Even with all the temptations that come with summer barbecue season, it's still possible to load up your plate at the next cookout with delicious side dishes.
Registered dietitian nutritionist Dawn Jackson Blatner shared her go-to swaps for how to keep your summer side dish options healthy, without compromising on flavor.
Plus, Blatner shares her top tips for fun ways to keep summer grilling fun, light and healthy.
1. Lose the butter on your corn on the cob
Instead of loading your corn on the cob with butter, swap out the butter for citrus juice and a flavorful seasoning. Blatner recommends flavoring grilled corn with lime, paprika, sea salt and pepper.
Why it’s a great figure-friendly swap: Corn with 1 tablespoon of butter is approximately 250 calories, but corn with lime and paprika is only about 150 calories. Plus, the citrus adds some vitamin C to your meal.
How to make it: Simply dress your grilled corn with fresh lime, paprika, sea salt and pepper based on your taste the same way you would've with butter.
2. Try a three-bean salad instead of baked beans
Instead of eating the classic barbecue side of baked beans, why not try a three-bean salad as a side dish this summer?
Why it’s a great figure-friendly swap: Regular baked beans can be a whopping 300 calories per cup, but a three-bean salad is only about 200 calories per cup. Plus, you can save about 24 grams of sugar per cup, which roughly equates to six teaspoons.
How to make it: Mix steamed green beans, red kidney beans, white beans, celery, onion, parsley and Italian-style salad dressing and serve.
3. Revamp your classic potato salad
Making simple swaps to a classic potato salad recipe can cut off loads of calories from the beloved summertime favorite. Blatner recommends using Greek yogurt instead of mayonnaise, and adding some roasted cauliflower.
Why it’s a great figure-friendly swap: Classic potato salads can be up to 350 calories per cup, but by using the swap Blatner recommends, the revamped potato salad only has about 100 calories per cup. Plus, get some extra protein and probiotics from the Greek yogurt.
How to make it: Swap mayo for 2 percent plain Greek yogurt and instead of all potatoes, use half roasted potatoes and half roasted cauliflower.
4. Revamp your classic mac and cheese
Blatner recommends boosting your classic mac and cheese with some creamy pureed vegetables such as cauliflower or butternut squash.
Why it’s a great figure-friendly swap: Regular mac and cheese can contain up to 450 calories per cup, but Blatner's version only has about 250 calories per cup. The best part is you're still using real cheese, so you won't lose the beloved cheesy flavor. Plus, you're getting an extra serving of veggies.
How to make it: Swap out the traditional butter-flour-whole milk-cheese that is used in traditional mac and cheese recipes for pureed cauliflower or butternut squash, and then add just a little cheese at the end for flavor.
Top tips on how to keep summer grilling light and healthy
-Always include veggies on the grill, not just meats. Blatner recommends loading the grill with zucchini, yellow squash, carrots, asparagus, red onion and grape tomatoes.
-Choose whole proteins like beef, chicken, turkey or pork instead of processed sausages, brats and hot dogs.
-Marinate meats in a mixture of oil, vinegar and dried herbs or spices for one hour before cooking and don’t burn the meat. This decreases potential cancer-causing chemicals that grilling can cause in overcharred meats, according to Blatner.
-In addition to meat and poultry, Blatner recommends grilling fish, salmon burgers and bean burgers.
-Grilled potato or sweet potato wedges are the perfect way to get your summer fries fix, according to Blatner.
-Add fruit such as peaches or bananas to the grill for dessert. Grilling brings out more of fruits’ natural sweetness, according to Blatner. Another dessert option: Serve wedges of juicy watermelon or fresh berries with a dollop of homemade unsweetened whipped cream.
-Don’t cut out your favorite side dishes, just swap them to be better for you with the tips above.