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Hidden Calories in BBQ Food: How to avoid & how to make healthier choices

08/31/2019
By Sam Davis, BHS, CPT, FNS

As we all know, poolside BBQs with friends and family often lead to unhealthy BBQ options, and while hamburgers and hotdogs are advertised as the go-to BBQ choice, they are probably the worst choices for your health.

Here, we go over which foods to avoid, and 2 alternative options to the everyday hamburger and hotdog.

BBQ Foods to avoid:

Creamy pasta/potato salads:

These salads are loaded with mayonnaise, pasta, and other creamy dressings, which means it is loaded with calories as well. These are also a bit dangerous if left out in the sun; it becomes a breeding ground for food poisoning. If this is something you must have on your plate, bring your own and try a potato or pasta salad with a vinaigrette dressing or Greek yogurt-based dressing.

Hamburgers:

There are many things that are pretty scary about our meat industry, and processed meats are the scariest of them all. You’re better off having the butcher grind the meat for you, or even better, you can make your own patties at home. Here’s why: ammonia is added into most processed burgers to kill bacteria. It’s often used as a cheap filler in ground beef. There is a ton of trans fat in beef, and a ton of additives in ground beef like sodium phosphate and nitrates that allow the beef to last longer on the shelf. And speaking of sodium, one burger can pack between 500 milligrams all the way up to 4000 milligrams of sodium. The recommendation is no more than 2300 milligrams per day.

Opt for very lean patties, and make sure the packaging says 100% pure lean beef. Even better, go for a lean turkey or chicken patty. It’s also better for your cardiovascular health by limiting red meat. It’s a win-win! Have the butcher grind the lean meat of your choice while you’re at the grocery store, and then at home you can use a healthier binding agent like breadcrumbs, one egg, or ground up oats. The substitute is ½ cup per 1 pound of ground meat.

Hotdogs:

The industry has found a way to make every part of the animal consumable. And this means grinding up everything that we wouldn’t normally buy off the shelf (including gizzards, cartilage, and bones), adding some serious spices to it (some sodium nitrate to extend the shelf life), and stuffing it into an intestinal lining. Viola; you have the modern hot dog. They are extremely high in sodium, and have a ton of fat, so I would suggest steering clear of this BBQ meat.

Opt for a chicken dog instead. Applegate Farms makes awesome, healthier alternatives. They have a bunch of different flavors and there’s no additives or preservatives. If you still need that good ol’ beef dog in the summer, find hot dogs from Niman Ranch. It’s a family-owned company that offers Uncured Beef Franks. They are MSG, nitrate, nitrites, and gluten free. If you’re concerned about your protein intake, these puppies pack 12g of protein into one dog.

There are always healthier alternatives to BBQ foods that not only taste better, but also make you feel better, too. It’s important to remember where our food comes from and how it’s processed, because the majority of the food industry does not care about our well being, but cares mostly about how much money they can get out of one cow, or one pig. So by adding fillers to processed meats, they are able to double the amount of meat from one cow. Look for words like “pure” and “99-100%,” and continue to check the ingredients label, even on meat.

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