Is there anything better than a good BBQ with your buddies during the summer months? We think not! But you probably know by now just how toxic some foods can be. Not sure what's good news for your gut and what should better be left on the shelf? That's what we're here for!
Stock up on our go-tos (and stay away from our Not That! picks) and you'll be prepared to throw a killer BBQ at a moment's notice. Better yet, you'll be able to maintain your flat abs without sacrificing the classic summer foods you love. Speaking of summer foods, don't miss our picks for The #1 Summer Food in Every State.
Aidells Cajun Style Andouille
Per 1 link (85 g): 160 calories, 11 g fat (4 g saturated fat), 600 mg sodium, 1 g carbs (0 g fiber, 1 g sugar), 15 g protein
Hillshire Farm Beer Brat
Per 1 link (64 g): 200 calories 18 g fat (6 g saturated fat), 650 mg sodium, 3 g carb (0 g fiber, 0 g sugar), 7 g protein
80 percent of the calories in Hillshire Farm's beer brats come from fat, and they don't have all that much protein compared to Aidells Cajun Style sausage. Not to mention, Hillshire fills their meat with health-harming sodium nitrites—yuck. We'll take Aidells' lean, flavor-packed pork all summer long.
BEEF HOT DOGS
Applegate Farms The Great Organic Uncured Beef Hot Dog
Per 1 link (50 g): 110 calories, 9 g fat (4 g saturated fat), 530 mg sodium, 0 g carbs (0 g fiber, 0 g sugar), 7 g protein
Oscar Mayer Selects Angus Beef Franks
Per 1 link (50 g): 170 calories, 15 g fat (6 g saturated fat), 370 mg sodium, 1 g carbs (0 g fiber, 1 g sugar), 6 g protein
This is an easy choice. Applegate uses lean, preservative-free meat to create a dog with more protein, fewer calories, and less fat than Oscar Mayer's frank. Not to mention, Angus beef is no leaner—and arguably no tastier—than regular beef.
Boca Bruschetta Tomato Basil Parmesan
Per 1 patty (71 g): 90 calories, 2 g fat (0.5 g saturated), 380 mg sodium, 8 g carbs (5 g fiber, 1 g sugar), 13 g protein
Amy's All American Veggie Burger
Per patty (71 g): 140 calories 3.5 g fat, 0 g saturated, 390 mg sodium, 14 g carbs, 4 g fiber, 2 g sugar, 13 g protein
Boca packs plenty of protein into their patties while keeping calories low, which is exactly what you want in a meat substitute. Unfortunately for Amy, we can't say the same about her burgers. They carry 50 extra calories without providing any extra protein in return.
Grass-Fed 95% Lean Beef Patty, 4-ounce
Per 113 g: 136 calories, 5 g fat (2 g saturated fat), 66 mg sodium, 0 g carbs (0 g fiber, 0 g sugar), 18.5 g protein
Conventional 85% Lean Beef Patty, 4-ounce
Per 113 g: 215 calories, 15 g fat (5.5 g saturated fat), 66 mg sodium, 0 g carbs (0 g fiber, 0 g sugar), 22 g protein
Opting for 95% lean over 85% doesn't just save you 10 grams of fat, it also slashes the saturated fat in half and keeps excess calories in check. Keep the lean burger meat from drying out by mixing it with minced button mushrooms, peppers, onions, or a combination of all three. For every cup of meat use a quarter-cup of vegetables. Sure, it's more expensive, but choosing grass-fed instead of conventional beef is the best bet for your health. Meat from these specially cared for cows provides more heart-healthy omega-3s.
McCormick Grill Mates Applewood Rub
Per 2 tsp (5 g): 15 calories, 0 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 350 mg sodium, 3 g carbs (0 g fiber, 1 g sugar), 0 g protein
Emeril's All Natural Steak Rub
Per 1/2 tsp (1.6 g): 20 calories, 0 g fat (0 mg saturated fat), 1,440 mg sodium, 0 g carbs (0 g fiber, 0 g sugar), 0 g protein
A rub is great for adding flavor to family dinner classics like chops, chicken, and steak. We're big fans of McCormick's smoky rub because it has a hint of sweetness and is relatively low in sodium—a rarity in this category. Just look at Emeril's: It serves up more than half a day's salt in just two tablespoons. Just thinking about that makes us thirsty.
