Besides sunny days and wearing fewer layers, warmer weather also has us looking forward to spring and summer foods like grilled pizza, fried chicken and ice cream. But while they initially sound delicious, many classic warm weather foods actually make the list of the worst foods you can eat – yikes!
Thankfully, there are some tried-and-true ways to enjoy foods you love with some small tweaks. For example, Jenny Champion, a New York City-based registered dietitian, recommends grilling. Choosing grilled foods aren’t only flavorful, but they often have reduced fat, since most of the fat drips off of the food as it cooks.
In addition to grilling, here are six ways to enjoy the fresh tastes of spring and summer foods while reducing the unhealthy extras.
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Kebab It Up
While a big slab of beef on the grill may make your mouth drool, it can also mean consuming some extra saturated fat and cholesterol that may be detrimental to our health in the long run. Instead of one large piece of meat, Champion suggests you make kebabs. Enjoy bite-sized pieces of meat as a treat, but for the majority of time, stick with lean proteins – chicken, turkey, tofu or tempeh – and add lots of veggies, says Champion.
The below recipe in the image features turkey kebabs with apricot sauce. These are so easy to make! Cut up turkey pieces and use wood BBQ screws. I use the herbs and spices my family loves, adding some garlic and onions to the mix. Place all-ready-to-go pieces into your grill oven and cook until almost ready.
I use fresh apricots for the dipping sauces. Just mesh up a few and smother the kebabs. Place them back into the oven for a 5 minutes for the sauce to warm up and sink into the meat pieces.
Use Less Sauce
One of the places where extra calories and sugar sneak into our diets often is in sauces and creams. Instead of dousing your kebabs or lean protein in barbecue sauce, try using one-third less.
Swap the Mayo
Nothing says summer like creamy pasta salad, but next time you plan to whip up this dish, try using avocado instead of mayo. While avocados are higher in fat than most fruits, they are also packed with fiber, potassium and other important nutrients, and have been used as a spread in Spain, Mexico and Central America for years. Aim to use one-quarter to one-half of an avocado for your pasta salad; a half of an avocado usually does the trick, yielding about one-third cup of “mayo.”
Rethink Your Buns
Enjoying a piece of bread every so often is certainly no crime, but especially when eating out, hot dog and burger buns tend to be lackluster in taste. So save those extra calories for another one of your summer favorites instead. Swap a bun for a lettuce wrap or other high-fiber, low-calorie wraps, says Champion.
Ice cream may be one of the ultimate summer foods, but there’s no reason you can’t beat the heat with an alternative – but still icy-cool – treat. Instead of regular ice cream, which packs quite a few calories and grams of fat, opt instead for frozen fresh fruit pops. They are super easy to make yourself, and you can experiment by adding in low-fat yogurt for a creamy texture and using seasonal fruits like berries for a sweet treat.
Check out healthy popsicles with fiber in them! Delicious recipe to try at least once!
Crunchy potato chips and french fries often make their way onto our plate as a convenient side dish to summer staples. In most cases, these deep-fried favorites clock in as the most highly-caloric ingredient on your plate! Instead of french fries or potato chips, make your own carrot chips for dipping instead of potato chips, suggests Champion. They are lower in calories, and offer vitamin A, biotene and other healthy nutrients. The same goes for sweet potato fries; make yours baked, not fried, and top with a drizzle of olive oil and a pinch of salt.
Vanessa Voltolina is a former online editor for NBCUniversal. Her work has appeared in several national publications, including Weight Watchers and SHAPE.