It’s hard to argue against the greatness of BBQ. Unless, of course, you’re in a heated (low, indirect ﬂame, of course) debate over Texas vs North Carolina, or Memphis vs Kansas City. But let’s take a step back for a moment. Should we even be eating BBQ in the first place?
Yes! Well…mostly. There are a few BBQ regulars that you should avoid. Here is a list of eight foods that nutrition experts recommend avoiding when attending a summer barbecue, and taking off your menu when hosting.
1. Potato and pasta salad
Mayo and eggs are not conducive to warm-weather events. Eggs left out at room temperature can spoil, leading to salmonella or other foodborne illnesses, and mayo is packed with processed ingredients.
Instead, wow picnic guests with fresh salad greens dressed lightly with olive oil and not eggs or dairy.
If you must include perishable sides on your checkered-blanket spread, don’t leave them out for more than two hours before refrigerating. If it’s 90 degrees or hotter, the acceptable window shrinks to one hour.
Although a juicy grilled brat is one of my favorite summer foods, avoid them when you can.
They can be packed with sodium and fat, piling calories onto your meal. Instead, choose barbecued chicken or a lean hamburger topped with loads of veggies.
I often eat my burgers open-face to cut down the carbs from the bun.
3. Hot dogs
Steer clear of hot dogs. Yes, they scream summer fun, but hot dogs are packed with nitrates and sodium.
Again, choose the burger or chicken and load them up with veggies. They can add some crunch and ﬂavor to your meal.
Coleslaw is another side to avoid. Once-healthful cabbage is drowned in mayo, drastically hiking the fat content and calorie count.
Instead, dress your cabbage with light dressing or some grilled veggies when available. You can also load up on cucumbers, carrots, peppers, and other finger-friendly veggies.
5. Baked Beans
Avoid the baked beans at a cookout. The canned varieties are packed with unhealthy additives, and many homemade beans are loaded with sugar.
These beans will make you crave more and add unnecessary calories to your total.
Instead opt for cold three-bean salad, a black bean salad, or fresh corn on the cob. Add some spice to the bean salads so you’re left satisfied but not stuffed.
6. Meat Alternatives
Most veggie dogs and burgers are actually very rich in fat and not high enough in protein. Plus, I have never understood why vegetarians want to eat food that looks like meat.
A popular meat substitute is jackfruit, which commonly masquerades as pulled pork but doesn’t have enough protein to justify hogging your plate estate.
If you’re keen on eating meat that isn’t meat, try grilled portabella mushrooms or tofu.
7. Charred Meat
That charred steak on your grilled meat is probably one of the worst BBQ offenders.
These carcinogenic grill marks are filled with potentially cancer-promoting compounds called heterocyclic amines and AGES, advanced glycemic end products.
Although it makes for a great presentation, avoid charred meat.
A picnic staple is soda. It can be incredibly refreshing in the moment, but it’s loaded with sugar and empty calories. Plus, soda will simply dehydrate you in the end, betraying any refreshment it feigned on your first sip.
To twist the pop-top further, diet varieties use chemicals as sweeteners and can be even more damaging than the naturally sweetened varieties.
Instead drink water or seltzer water—for those who can’t give up the bubbly. They are hydrating and naturally calorie-free.
Plop a couple of berries, watermelon chunks, or cucumber slices into your drink for an instantly refreshing ﬂavor. Keep a (healthful) drink in hand to reduce nibbling on calorie-bomb appetizers