TRADITIONAL BBQ SAUCE
Stubb's Original Bar-B-Q Sauce
Per 2 tbsp (32 g): 25 calories, 0 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 240 mg sodium, 6 g carbs (1 g fiber, 4 g sugar), 0 g protein
Sweet Baby Ray’s Original Barbecue Sauce
Per 2 tbsp (37 g): 70 calories, 0 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 290 mg sodium, 18 g carbs (0 g fiber, 16 g sugar), 0 g protein
High fructose corn syrup (an additive shown to increase appetite) is the primary ingredient in Sweet Baby Ray’s sauce, which is why it packs almost three times as many calories as the bottle of Stubb's. Stubb's also serves up a robust flavor without packing in a ton of sugar or salt, an attribute we're big fans of. We know which bottle we'll be using.
Annie's Naturals Organic Ketchup
Per 1 tbsp (17 g): 15 calories, 0 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 130 mg sodium, 5 g carbs (0 g fiber, 4 g sugar), 0 g protein
Heinz Tomato Ketchup
Per 1 tbsp (17 g): 20 calories, 0 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 160 mg sodium, 5 g carbs (0 g fiber, 4 g sugar), 0 g protein
It may cost you a few bucks more, but go ahead and spring for organic ketchup. Research published in PLOS ONE shows that organically-raised tomatoes produce nearly twice as much cancer-fighting lycopene – and they taste better too. In fact, Heinz placed dead last in a blind ketchup taste test conducted for Eat This, Not That! Supermarket Survival Guide, and it's also higher in calories and laden with HFCS.
Grey Poupon Savory Honey Mustard
Per 5 g: 10 calories, 0 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 5 mg sodium, 1 g carbs (0 g fiber, 1 g sugar), 0 g protein
Inglehoffer Sweet Honey Mustard
Per 5 g: 15 calories, 0 g fat (35 mg saturated fat), 20 mg sodium, 2 g carbs (0 g fiber, 2 g sugar), 0 g protein
When sugar and water show up before mustard seeds on the ingredients list, should it really be labeled mustard? We don't think so. Opt for Grey Poupon instead. Heart-healthy mustard seeds are this bottle's second ingredient after water, and unlike other brands, it uses actual honey.
Kraft Singles 2% Milk Sharp Cheddar
Per 1 slice (19 g): 45 calories, 2.5 g fat (1.5 g saturated fat), 250 mg sodium, 1 g carbs (0 g fiber, 2 g sugar), 4 g protein
Kraft Deli Deluxe Sharp Cheddar Slices
Per 1 slice (19 g): 70 calories, 6 g fat (3.5 g saturated fat), 300 mg sodium, 0 g carbs (0 g fiber, 0 g sugar), 4 g protein
There may be a few lighter cheeses out there, but they don't taste like cheese. If you're looking for an all-purpose burger topper, use Kraft Singles 2%. Its shelf mate, Kraft Deli Deluxe, earns three-quarters of its calories from fat, which earns you nothing but extra calories. Leave it on the shelf if you want to slim down.
Per 3 rings: 8 calories, 0 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 1 mg sodium, 1.8 g carbs (<1 g fiber, 0.7 g sugar), <1 g protein
Per 3 medium: 3 calories, 0 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 2 mg sodium, 0.7 g carbs (>1 g fiber, >1 g sugar), >1 g protein
It's not that iceberg lettuce is "bad" for you or nutritionally bankrupt, onions just happen to score higher on the fat-incinerating superfood food chain. The aromatic veggie is loaded with quercetin, a flavonoid that activates a protein in the body that help you lose belly fat and keeps new fat cells from forming, according to a study in Psychotherapy Research. While iceberg is filled with disease-fighting antioxidants, it simply doesn't have the same waist-whittling effects.
