Having a Healthy Cookout

May 17, 2018

Having a Healthy Cookout

Memorial Day is coming, and it’s the perfect time for a cookout. However, if you’re watching your weight or your health, this may be a bit concerning, as many of the classic cookout favorites aren’t necessarily the best foods for you. Red meats, heavy sauces, rolls and many other staples aren’t the best for you, but that doesn’t mean you need to pass on your cookout. By doing some clever substitutions and switching up the way you cook, you can have all the fun of a cookout without worrying about your health.

The Right Cooking

For every outdoor cookout, the centerpiece of the proceedings is the grill, and with all the delicious flavors it offers, it’s easy to see why. However, when it comes to retaining nutrient content, grilling isn’t necessarily the best way to go. Studies show that up to 40% of B vitamins and minerals are lost during the grilling process, because the juice that drips from the meat has most of those nutrients.1
Ideally, in order to avoid this happening, you want to make sure that you retain as much juice as possible by not overcooking meats. Another thing to do is not cut the meat before you put it on the grill. Some people do this in order to make sure they cook things through, but this means more exposure to heat and loss of juices.

In terms of cooking prep, you also want to avoid cross-contamination whenever possible. Make sure that unused marinades and cooked foods are always kept separate, and that you use different cutting boards and utensils for raw and cooked foods.

The Right Foods – Entrees

Cooking wisely does a lot to help you get your healthy cookout started the right way, but the best thing you can do is change up what you eat. It may be hard to say goodbye to hot dogs, burgers and steaks, but there are plenty of alternative options that bring lots of flavor and healthy benefits.

For starters, you don’t have to necessarily grill meat. There are many vegetarian takes on burgers, like Portobello mushrooms, black beans and roasted vegetables. Even if you’re not a vegetarian, these can help you get more nutrients out of your cookout. Grilled vegetables are also a great addition, with squash, peppers and onions being favorites.

Finding leaner takes on cookout classics is another good a way to eat lighter and healthier. Turkey and chicken hot dogs or burgers mean you can get the same tastes and textures with less guilt. Lean pork and beef cuts mean less fat for you.

There are also plenty of fish choices that are meaty and great for grilling, and they have plenty of good nutrients.2 A few examples of fish that are great for the grill include tuna, grouper and salmon. You can also grill shrimp skewers, if you are looking for something handheld.

Side Dishes and Desserts

Another thing to keep in mind when it comes to the cookout is your side dishes and dessert. Potato and pasta salads may be classics, but a major component in these is often mayonnaise. You can get a lighter salad by using vinaigrette dressings instead of creamy dressings or making pasta salads with whole-wheat pasta.

For dessert, try skipping out on pies and cakes and bring fruit to the table. Use the same skewers you would use for a meat kebab or shrimp kebab and put fruit on the skewer, like watermelon, blueberries or pineapple. And grilled pineapple is a unique snack you can only have at a cookout.

In some cases, it’s okay to go off the beaten path, especially with a Memorial Day cookout. However, eating some of the foods that we’ve mentioned mean that you can cook out more often without having to worry about impacting your health or digestion.

Another good idea, no matter what you eat, is to try to support your digestive system, to make sure it maintains its regular functions. In many cases, certain cookout favorites can throw your digestive system out of whack – maybe not enough to cause serious problems, but enough to create discomfort. A good way to tackle this is with supplements like Enzymedica’s Chewable Digest. With amylase, lipase, cellulase, and protease Thera-blend™ enzymes, Chewable Digest helps the body break down carbs, fats, and proteins easier, to help with occasional gas, bloating and digestive discomfort.

1. USDA, USDA Table of Nutrient Retention Factors, http://www.ars.usda.gov/SP2UserFiles/Place/80400525/Data/retn/retn06. Accessed May 9, 2018.
2. Tapsell LC, Batterham MJ, Charlton KE, et al. Foods, nutrients or whole diets: effects of targeting fish and LCn3PUFA consumption in a 12mo weight loss trial. BMC Public Health. 2013;13:1231.

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