The 12 Worst Foods You Can Eat at a Backyard Barbecue

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Don’t let excess fat and calories creep up on you

Thinkstock / SVETLANA KOLPAKOVA

Ending the summer with a bang often means throwing a backyard barbecue. Whether you are cooking, grilling, or baking, you want to make sure that the foods you prepare are healthy and delicious. We spoke with Kristen Gradney, registered dietitian and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, about the worst foods you could eat at a backyard barbecue. 

The 9 Worst Foods You Can Eat at a Backyard Barbecue

Thinkstock / SVETLANA KOLPAKOVA

Ending the summer with a bang often means throwing a backyard barbecue. Whether you are cooking, grilling, or baking, you want to make sure that the foods you prepare are healthy and delicious. We spoke with Kristen Gradney, registered dietitian and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, about the worst foods you could eat at a backyard barbecue. 

Baked Beans

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“On average, a half-cup serving of baked beans contains 13 grams of sugar, almost five times the amount in a sugar cube,” Gradney says. “You may get sluggish and tired after eating this because of your body’s reaction to the large amount of sugar.” Instead, she recommends a black bean and corn salad dressed with olive oil and vinegar.

Cheeseburger

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Cheeseburgers are high in fat, calories, and sodium, which puts this food on the naughty list. Gradney recommends trying a white-meat turkey hot dog with a whole-wheat bun

Chips

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Although that bag of greasy, crunchy chips is tempting, it will do nothing but make you more hungry. “Chips will not fill you up and you will get in more sodium than you’d like,” Gradney says. “Veggies will keep you full and help you not to overeat other foods.” Slice vegetables, such as carrots or sweet potatoes, into thin slices and bake them. That way, you can eat chips and stay healthy!

Cocktails

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Mixed drinks and cocktails are usually loaded with sugar and calories, and you can easily drink a few, ending up with more calories from your drinks than the meal,” Gradney says. Avoid the sugar and pick a low-calorie light beer

Coleslaw

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“Use red wine vinegar to dress coleslaw, instead of mayonnaise,” Gradney says. “The culprit in this barbecue-friendly dish is the amount of mayonnaise used to dress it. Add green onions and reduced-fat feta cheese to jazz it up and give it flavor without all the calories.” 

Fried Chicken

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American fried chicken may be a barbecue go-to but try grilling a skinless chicken breast instead. You will still get a delicious taste, without the heavy breading. 

Heavy Sauces

It may be tempting to smother your food in barbecue sauce, but there are lighter, less-caloric options you can use instead. Try flavoring your food with fresh spices, sea salt, and pepper. 

Ice Cream

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As difficult as it may be, avoid the unhealthy ice cream and opt for fruit sorbet or one-ingredient banana ice cream. 

Macaroni and Cheese

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The fat, sodium, and unwanted calories in macaroni and cheese really creep up on you. “Instead, make a macaroni salad and add lots of veggies and a small amount of reduced-fat shredded cheese,” Gradney suggests.  

Peach Cobbler

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Summer is all about juicy, fresh peaches. However, proceed with caution if your peaches are covered in cream. “The USDA Nutrient Database says on average, one cup of peach cobbler can contain almost 500 calories and almost 10 teaspoons of sugar,” Gradney says. It’s definitely healthier to stick to grilled peaches and frozen yogurt. 

Potato Salad

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Mayonnaise sneaks up on you once again, so use red wine vinegar instead of mayonnaise. “Try making your potato salad with sweet potatoes,” Gradney suggests. “Savory sweet potato salad will contain more fiber and antioxidants.”

Ribeye Steak

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Attention, all you red meat lovers: Eating meat sparingly is not a problem, but be conscious of your portion size and preferred cut. “One serving of ribeye steak has half of the daily value for cholesterol, five grams of saturated fat, and almost 300 calories,” Gradney says. “Your heart will thank you for not eating a ribeye.” Instead, try a flank steak, which has half the calories and fat of the ribeye steak. ​