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36 Best and Worst Foods for Barbecues

Here's exactly what you need to buy to ensure your summer cookout won't balloon your bod.
36 Best and Worst Foods for Barbecues

Is there anything better than an outdoor BBQ and noshing on good food 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.

1

Pork Sausage

eat this not that sausage

Eat This
Aidells Cajun Style Andouille
Per 1 link (85 g): 160 calories, 11 g fat (4 g saturated fat), 690 mg sodium, 1 g carbs (0 g fiber, 1 g sugar), 15 g protein

Not That!
Hillshire Farm Smoked Bratwurst
Per 1 link (66 g): 220 calories 19 g fat (7 g saturated fat), 520 mg sodium, 4 g carbs (0 g fiber, 2 g sugar), 7 g protein

Over 75 percent of the calories in Hillshire Farm’s smoked bratwurst come from fat, and these brats have less than half the amount of protein compared to Aidells Cajun Style sausage. Not to mention, Hillshire Farm fills their meat with health-harming sodium nitrites—yuck. We’ll take Aidells’ lean, flavor-packed pork all summer long.

2

Beef Hot Dogs

eat this not that hot dogs

Eat This
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

Not That!
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.

3

Veggie Burgers

eat this not that veggie burger

Eat This
Amy’s All American Veggie Burger
Per patty (71 g): 130 calories, 4 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 430 mg sodium, 13 g carbs (4 g fiber, 2 g sugar), 11 g protein

Not That!
Gardenburger The Original Veggie Burger
Per patty (71 g): 110 calories, 3 g fat (1.5 g saturated fat), 490 mg sodium, 16 g carbs (4 g fiber, 0 g sugar), 5 g protein

Amy’s packs plenty of protein into their patties while keeping calories low, which is exactly what you want in a meat substitute. Unfortunately for Gardenburger, we can’t say the same about their burgers. Plus, Gardenburger adds gums and yeast extract to its blend.

4

Burger Meat

eat this not that ground beef

Eat This
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

Not That!
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 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.

5

Dry Rub

eat this not that bbq rub

Eat This
McCormick Grill Mates Applewood Rub
Per 2 tsp (5 g): 15 calories, 0 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 340 mg sodium, 3 g carbs (0 g fiber, 1 g sugar), 0 g protein

Not That!
Emeril’s All Natural Steak Rub
Per 2 tsp (6 g): 20 calories, 0 g fat (0 mg saturated fat), 1,920 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 almost a full a day’s salt in just two tablespoons! Just thinking about that makes us thirsty.

6

BBQ Sauce

eat this not that bbq sauce

Eat This
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

Not That!
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.

7

Ketchup

eat this not that ketchup

Eat This
True Made Foods Vegetable Ketchup
Per 1 tbsp (17 g): 10 calories, 0 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 135 mg sodium, 3 g carbs (0 g fiber, 2- g sugar), 0 g protein

Not That!
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 True Made Foods Vegetable Ketchup. Unlike the high fructose corn syrup found in Heinz, True Made Foods naturally sweetens its condiment with fruits and vegetables, making this ketchup paleo-friendly.

8

Honey Mustard

eat this not that honey mustard

Eat This
Annie’s Organic Honey Mustard
Per 1 tsp (6 g): 10 calories, 0 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 45 mg sodium, 2 g carbs (0 g fiber, 1 g sugar), 0 g protein

Not That!
Inglehoffer Sweet Honey Mustard
Per 1 tsp (5 g): 15 calories, 0 g fat (0 mg saturated fat), 35 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 Annie’s Organic Honey Mustard instead. It spikes its recipe with apple cider vinegar and uses real honey.

9

Cheese

eat this not that cheese

Eat This
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, 2 g carbs (0 g fiber, 2 g sugar), 4 g protein

Not That!
Kraft Deli Deluxe Sharp Cheddar Slices
Per 1 slice (19 g): 70 calories, 6 g fat (3.5 g saturated fat), 300 mg sodium, 1 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, boasts 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.

