Sign up for the BETTER newsletter

You have been successfully added to our newsletter.

NBC News BETTER brings you wellness news and tips to make the most of your mind, your body and your life.

11 Better-for-You Takes on Your Favorite BBQ Staples

Keep all of the flavor you crave without starting fall with a head start on that winter weight gain.

by Brianna Steinhilber /
Meat and vegetables on barbecue grillFabian Krause / Getty Images
Get the BETTER newsletter.

Labor Day is the unofficial end of the summer — and all of the pool parties, beach days and outdoor barbecues that come with it.

So we tend to go out with a bang. But as many of us may have realized (as we feel that swimsuit get a little tighter), all of that backyard dining takes a toll on our waistlines.

A British study conducted by Weight Watchers found that the average Brit consumes 3,200 calories at each barbecue (that’s equivalent to eating six Big Macs!). Researchers hypothesize that this is due to the lack of structure in the typical barbecue mealtime. Instead of sitting down to a meal as you normally would, you’re more prone to graze for hours at a time, loading up multiple plates — and enjoying a burger and a hot dog (how can you choose just one?).

A recent study found that the average person consumes 3,200 calories at each barbecue — that’s equivalent to eating six Big Macs!

A recent study found that the average person consumes 3,200 calories at each barbecue — that’s equivalent to eating six Big Macs!

Forty-two percent of those surveyed admitted to eating an average of six meat items at each barbecue. Which isn’t just alarming in terms of calories — we’re also consuming dangerously high amounts of fat in the form of burgers, hot dogs, sausages and processed meats. Not to mention, the mayo-laden sides, sugary condiments (we see you, barbecue sauce and ketchup), and that summer shandy (or three).

The easiest way to keeping calories, fat and sugar — and your summer body — in check is portion control. But, we all have to admit, once we’re faced with a barbecue spread (two margaritas deep) it’s too easy to go hog wild. Even though a third of the 2,000 adults questioned admitted they eat more food than usual at barbecues, almost half of them chose to forget how many calories they were consuming and ate as much as they wanted.

The whole portion-control thing may be easier said than done, but you can help cut back on the guilt of loading up plate after plate by rehabbing some of the worst offenders on the menu. By packing the spread with better-for-you options that cut back on the sky-high sugar and fat levels found in standard barbecue favorites, you can soothe your guilty conscience — and keep the meal from spiraling out of control.

Don’t think it’s possible to remake your favorites in a healthier way? Think again. Here are eleven nutritious recipes that keep all of the flavor you crave without sending you into fall with a head start on that winter weight gain.

The Main Event: Burgers

The burger is the mainstay of the barbecue spread. Fire up the grill and toss on one of these healthier options. They are lower in saturated fat, but rank high in creativity and flavor that will have all of your guests coming back for seconds.

 Grilled Salmon Burgers with Avocado Salsa Credit: laughing Spatula Laughing Spatula

Grilled Salmon Burgers with Avocado Salsa

 Tabasco Chicken Burgers What's Gaby Cooking

Tabasco Chicken Burgers

 Grillable Veggie Burgers Credit: Minimalist Baker Minimalist Baker

Easy Grillable Veggie Burgers

 Turkey Burgers with Zucchini Skinny Taste

Turkey Burgers with Zucchini

 Healthier Slow Cooker Pulled Pork Kiwi and Bean

Healthier Slow Cooker Pulled Pork

 Cabernet Portabella Burgers Oh My Veggies

Cabernet Portabella Burgers

Your Favorite BBQ Sides

No barbecue is complete without the quintessential sides. We're talking coleslaw, macaroni salad and slices of juicy watermelon.

 Greek Yogurt Garden Macaroni Salad with Cheddar Healthy Seasonal Recipes

Greek yogurt garden macaroni salad with cheddar

 Grilled Corn & Zucchini Salad with Sun-Dried Tomato Vinaigrette Minimalist Baker

Grilled Corn & Zucchini Salad with Sun-Dried Tomato Vinaigrette

 Cilantro-Lime Grilled Watermelon The Stay at Home Chef

Cilantro-Lime Grilled Watermelon

 Simple Seedy Slaw Cookie and Kate

Simple Seedy Slaw

 Grilled Sweet Potato Wedges Camille Styles

Grilled Sweet Potato Wedges

Follow BETTER on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram

Get the BETTER newsletter.
Get the BETTER newsletter.
MORE FROM better