Summer can be synonymous with sunshine, sweet tea, and the seasonal ritual of gathering friends, family, and neighbors for a barbecue. The air is scented with sizzling meat, the tang of barbecue sauce, and the aroma of sunscreen. Games of sand volleyball, corn hole toss, or a dip in the pool may accompany your neighborhood grill-off. However, this ritual focuses heavily on the consumption of grilled meat and tasty treats. If you are attempting to watch your waistline, you may want to look out for these nine popular, yet unhealthy, summer barbecue elements.

9. Fatty Cuts of Meat

Salt Cured Meat

A nicely marbled steak tastes fantastic, yet it can add more fat to your plate than you desire. Well-seasoned, leaner cuts of meat can be just as tasty without the extra calories from fat. Meat doesn’t have to be extra fatty to be unhealthy. In addition to trimming excess fat from your cut of beef or pork, slice off any portions that have become charred. The National Cancer Institute reports that meat cooked at high temperatures can form chemicals that may cause cancer. Skip the meat and try this recipe from Allrecipes for Grilled Portobello Mushrooms with onion, garlic, and balsamic vinegar.

8. Sausages and Hot Dogs

Hot Dog

Hot dogs and sausages are highly processed meats that are typically high in sodium, nitrites, and nitrates. According to the American Cancer Society, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has categorized processed meats as probably causing cancer. Enjoying one hot dog or sausage at a neighborhood picnic probably won’t kill you. However, the American Cancer Society reports that eating the equivalent of one hot dog every day can increase your risk of colon cancer by about 18%. To protect your colon, you may want to skip the hot dogs and go for a skewer of grilled veggies instead.

7. Buns Made with Refined White Flour

Hamburger Buns

Hot dogs and hamburgers go with buns like peanut butter goes with jelly. Unfortunately, most buns are made from highly processed and refined white flour. This means they deliver empty calories with no nutritional value. Cut down on calories by wrapping your meat in a crisp leaf of romaine lettuce instead of a bun. Or, if you just can’t imagine enjoying a burger or hot dog without the bun, try having your sandwich open-faced on only half of a bun. If you are hosting the barbecue, seek out whole wheat options for your guests.

6. Barbecue Sauce

Barbecue Sauce

If you’ve decided to indulge in a juicy piece of grilled meat, you may be tempted to reach for the barbecue sauce to top it off. Barbecue sauces come in a variety of tempting flavors, with every region of the United States claiming to have the best recipe. Unfortunately, these sauces are often full of sodium and sugar. Skip the sugar and try rubbing your meat with a tasty rub instead. Rachael Ray Everyday has a recipe for Spice-Rubbed Baby Back Ribs. This recipe calls for chili powder, coriander, cumin, pepper, garlic powder, salt, and turbinado sugar.

5. Creamy Pasta Salads

Pasta Salad

A creamy pasta salad may hit the spot on a warm day. However, pasta salads with noodles made from refined white flour deliver excess calories without the benefit of vitamins or other nutrients. Furthermore, salads made with mayonnaise carry the added risk of food poisoning if not appropriately kept chilled. Skip the pasta salads and indulge instead in nutrient-rich leafy green or fruit salads. Cooking Classy has a recipe for Honey Lime Rainbow Fruit Salad that combines a variety of fruits, including strawberries, pineapple, blueberries, grapes, and mandarin oranges.

Related: 8 Tips for Shucking Corn and Enjoying those Golden Kernels

4. Potato Chips and Fattening Dips

Potato Chips

Crunchy and salty, potato chips are a staple at most barbecues. While they taste great, these fried potato treats are packed with sodium and calories, with little nutritive value. About 15 of Lay’s Classic potato chips contain 160 calories with 10 grams of fat, 170 mg of sodium, and 15 grams of carbs. Pair these with fattening dips made with sour cream, cream cheese, or mayonnaise, and you have done a real number on your cholesterol intake. To satisfy your desire for crunching and dipping, stick to fresh veggie sticks dipped in hummus.

3. Soda

Soda 2

Hanging out in the warm sunshine can make you thirsty. You may be tempted to reach for a refreshing cola. However, regular sodas are high in sugar and caffeine and deliver empty calories that go straight to your waistline. Diet sodas aren’t much better, as some studies show that even zero-calorie soft drinks may be linked to increased belly fat. Quench your thirst with plain water for the best hydration without added calories. Add a squeeze of lemon or bring a pitcher of fruit infused water to the picnic for extra flavor.

2. Beer


Beer tends to be another staple of the neighborhood barbecue. Some studies suggest that drinking beer in moderation can have positive effects on your cholesterol. However, at around 150 calories per can, you can see where the term “beer belly” comes from. Drinking in moderation refers to one alcoholic drink per day for women and two alcoholic beverages per day for men. Of course, drinking excessively can lead not only to obesity but also to liver disease, brain damage, and the risks associated with decreased inhibitions and poor decision-making.

Related: 11 Liver Damage Signs You Can’t Ignore

1. Sugary Desserts


It wouldn’t be a barbecue without tempting dessert items. A slab of chocolate cake, a slice of apple pie, or a helping of blueberry cobbler makes a tasty finish to a fun day with friends. However, the dangers of sugar, refined flour, and butter are well documented. If you are watching your weight, look for fruit options to satisfy your sweet tooth while providing your body with vitamins, fiber, and antioxidants. A refreshing slice of watermelon or a handful of berries can be a delicious way to cap the day.

Related: 11 Mouth-Watering Ways to Cook Chicken Breasts


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