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12 better-for-you summer barbecue recipes

Keep all of the flavor you crave without the guilt.
by Brianna Steinhilber /  / Updated 
Meat And Vegetables On Barbecue Grill
Fire up the grill and toss on one of these healthier options.Fabian Krause / Getty Images
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We tend to have a formula for how we celebrate summer holidays: pool parties, beach days and outdoor barbecues. Is it really even a party without grilling up some tasty food and popping open a few cold brews? But a day spent in the backyard can take 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!

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 12 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
Grilled Salmon Burgers with Avocado Salsa Credit: laughing SpatulaLaughing Spatula

Grilled Salmon Burgers with Avocado Salsa

Tabasco Chicken Burgers
Tabasco Chicken BurgersWhat's Gaby Cooking

Tabasco Chicken Burgers

Grillable Veggie Burgers
Grillable Veggie Burgers Credit: Minimalist BakerMinimalist Baker

Easy Grillable Veggie Burgers

Turkey Burgers with Zucchini
Turkey Burgers with ZucchiniSkinny Taste

Turkey Burgers with Zucchini

Healthier Slow Cooker Pulled Pork
Healthier Slow Cooker Pulled PorkKiwi and Bean

Healthier Slow Cooker Pulled Pork

Cabernet Portabella Burgers
Cabernet Portabella BurgersOh 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.

Red, White and Blue Watermelon Salad
A simple salad made with cubed watermelon, blueberries, feta and basil.NBC News

Red white and blue watermelon salad

Greek Yogurt Garden Macaroni Salad with Cheddar
Greek Yogurt Garden Macaroni Salad with CheddarHealthy Seasonal Recipes

Greek yogurt garden macaroni salad with cheddar

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

Grilled Corn & Zucchini Salad with Sun-Dried Tomato Vinaigrette

Cilantro-Lime Grilled Watermelon
Cilantro-Lime Grilled WatermelonThe Stay at Home Chef

Cilantro-Lime Grilled Watermelon

Simple Seedy Slaw
Simple Seedy SlawCookie and Kate

Simple Seedy Slaw

Grilled Sweet Potato Wedges
Grilled Sweet Potato WedgesCamille Styles

Grilled Sweet Potato Wedges

WHAT A NUTRITIONIST WANTS YOU TO KNOW

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