Throw a Healthy and Delicious Cookout!

Guest Blogger Carly Waldman is a student at West Virginia University studying nutrition sciences. In her spare time, Carly volunteers at the fueling station for the D1 athletes at WVU and is also president of the soccer club.

Memorial Day weekend kicks off the beginning of summer that is commonly celebrated with a barbeque. A BBQ is known to have a lot of tempting, high calories foods such as cheeseburgers, potato salad, and sugary desserts. There are plenty of healthy Memorial Day weekend recipes and alternatives that not only are healthier options but tasty options as well!

Meat Lovers

One of the most common barbeque foods is the traditional burger but when deciding which burgers are the best choice, are turkey burgers really that much better than beef burgers?  Turkey burgers are known to be a healthier option compared to a beef burger but in reality, it depends. The ground turkey can sometimes include other parts of the bird which can boost the fat content so read the food package carefully. You want to be reading the label and be mindful of  the fat percentage on the panel. For example, a standard portion of 93% lean ground turkey has equal calories as a standard portion of 93% lean ground beef, but 1.5 more grams of fat! If you are watching your weight or trying to lose weight extra lean 99% fat turkey burgers are definitely the way to go at 1.5 g of fat per serving.

Burger Alternatives

Trader Joe’s Chili Lime Chicken Burgers

There are several other burger alternatives such as salmon burgers and chicken burgers. Salmon is a great source of heart-healthy omega 3 fatty acids, protein, vitamins and minerals. Salmon burgers are very easy and fun to make at home. A great recipe is Salmon Burger Recipe. Another burger alternative is the Chile lime chicken burgers at Trader Joe’s. At 110 calories per patty, these burgers are also a low-carb and low-fat option. They are sold frozen so all you need to do is warm them up on the grill. Then, if you want to zest it up, add some guacamole on top. This will add more healthy fats and fiber to the burger as well as making them taste even more delicious!

Plant-Based Crowd Pleasers

Most people think that because veggie burgers are made out of vegetables that they are automatically healthy, but you need to be cautious when purchasing them. Store-bought veggie burgers can be high in sodium. Veggie burgers can also be high in carbohydrates since most veggie burgers are made of corn, legumes, and starchy fillers such as corn starch and breadcrumbs. Most veggie burgers that are available on the market are also low in protein so if you choose to purchase store-bought veggie burgers make sure you pay close attention when reading the nutrition facts. A good veggie burger brand to look for in stores is Dr. Praeger’s and Beyond Meat. Both of these brands have a wide variety of veggie burgers to choose from ranging in different ingredients and flavors and are low sodium, low carb, and high protein.

Another barbeque classic is a hotdog, which are unfortunately high in sodium, calories, and fat (not including the condiments added on top!) Since most hotdogs are processed, there are a lot of preservatives in them, which can also increase the risks of different health issues. However, there are a ton of healthier hot dog alternatives. Beyond Meat offers three different type of plant-based sausages that are higher in protein, lower in fat, and lower in calories compared to an average pork sausage. Smart Dogs are another veggie dog brand that has 50 calories, 2 grams of fat, 7 grams of protein, low sodium, and has 2 grams of carbohydrates per link. Tofurky dogs are also an excellent source of protein and a great hot dog alternative that is easy to make.

Instead of having a meat-centric cookout, try incorporating more vegetables and vegetarian dishes. Take a traditional BBQ food like kebobs for example. Instead of packing the kabob with grilled chicken or meat, try adding a few less pieces of meat and loading the kebob sticks with veggies. People forget that you can grill fruit too. Grilled pineapple is extremely tasty especially when paired with other grilled vegetables such as peppers, zucchini, and mushrooms. Grilling vegetables and fruit is super easy, all you need to do is season your vegetables with olive oil and sprinkle your favorite seasonings on top.

Forget the usual potato salads, mac and cheeses, and buffalo chicken dips! There are so many vegetarian side dishes you can prepare and bring for a summer cookout that is much interesting and healthier. There is an endless choice of salads you can bring including salads that do not contain primarily lettuce if you are not a fan of lettuce. You can make a salad with corn, avocado, tomatoes, and cucumbers that taste delicious and fiber-packed. You can make your own slaws using Greek yogurt instead of your typical mayonnaise and fatty dressings. Chickpea salads are also a great way for guest to fill up because the beans are loaded with protein which help with satiety. There are an unlimited amount of healthy side dishes that you can bring to a BBQ that will work will be as equally and crowd pleasing.


Most people know they are in trouble when the dessert is brought out during a barbeque, but you should not feel troubled. Instead, you should just bring something that fuels your body and makes your body feel good. During dessert time most people are standing above several pies, cakes, types of cookies and ice creams trying to decide which to fill their plate with. Instead of indulging in these sugary, high in fat and calorie treats, why not offer your guests options that won’t leave them bloated? A very common healthy dessert to bring is a fruit salad, but if you think that is too plain, don’t forget about grilling some fruit to spice it up. There are also many healthy baking options such as yummy homemade oatmeal raisin cookies, banana nut cookies, vegan brownies, and more! Another easy and enjoyable recipe to make is fruit and yogurt popsicles. All you have to do is make a smoothie by adding your favorite fruits, adding some yogurt, pouring your mixture into paper cups, then and then freezing for five hours minimum.