. Opt for raw dippers. Skip the chips, which can be high in saturated and trans fats. Instead, choose fresh raw veggies like cucumbers, carrots, celery sticks, cherry tomatoes, broccoli and cauliflower with hummus or baba ganoush.
portrait of Cecelia Jacobson RD

Cecelia Jacobson RD

Cecelia Jacobson, RD, LD, CDCES, is a registered dietitian and certified diabetes care and education specialist for PeaceHealth in Oregon. She has been providing adult nutrition counseling and diabetes education for more than 15 years. Cecelia also conducts monthly cooking demonstrations, health fairs, and wellness outreach. She is passionate about helping her patients obtain sustainable diet and lifestyle changes in line with their goals. Cecelia grew up near Bellingham, Washington and graduated from Bastyr University. When she is not at work, you can find her outdoors or volunteering. She has ridden Cycle Oregon multiple times on the Candle Lighters, Ride For a Child team. She also loves to camp, hike and tend to her small garden to create culinary experiments at home.