Martin's 100% Whole Wheat Potato Roll
Per roll (42.5 g): 100 calories 2 g fat (0 g saturated), 135 mg sodium, 17 g carbs (3 g fiber, 4 g sugar), 7 g protein
Sara Lee Classic White Hamburger Buns
Per roll (54 g): 150 calories, 2 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 270 mg sodium, 29 g carbs (1 g fiber, 5 g sugar), 5 g protein
Sara Lee's pillows of empty carbs just can't compete with Martin's fiber- and protein-packed rolls. You'd be hard-pressed to find a better—or tastier–burger vessel. Consider yourself a carboholic? Don't miss these 25 Best Carbs for Weight Loss!
GLUTEN-FREE HAMBURGER BUN
BFree Brown Seeded Rolls
Per 1 roll (60 g): 150 calories, 5 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 320 mg sodium, 21 g carbs (5 g fiber, 1 g sugar), 6 g protein
Canyon Bakehouse Gluten-Free Hamburger Buns
Per 1 bun (85 g): 200 calories, 4 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 320 mg sodium, 39 g carbs (3 g fiber, 7 g sugar), 3 g protein
BFree Brown Seeded Rolls have less sugar and twice the protein as Canyon's burger vessel making them the clear winner in our eyes. Not sure if you should be reaching for the GF buns? Read up on these 35 Gluten-Free Questions Answered Fast!
HOT DOG BUN
Martin's Famous Long Potato Rolls
Per roll (53 g): 140 calories 2.5 g fat, (0.5 g saturated fat), 180 mg sodium, 24 g carbohydrates (2 g fiber, 5 g sugar), 6 g protein
Sunbeam Hot Dog Buns
Per roll (43 g): 130 calories, 2.5 g fat (0.5 g saturated fat), 210 mg sodium, 22 g carbs (>1 g fiber, 3 g sugar), 4 g protein
Martin's hot dog holders carry an impressive six grams of protein, a nutrient that preserves lean muscle mass and keeps your metabolism in high gear as you lose weight. Sunbeam’s falls a bit short of six grams, is laden with HFSC and has more sodium. We'll pass on that combo.
Potato Salad With Oil And Vinegar
Per 3/4 cup (230 g): 181 calories, 7 g fat (1 g saturated fat), 122 mg sodium, 27 g carbs (3 g fiber, 4 g sugar), 4 g protein
Potato Salad With Mayo
Per 1 cup (250 g): 358 calories, 20.5 g fat (3.5 g saturated), 1,322 mg sodium, 28 g carbs (3 g fiber, n/a g sugar), 6.7 g protein
Enjoying a potato salad dressed in a vinegar is a smart move. Eating the mayo-spiked kind? Not so much. Opting for the more acidic dish not only saves you calories, fat, and quite possibly a trip to the cardiologist, but also boosts your metabolism. Otherwise, a homemade cup could vary and land anywhere up to 350 calories with 20 grams of fat. Make it with olive oil and vinegar instead. According to a study published in Diabetes Care, vinegar increases the rate at which the body burns off carbs by up to 40 percent, making the more acidic dish a solid weight-loss weapon! On top of that, olive oil leads to higher levels of adiponectin in the body, a hormone that breaks down fats in the body. Have leftover ingredients after your cookout? Check out these 30 Awesome Uses for Apple Cider Vinegar!
Per 1 cup (154 g): 46 calories, 0 g fat, 0 g saturated fat, 2 mg sodium, 11.6 g carbs, 0.6 g fiber, 9.5 g sugar, 0.94 g protein
Per 1 cup (250 g): 132 calories, <1 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 5 mg sodium, 32 g carbs (0.5 g fiber, 25 g sugar), 0.9 g protein
Sure, it has more than double the calories, but that's not the problem with the pineapple. In fact, there really is no "problem" at all. Both fruits are rich in immune-boosting vitamin C and manganese, a mineral that fights off cell-damaging free radicals, according to a study in Free Radical Biology and Medicine. However, watermelon has waist-trimming properties its yellow tropical friend does not. According to recent findings in Nutrition Research, eating watermelon may improve lipid profiles and lower inflammation, earning it a place on our "Eat This" lineup.
