You know how it goes! It’s summertime! This means picnics, parties and BBQ’s where everything looks so good! From grilled meats to flavorful salads, it can be hard to make the best food choices when everything looks so tempting. Instead of always wondering what the best options are, let’s take the guess work out and give it to you straight. After reading this, the next time you attend a cookout you won’t have to stress about what the best options are. In fact, you may find you can eat even more when making the right choices!

First, let’s talk about the foods hot off the grill. It wouldn’t be a BBQ without burgers on the grill. If you are hosting the cookout, do everyone a favor and opt for ground sirloin or extra lean beef! A 3-ounce portion of lean ground beef contains about 165 calories and 3 grams of saturated fat, while regular ground beef runs about 235 calories and 6 grams of saturated fat and just plain don’t taste as great. Looking to put a dog on your plate?  Choose light beef or turkey dogs to save up to 100 calories or more per link, not to mention lighter options usually have significantly less saturated fat (the fat that clogs your arteries) and sodium. If you can’t limit yourself at just one really great burger or hotdog, consider skipping the bun or using lots of fresh veggies as toppings instead of sugary sauces. Better yet, split your burger and hotdog with someone so you can have both taste experiences at half the calories and fat.

Summer side salads often don’t mean the tossed ones! Yes, please, by all means, always fill up on as many fresh veggies as you can before choosing their mayonnaise counterparts. When going to or hosting a soiree try to have a few fresh and healthy options like a large tossed salad and fruit salad for those of you who want to make healthful choices. In all reality, it’s hard to imagine a BBQ without two major competitors, the pasta salad and the potato salad. Typically, one cup of pasta salad can cost you up to 400 calories! Think about it, noodles, mayo, etc.  Its best friend potato salad comes in around 360 calories. Not too much of a difference considering both are laden in fat filled mayonnaise. So which one is the best option? No guess? POTATO! Potatoes are naturally occurring and many of you plant them in your gardens. Although they are still a starch, potatoes offer potassium, vitamin C, fiber and protein. Want to lighten up your salads? Use Greek yogurt instead of mayo, fill salads with lots of veggies like peas, celery, cucumber, onion, and more. Can’t choose between the two? Take just a small spoonful of each so you can taste them both without over indulging in either.

OK, everyone is having dessert and you really want dessert too, so what are the options? Maybe just a slice of blueberry pie at around 475 calories? Or maybe you love strawberry shortcake and whipped cream, totaling 325 calories?  Or just maybe the kid in you just can’t steer clear of S’mores! One S’more totals just over 240 calories for the average size – if you use a jumbo marshmallow then you are over the three hundred mark. But what can you eat for fewer calories and still have something sweet? Well, of course, fresh fruit is always a great choice. You can even make fruit kabobs with different fruits that are always a hit with kids. Fruit also tastes great right off the grill! Try grilling pineapple, peaches or even watermelon! You can also lighten up a bit by using angel food cake and your favorite berries instead of biscuits. You can even make your own fresh fruit pops by mixing berries with Greek yogurt and freezing. Get creative! Parties are a great time to try new recipes out – go for it!

There is no need to get yourself off-track or undo your workouts by eating with your eyes instead of your head at summertime events. Take time to look at all the options and think about what looks the best! What’s most fresh and what do you really enjoy? If you can’t say “No” to anything, work on eating smaller portions or sharing your plate. So here you have it, all the answers to the great summertime eating debate.