10

Hamburger Buns

eat this not that burger buns

Eat This
Ezekiel 4:9 Sprouted Whole Grain Bun
Per bun (76 g): 170 calories, 1.5 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 170 mg sodium, 34 g carbs (6 g fiber, 0 g sugar), 9 g protein

Not That!
Sara Lee Artesano Bakery Buns
Per bun (69 g): 190 calories, 2 g fat (0.5 g saturated fat), 350 mg sodium, 26 g carbs (1 g fiber, 4 g sugar), 6 g protein

Sara Lee’s pillows of empty carbs just can’t compete with Ezekiel’s fiber- and protein-packed buns. You’d be hard-pressed to find a better—or tastier–burger vessel.

11

Gluten-Free Hamburger Bun

eat this not that gluten free buns

Eat This
BFree Brown Seeded Rolls
Per roll (60 g): 150 calories, 5 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 220 mg sodium, 19 g carbs (6 g fiber, 0 g sugar), 6 g protein

Not That!
Canyon Bakehouse Gluten-Free Hamburger Buns
Per 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

Both options are free of gluten, however, BFree Brown Seeded Rolls have zero sugar and twice the protein as Canyon’s burger vessel, making them the clear winner in our eyes. If you’re on a gluten-free diet for weight loss, you might want to read up on why a gluten-free is worse than no diet at all.

12

Hot Dog Bun

eat this not that hot dog rolls

Eat This
Ezekiel 4:9 Sprouted Whole Grain Hot Dog Buns
Per bun (76 g): 170 calories, 1.5 g fat, (0.5 g saturated fat), 170 mg sodium, 34 g carbohydrates (6 g fiber, 0 g sugar), 9 g protein

Not That!
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

Ezekiel’s hot dog holders carry six grams of filling fiber and an impressive nine grams of protein, a nutrient that preserves lean muscle mass and keeps your metabolism in high gear as you lose weight. Martin’s is laden with dough conditioners and has more sodium. We’ll pass on that combo.

13

Side Dish

eat this not that potato salad

Eat This
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

Not That!
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 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, 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.

14

Chips

eat this not that potato chips

Eat This
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

Not That!
Lay’s Potato Chips, Classic
Per 15 chips (28 g): 160 calories, 10 g fat (1.5 g saturated fat), 350 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 potato chip. 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, too.

15

Ice Cream

eat this not that ice cream

Eat This
Halo Top Vanilla Bean
Per 1/2 cup (64 g): 70 calories, 2 g fat (1 g saturated fat), 110 mg sodium, 14 g carbs (3 g fiber, 6 g sugar), 5 g protein

Not That!
Blue Bunny Vanilla Bean
Per 1/2 cup (69 g): 150 calories, 9 g fat (5 g saturated fat), 45 mg sodium, 16 g carbs (0 g fiber, 15 g sugar), 3 g protein

Halo Top gets a high-five for adding protein and prebiotic fiber into its ice creams and keeping real sugar to a minimum (they use natural stevia and a hint of real sugar 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.

16

Popsicles

eat this not that popsicle

Eat This
Goodpop, Red, White & Blue
Per 1 bar: 35 calories, 0 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 0 mg sodium, 8 g carbs (1 g fiber, 7 g sugar), 0 g protein

Not That!
Popsicle, Cherry
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 Goodpop’s ice pops guilt-free. They’re made from juices from grapes, lemon, apples, and cherries and colored with spirulina. 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.

17

Pasta Salad Noodle

eat this not that pasta

Eat This
Banza Chickpea Penne
Per 2 oz: 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

Not That!
Barilla Penne Rigate
Per 2 oz: 280 calories, 1.5 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 30 mg sodium, 56 g carbs (2 g fiber, 2 g sugar), 10 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. Barilla Penne Rigate and other similar, conventional pastas are void of any noteworthy nutrients, which is why we suggest skipping them.

RELATED: The easy way to make healthier comfort foods.

18

Beer

eat this not that beer

Drink This
Bud Light
Per 12 fl oz: 110 calories, 6.6 g carbs, 4.2% ABV

Not That!
Budweiser
per 12 fl oz: 145 calories, 10.6 g carbs, 5% ABV

You may be as patriotic as the next guy, but if you’re trying to fight fat, pass on the classic for one of Bud’s lighter option to save 35 calories.

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