Summer Cookout Healthy Eating Guide

Memorial Day weekend has arrived. This unofficial kick off to summer means pool parties, picnics, barbecues and MORE!

So bring on the burgers, hot dogs, potato salad, cole slaw and all things barbecue and picnic related. However, over time these summertime favorites can really pack on the pounds. While one "bad" meal won't make you gain weight it's sure hard to avoid the summer favorites throughout the ENTIRE summer.

So here are our top 5 tips and tricks for keeping clean eating in check, and not falling into the mayo laden salads and loaded burger summer pitfalls at every summer get together.

Enjoy In Season Fruits and Veggies- The BEST thing about summer (besides lazy days by the pool) is all of the fresh summer produce. One way to eat more vegetables is fill up on a delicious vegetable kabob prepared on the grill. You could even add some shrimp or chicken for some protein.

Fresh fruit such as pineapple can add a little flair to your kabob. Try mushrooms, green peppers and pineapples. Have you thought about throwing some watermelon on your grill? (be sure to keep an eye on your watermelon as its high water content can cause it to burn) How about peaches? Strawberries? One way to really add some unique flair to your next barbecue is offer fresh fruit kabobs as a dessert. Set out a bowl of fruit and have guests skewer their own combinations. Not only is this a healthier option, but kids love this as an activity and as they can add whatever fruits they like.

Summer Salads- Since we're talking summer season foods lets not forget salads! But they don't have to be those ho hum garden kids! Cucumbers with Roma tomatoes marinated in balsamic vinegar is one of my favorites as is a wonderful cucumber salad with onions and a light marinade. Tabbouleh is a wheat salad that is delicious when prepared chilled and with olive oil, diced tomatoes, lemon juice and mint.

Burgers Aren't Just Beef- There are TONS of options for your burger choices if you're avoiding beef. Pre-made turkey burgers are a great alternative as are salmon burgers or even grilled chicken! All of these options can be put on a multi-grain bun, topped with lettuce, tomatoes (or even a slice of cheese). And again fruit can really spice up a burger! Is beef the only option? Opt for one that is the correct portion size or simply cut one in half! I do try to avoid chips whenever possible but a small serving will be just fine to keep it to a minimum.

Just One Please- Serving of starch that is! Keep starches to a minimum. Love corn on the cob or chips? Choose one and then wrap your burger in lettuce. Holding out for those cupcakes or strawberry shortcake? Skip the starches all together, fill up on protein and vegetables and save that starch for dessert.

Water, Water Everywhere- Try to avoid sweet sugary drinks. Not only will these make you even more thirsty, they easily pack on the pounds. Always have a cup of water in your hand. This will not only keep your hands busy and occupied and out of the snack foods, it will help keep you fuller so you wont be tempted to overeat when it comes to meal time.

Stay Active- The point of living a healthier lifestyle is not about eliminating all of the things you LOVE! Its about moderation and balance. If you think you might be indulging a little too much, participate in a little extra backyard fun can help burn those extra calories.

Tag with the kids, hide and go seek or even a quick game of Frisbee can burn calories. Ask friends if they'd like to take a quick walk around the block after the barbecue. Its a great way to continue to socialize with friends while getting in some extra steps.

 Remember, its not about elimination, its all about moderation . Its also about consistency over perfection. So if you consistently make better food choices throughout the summer months or special occasions, you'll still get some great results without feeling deprived.