The Best Barbecue Bets

Melanie Douglass shares the best and worst dishes to make for those backyard barbecues.

1. What’s the best “starchy side dish” choice?

The Worst

Macaroni and potato salads are high in calories, fat AND shockingly high in sodium

1. 1 serving of macaroni salad has more calories and fat than an entire hot dog on a bun! Next time you scoop a serving of macaroni salad and think “it’s just a side dish” think “I could have eaten an entire hot dog instead”.

The Best

This is hard to believe…) Plain ol’ Pork-n-Beans. With only 110 calories per serving and 6 healthy grams of fiber + protein…they are by far the best “starchy” food bet.

Starchy Side Dish Rules:

1. Choose 1 starchy side item

2. If you choose chips, stick to one handful or about 15 chips

3. Add a handful of fresh fruit and/or raw veggies

a. They add very few calories, but will add fiber, vitamins and phytochemicals to your plate

2. What’s the Best Main Course?

The Worst

A ¼ pound cheeseburger (average size for most home BBQ’s) or a sirloin steak. Burgers with cheese and a little mayo and ketchup have about 600 calories and 35 grams of fat.

The Best

A simple chicken breast with seasoning or even a grilled chicken sandwich on a bun. It seems like a minor thing, but there is a huge difference here. This is one choice that makes a HUGE difference in your meal.

The order from worst to best:

1. Cheeseburger

2. Sirloin Steak

3. Hot Dog

4. Chicken breast sandwich on a bun

5. Grilled chicken breast

– A cheeseburger has 4 times the calories and 10 times the fat of a chicken breast!

– A cheeseburger even has more calories and fat than a hot dog on a bun! (Double the calories and fat)

– Hot dogs have about half the calories and fat of a cheeseburger, but they are often made from mechanically separated meats—which is a problem. Even low-fat or fat-free “turkey” dogs are made with mech-sep meats.

– The best hot dog brand is “Hebrew National Low-fat”.

3. Drinks! Everyone knows water is best… but we seem to want a flavored beverage for Barbecues. Which is best?

• If water is too boring for your barbecue, then the best bet is Lemonade prepared from powder. It’s so easy to grab cheap 2-liter bottles of lemonade or regular soda for a big barbecue. And it’s a common pitfall to think lemonade is lower in calories… but bottled lemonade is no better than regular soda – they are both too high in calories and sugar.

• Use the powder version of lemonade (dilute it slightly to save even more calories and sugar for your family). Powdered lemonade has HALF the calories and sugar than bottled lemonade – you’ll save 60 calories and 4 teaspoons of sugar per cup when you choose powdered lemonade over bottled.

Melanie has more ideas for healthy living. You can find them in her book, Tip A Day Guide to Healthy Living which is available in bookstores. Or you can visit her website,

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