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Foods on the barbie need not be unhealthy

Barbecue season is in full swing, and that means many evenings spent dining outdoors with a feast of grilled foods at your beck and call.

Such foods may be delicious, but some barbecue standards may not be ideal for those trying to maintain a beach-ready body. But even if a trim waistline is your ultimate goal, you can still enjoy your favorite grilled foods by making a few smart food choices and substitute high-fat foods for healthier fare at your next backyard barbecue.

BAD: BBQ ribs may be savory, but they have a high fat-to-meat ratio. Whether your ribs are pork or beef, each bite delivers much more fat than meat. These cuts of meat are among the fattiest parts of the animal to eat and contain a high amount of saturated fat, according to the American Dietetic Association. Saturated fat can contribute to cardiovascular disease and increase risk of type 2 diabetes. Ribs can pack on the pounds, too.

BETTER: Rather than fatty ribs, opt for a lean pork loin that can be slathered in barbecue sauce and spices. The loin also can be smoked and shredded to make tasty pulled-pork.

BAD: What would a barbecue be without a helping of rich and creamy potato salad? Potato salad is typically the go-to side dish accompanying burgers, hot dogs and chicken. While potatoes can be healthy, they also are loaded with calories. Plus, potato salad is often made by mixing boiled potatoes with calorie-rich mayonnaise, adding even more calories and fat to this beloved side dish. 

BETTER: A vegetable slaw, made from thin strips of carrots, broccoli, cabbage, and other firm vegetables is a healthier option. Mix the slaw with a light vinaigrette instead of mayonnaise. The slaw will be refreshing and provide a bounty of healthy vitamins and minerals. Plus, the slaw will be less likely to spoil prematurely under the hot sun.

BAD: Frankfurters have been a staple of backyard barbecues for decades. But the average beef hot dog contains 140 calories and 15 grams of fat. And that's before it's even placed on a bun and embellished with your favorite toppings. Hot dogs also are high in sodium and some have a bevy of preservatives.

BETTER: Turkey and chicken hot dogs are leaner than pork and beef varieties, with containing half the amount of calories as their more traditional counterparts. Concerns about "mystery meat" in hot dogs has long plagued the food industry. If you are worried about what is in your hot dogs, try making your own. Ground meat yourself and stuff into sausage casings. Fresh hot dogs thrown on the grill afford the ultimate control over what's going into your body.

BAD: Though nothing may be more American than apple pie, pie is not as healthy as one might think. Rich, buttery crusts and sugar-laden fillings can make one slice of pie quite fattening. Double-crust pies with a bottom and top crust will have even more calories.

BETTER: Fresh fruit is always a better option than pie. A bowl of berries served with fresh whipped cream on the side will offer far fewer calories and just as much flavor as a slice of pie.

BAD: Sugary beverages and mixed alcoholic drinks may be commonplace at barbecues. People often do not realize how quickly the calories can add up when consuming a tall glass of lemonade or a few poolside margaritas. There can be as many as 100 calories in a single shot of liquor, while soft drinks have increasingly drawn the ire of medical professionals on account of their high sugar content.

BETTER: Water remains the best and healthiest thirst quencher. Float some lemon slices in a pitcher of water for a refreshing flavor without the calories. Those who want to indulge in an alcoholic beverage can choose a light beer and not go overboard.

Smart choices at barbecues make it is easier to stay healthy and continue to look great in a swimsuit all season long.

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