It’s a cruel joke that bikini season and barbecue season are one and the same. Diet guru Hungry Girl (aka Lisa Lillien), author of Hungry Girl: 200 Under 200: 200 Recipes Under 200 Calories, explains how to throw a burger on the grill without burning your diet plans.
Summer food can be a dieter’s minefield—potato salad, burgers, mountains of crab dip. But is it all bad for you? If you're looking for ways to drop a few pounds or simply not gain weight as the weather heats up, there are ways to do it if you know what to look for. New York Times bestselling author Lisa “Hungry Girl” Lillien of HungryGirl.com is your guide through the treacherous landscape of outdoor cuisine.
Summertime Tips & Tricks
The average person swallows close to 2,000 calories at a summer barbeque. Bad idea. Here's what to bring, eat, and avoid at your next summer cookout.
Bring It With You
HG's Sweet Caramelized Onion Dip (from Hungry Girl: 200 Under 200)
1 serving has approximately 75 calories, <2g fat
Ingredients: 2 large sweet onions, chopped 1/2 cup fat-free sour cream 1/2 cup fat-free mayonnaise 1/4 cup plus 2 tbsp. fat-free cream cheese, room temperature 1 tbsp. light whipped butter or light buttery spread 1 tsp. Dijon mustard 1 tsp. balsamic vinegar 1/2 tsp. salt 1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
Directions: Heat butter in a large pan over medium-high heat on the stove. Once butter has coated the bottom of the pan, add onions, salt, and cayenne pepper. Onions may be piled high in the pan, but they'll cook down. Saute for 10 minutes, stirring often.
Reduce heat to medium-low and cook for an additional 25-30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until onions are browned and caramelized.
Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine sour cream, mayo, and cream cheese. Whisk until smooth. Then refrigerate.
Once onions are caramelized, add mustard and balsamic vinegar to the pan.
Continue to cook for five minutes, stirring frequently. Remove from heat and allow to cool.
Once cool, add onions to the large bowl and mix thoroughly.
Refrigerate overnight to allow flavors to combine.
Serve at room temperature with your favorite veggies, chips, and/or crackers for dipping. Enjoy!
MAKES 6 SERVINGS
HG's Magical Low-Calorie Margarita (from Hungry Girl: Recipes and Survival Strategies for Guilt-Free Eating in the Real World)
Entire recipe: 105 calories, 0g fat, 58mg sodium, 2g carbs, 0g fiber, 0.5g sugars, 0g protein = 2 Points
Ingredients: 6 oz. Sierra Mist Free (or Diet Sprite Zero, or your other favorite no-calorie lemon-lime soda) *1.5 oz. tequila 1/2 tsp. Crystal Light powdered drink mix, Lemonade 1 oz. lime juice Optional: lime slice for garnish and salt or no-calorie sweetener for rim of glass
Directions: If desired, run some lime juice along the rim of the glass and dip into a dish of salt or sweetener. Mix all ingredients together. Pour over 1 cup of crushed ice. Optional: garnish with lime slice.
Grilled Chicken—Always opt for a grilled chicken breast. It's lean and delicious.
Grilled Veggies—No need to slather these with oil. Just pop 'em on the barbecue. (Use skewers to avoid losing veggies in the coals.)
Fruit Salad—Cut fruit is sweet, refreshing, and low in calories.
Green Salad—Pile green salad high on your plate—just avoid the fatty dressings. Use fat-free dressing, lemon, or salsa instead.
Lean Turkey Burgers—All turkey burgers are NOT created equal. Some can have more fat and calories than beef. So read labels and try to stick with the lean patties made with white meat or a white/dark mix.
Veggie Burgers: B.Y.O.P.(Bring Your Own Patties)—Yup, it's perfectly acceptable to show up with your own burgers. My picks? Boca's Original Vegan Patties, or anything from Amy's Kitchen.
HG HOT SUMMER FIND: Hebrew National 97% Fat-Free Hot Dogs
Fatty Burgers—Avoid large, greasy burgers at all costs.
Full-Fat Hot Dogs—Most people (myself included) have no idea what's in most hot dogs—all I know is they contain and INSANE amount of fat and calories.
Oversized Buns—With as many as 200+ calories each, buns and rolls are just not worth it. Stick with half, or skip the bread altogether.
Mayo-laden Salads—Why ruin perfectly lovely cabbage or potatoes by drowning them in mayonnaise? On average, each tiny serving of coleslaw or potato salad packs around 300 calories and more than a dozen grams of fat.
Full-Fat Potato chips—The problem with potato chips is serving size. No one can stick with just one portion. Once you start shoveling chips it's hard to stop. Don't even view the chip bowl.
Don't Drink Your Calories
Drinking calories is a major waste. Frozen cocktails can pack in 600-800 calories. Mixed drinks made with sugary syrups and juices are also disasters-in-waiting. Looking to lighten up your cocktail hour? Try these:
Light beer—You can find light beer with 64-90 calories a bottle.
Wine—Each glass of the stuff has around 120-140 calories. Not bad.
Rum & Diet Coke—A shot of rum isn't so bad when combined with a calorie-free mixer. This one's an old favorite of mine and it has just 110 calories.
Flavored vodka, club soda, and a splash of juice (my favorite is blueberry vodka, club soda and a splash of pineapple).
Again, be creative. Flavored vodkas mixed with club soda save you calories. And a splash of juice only adds about 15 calories or so. This concoction clocks in at around 120-140 calories.
For more food finds, tips, tricks and recipes, check out Hungry Girl's daily emails. Sign up at hungry-girl.com.
Lisa Lillien is the creator of Hungry-Girl.com and author of Hungry Girl Recipes and Survival Strategies for Guilt-Free Eating in the Real World. Lisa also has weekly columns in the New York Daily News, on WeightWatchers.com, and on Yahoo!