When the weather is beautiful and the days are long, most people like to end their weekend with a barbeque. But if you are trying to watch your weight, big barbeques can spell big trouble! However, grilling does not have to mean a cholesterol and fat overload. Try to enjoy a healthier version of your favorite dishes this season, with tasty burgers and side dishes that are good for both your palate and waistline.


     Many people have a problem with portion distortion. It is very hard to guess how many servings you are eating. Here is a rule of thumb to estimate serving sizes. A baseball or tennis ball is about the size of a cup. This should be your serving size for items like mashed potatoes or pasta.  These favorites do not have to be eliminated, but don’t eat more than one portion. When taking a portion of your main dish, picture two decks of cards. This means your fish, steak or chicken portion will be 6 oz. If you enjoy steak but your cholesterol level is high, you can try a serving that is the size of one deck of cards, sprinkled over a colorful salad. This way you keep the taste up, and the cholesterol and fat down. 


      Make sure that before you sit down to eat, you prepare a large bowl of salad. Eating salad first will help curb your appetite so you won’t be starving when eating your main dish and you will take a smaller portion.


     Hamburgers, a usual family favorite, provide a great source of protein, iron and zinc. The problem is that they can also be loaded with calories and fat. Serving size is important to keep in mind, since patty sizes can vary widely. A 3-ounce patty might be quite satisfying for some people, especially children. This also allows you to eat something else at the BBQ.  However, if you are eating a 6-7 oz burger, then you want to make sure it’s your whole main dish. To decrease the calorie and fat content of your burger, you can use turkey and chicken instead of beef.  Turkey and chicken for burgers should be made from skinless white meat.  If you are buying packaged burgers, read food labels carefully, you may find that extra-lean ground beef burgers have less fat than those made from turkey.  Also important is the burger size, because they can range from 70 calories and just a gram or two of fat to 600 or more calories with up to 40 grams of fat!


      To keep your lean patties moist, add barbecue sauce, Worcestershire sauce and ketchup. You can also top your burgers with grilled onions and mushrooms, roasted red peppers, thick tomato slices, salsa, ketchup, mustard or barbecue sauce. Just remember that extra lean meat will cook faster than high fat meat options. Be careful not to overcook your burgers, so that you enjoy the taste of a healthy summer BBQ.


Vegetable salsa


1 cup diced zucchini

1 cup chopped red onion

2 red bell peppers, seeded and diced

2 green bell peppers, seeded and diced

4 tomatoes, diced

2 garlic cloves, minced

1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro

1 teaspoon ground black pepper

2 teaspoons sugar

1/4 cup lime juice

1 teaspoon salt


Directions: Wash vegetables and prepare as directed. In a large bowl, combine all the ingredients. Toss gently to mix. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes to allow the flavors to blend.


This recipe yields 16 servings at ½ cup each. Each serving provides:  20 calories, 1g protein, 5g carbohydrates, 0g fat, 0mg cholesterol, 150mg sodium, 1g fiber and 174mg potassium.




Shani Goldner is a Registered Dietitian and a CDN with a Master’s of Science. She runs a private nutrition practice where she counsels children, adolescents and adults in weight loss, diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular health and cancer related nutrition. She can be reached at (718) 854-5784.  She is an Oxford provider. Phone consults are available. For more information, please visit www.mynydiet.com  


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