Lay's Oven Baked Potato Crisps, Original
Per 17 crisps (28 g): 120 calories, 3.5 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 160 mg sodium, 22 g carbs (1 g fiber, 2 g sugar), 2 g protein
Lay's Potato Chips, Classic
Per 15 chips (28 g): 160 calories, 10 g fat (1.5 g saturated fat), 170 mg sodium, 15 g carbs (1 g fiber, < 1 g sugar), 2 g protein
Lay's Oven Baked Potato Crisps may add some unnecessary sugar to their recipe, but other than that, they're low in calories and sodium and have a simple list of ingredients. Another plus: They're baked, not fried, so they have 65% less fat than a classic crisp. Lay's classic recipe, on the other hand, are so salty and oily, you'll find a coating on both your fingers and tongue after just one. They have almost three times the fat as their skinnier counterpart. To see how all of your chips stand up against one another, check out our exclusive report, 35 of Your Favorite Chips — Ranked!
Halo Top Vanilla Bean
Per 1/2 cup (64 g): 60 calories, 2 g fat (1 g saturated fat), 110 mg sodium, 13 g carbs (3 g fiber, 5 g sugar, 5 g protein
Blue Bunny Vanilla Bean
Per 1/2 cup (69 g): 150 calories, 9 g fat (5 g saturated fat), 45 mg sodium, 15 g carbs (0 g fiber, 15 g sugar), 3 g protein
Halo Top gets a high-five for adding protein and pre-biotic fiber into its ice creams and keeping real sugar to a minimum (they use natural stevia and erythritol to add sweetness). So one might expect all that effort would compromise taste—it doesn't. And we know because we've taste tested the stuff. And when the skinny version tastes that good, it just doesn't seem worth all the extra calories and sugar in buy the high-cal Blue Bunny variety. For even more desserts that won't wreck your waistline, check out these 20 Easy Dessert Recipes.
Outshine Fruit & Veggie Bars, Strawberry Rhubarb
Per 1 bar: 35 calories, 0 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 15 mg sodium, 9 g carbs (1 g fiber, 9 g sugar), 0 g protein
Per 1 pop: 40 calories, 0 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 0 mg sodium, 10 g carbs (0 g fiber, 7 g sugar), 0 g protein
At just 35 calories, go ahead and indulge in Outshines ice pops guilt-free. They're made from purees and juices from pumpkins, carrots, beets, rhubarb, cranberries, apples, and strawberries. Not only are they more caloric, but the Popsicle brand option is primarily made of high fructose corn syrup and artificial dyes. In other words, it's better off left in the cooler than melted in your belly.
PASTA SALAD NOODLE
Banza Chickpea Penne
Per 1/2 cup (57 g): 190 calories, 3.5 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 60 mg sodium, 32 g carbs (8 g fiber, 5 g sugar), 14 g protein
DiVinchi Penne Rigate
Per 1/2 cup (55 g): 200 calories, 1 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 0 mg sodium, 43 g carbs (2 g fiber, 3 g sugar), 6 g protein
If you're making a hearty pasta salad for your next cookout, consider using iron- and protein-packed Banza Chickpea Penne instead of regular noodles. DiVinchi Penne Rigate and other similar, conventional pastas are void of any noteworthy nutrients which is why we suggest skipping them. Looking for even more skinny pasta options? Check out these 10 Pulse Pastas You Need In Your Life.
Sam Adams Light
Per 12 fl oz: 119 calories, 7.6 g carbs, 4.3% ABV
Budweiser American Ale
182 calories, 18 g carbs, 5.3% ABV
You may be as patriotic as the next guy, but if you're trying to fight fat, pass on this American ale for one of Bud's lighter options, or, better yet, Sam Adams Light. In our quest to find the tastiest light beer in America, we taste tested all of the top brands. The one that stood out from the pack? Sam Adams Light, which was lauded for its discernable nutty flavor and relatively full body. One tester even noted that it "tasted like something I might find in a nice beer garden!"