No one ever said it was easy to eat healthy during grilling season. Yet, knowing which foods to put on your plate and what portions you should be eating more of can help you make cleaner food swaps and better summertime choices—plus do wonders for your waistline.  
Credit: Photo: Sara Tane

Grilling season is officially here, which means it’s time for a barbecue! And when you’re surrounded by typical cookout fare such as chicken wings, barbecue, and greasy appetizers, it can be really easy to go overboard and just pile things on your plate. But there are certain home-cooked favorites you can add to your plate to make it a lot healthier. Whether you’re hosting a party in the comfort of your own home or you’re at the mercy of hosts, learn how to serve up a filling barbecue plate that won’t leave you feeling overfed or send you into a food coma before the fireworks.

Yes, it’s possible to build your own plate for approximately 500 calories! Don’t believe us? Here’s delicious, satisfying proof that you don’t have to avoid your favorite foods just to save calories.

The Formula

- Fill half your plate with vegetables and fruit.
- Then pile one-quarter with protein and healthy fats like cheese and dips.
- Leave the remaining one-quarter for grains or starchy sides.

Credit: Photo: Sara Tane

No fumbling with foods here! Have fun and add a little color to half of your plate with the right veggies and fruits. Of course you can throw in common pre-cut veggies like baby carrots and celery sticks or hydrating slices of cucumbers that are perfect for dipping. But we took things a step further, putting a healthy spin on classic tailgating foods.

We replaced fattening potato fries with Jalapeño Poppers topped with bacon and jelly and with savory and crispy, cheesy Zucchini Fries. You can even make eating fruit more exciting with our fresh fruit and cheese kebabs that are easy to assemble on a skewer at home, or you can buy pre-cut slices to thread on-the-go. After all, who doesn’t enjoy food on a stick, especially when it’s this good for you?

The Barbecue Pulled Chicken Slider is a great source of protein and a simple way to control portion size, particularly when compared to traditional barbecue sandwiches that are often high in junk but low in nutritional value. We opted for one slider to fill the plate, which is more than enough to keep you full. You’ll want to save the remaining quarter of your plate for tasty tortilla chips and dip to round out the meal.

Get all the crunchy, salted goodness of standard potato chips without all the sodium, fat, and calories by substituting them for Blue Corn Tortilla Chips. These chips are packed with a variety of grains, and are made for snacking and dunking during socializing. Hummus pulls double duty, offering a tasty spread for the cold cut veggies on your plate, too!

An important factor to remember when planning cookout menus or deciding what to put on your plate is the importance of finger-friendly foods. With a lack of seating (and possibly cutlery), you may have to perform the ultimate juggling act, balancing your plate with one hand and a beverage with the other. Foods like sliders, tortilla chips, and bite-sized appetizers are the way to go.