It’s Memorial Day weekend, which means you probably have three day’s worth of barbecues, parties and other food-filled events lined up—and you plan on indulging. Sometimes you just need to live a little. Emphasis on a little. Downing enough burgers, beer and macaroni salad to fill an entire baby pool isn’t the best move if you want to lose weight, but that doesn’t mean you can’t go back for seconds of certain delicious foods at the buffet. In fact, we encourage it.
You’re apt to find all of our must-eat picks below at just about any backyard bash. The best part: In addition to their mouthwatering taste, they can all help you slim down for summer—yes, even the ooey-gooey s’mores! Plus, they’re all foods you’d be apt to reach for even if we didn’t tell you to—so you won’t feel like you’re depriving yourself of your seasonal favorites. Read on to get in the know!
Besides being one of the oldest spices in the world, mustard is also the most widely consumed—especially during summer when it’s prime hamburger and hot dog season. You’re bound to find the slightly spicy condiment at every BBQ you attend this weekend, and you have our permission to pile it on. It’s not only one of the lowest-cal patty toppers out there, but also a metabolism booster that can incinerate a fair share of your indulgent meal. Thanks to the capsaicin and phytochemicals that give the mustard its characteristic flavor, eating just one teaspoon of the stuff can boost your calorie-burning furnace by up to 25 percent for several hours after you consume it, according to Oxford Polytechnic Institute researchers. Just be sure to use a pure, low-calorie variety made with mustard seeds and vinegar. That means avoiding anything that’s neon yellow or honey-based. Our go-to is Grey Poupon Classic Dijon.
Open flames aren’t just reserved for the grill—many backyard bashes end with friends gathering around a campfire. And once a fire has been built it’s safe to say s’mores are sure to follow, which is actually beneficial if you’re on a diet. Coming in at 134 calories, 5 grams of fat and 12 grams of sugar, s’mores are one of the best sweet indulgences for your waistline. So go a head and have one—or even two! Opting for a s’more over a slice of apple pie (another treat bound to make an appearance this weekend) will save you nearly 300 calories! If you can, use dark chocolate between your graham crackers in lieu of the milk variety. Dark chocolate is filled with health-boosting flavonoids and takes the body more time to process, which staves off hunger and aids weight loss.
If you've banished these starchy spuds from your diet, it’s time to bring them back. Cooked and cooled potatoes—like the kind used in potato salad, a classic BBQ dish—contain something called resistant starch. This type of carb resists digestion (hence, the name) so it passes through the small intestine without being digested. This promotes fat oxidation, reduces abdominal fat and sends a message to your brain that you're full. If the potato salad you come across this weekend is made with a vinegar or olive oil-based dressing, feel free to enjoy it guilt-free. If it’s covered in a pound of mayo, a condiment that can wreak cardiovascular havoc, it’s a hard pass. Sorry.
This juicy summer fruit sometimes gets a bad rap for being high in sugar, but watermelon has some impressive health benefits that are hard to ignore. It’s one of the most low-cal desserts you’re apt to find at a summer bash, and research suggests that the fruit can improve lipid profiles and ward off fat accumulation. It’s also filled with water, which helps keep you full, making it easier to say no to less healthful indulgences like cookies and pie.
Pickles are low-cal, filled with fiber and covered in vinegar, an acid that increases the rate at which the body burns off carbs by up to 40 percent! The faster you burn off carbs, the sooner your body starts incinerating fat, which is good news if you’re trying lean out to look good in your bathing suit. A medium pickle has just seven calories, so go ahead and pile these tangy toppers on your burgers! Bonus: Because cucumbers are pickled in a salt-filled liquid, munching on them while kicking back a few beers can help keep nasty hangovers at bay. Think of them as edible Gatorade—they’re filled with the same hangover-fighting electrolyte (sodium) that makes the drink so effective.