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posted: 6/25/2012 6:00 AM

A healthy menu for your summer cookouts

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  • Grilling lean meats and vegetables are two ways to keep your cookouts healthy this summer.

    Grilling lean meats and vegetables are two ways to keep your cookouts healthy this summer.


Summer is here and cookouts are everywhere. Grilling can be healthy and tasty if you know which foods to choose and how to prepare them. The following tips will turn your next cookout into a healthy gathering that you can be proud to be a part of.

Practice portion control. Don't let taste be the judge of how much food you eat. A serving of meat is about the size of the palm of your hand. A serving of fruits or vegetables is about the size of your fist, and anything else should be added to your plate in moderation.

Grill with quality cuts of meat such as fish, chicken breasts and leaner cuts of beef and steak. Stay away from hot dogs and processed meat patties. Fresh meats taste better and also contain less sodium.

To get great flavor, learn how to prep your meats and vegetables. Marinades consisting of lemon juice and vinegar can really pull out great flavors from poultry or fish. Stick with dry rubs rather than sauces or syrups when preparing beef. A good steak needs nothing more than some sea salt, pepper and garlic to maximize flavor.

Use fresh organic fruits and vegetables to garnish burgers and tacos. Tomatoes, peppers, onions, romaine, olives, mushrooms, pineapple and avocado add great flavor so there's no need to drown them out with ketchup or mayo.

When making tacos, use gluten-free tortillas or soft corn tortillas. Avoid the hard shells that are deep fried in oils. Or better yet, make a taco salad.

Lose the buns. Many grilled foods don't need to be sandwiched between two pieces of bread. Kebabs, steaks, fish and chicken taste great with a side of grilled vegetables such as zucchini, peppers or mushrooms, and a side of fresh fruit.

Be aware of excess liquid calories. Serve iced tea or water with lemon wedges instead of sodas or fruit drinks. If drinking alcohol, set a limit for yourself and drink plenty of water to avoid becoming dehydrated.

If having dessert, keep it simple. Avoid empty calorie sweets such as cookies, cake or brownies, and stick to a fresh fruit salad with a dab of whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

Plan to have activities such as volleyball or softball to keep everyone active and less likely to sit around and graze on leftover food.

Don't be afraid to try new recipes. Hot dogs, baked beans and coleslaw can be boring. Break out of the norm and try something new!

So if you're planning the next great cookout, give these tips a try. You can entertain and still feel good about setting a healthy example for your family and friends.

• Joshua Steckler and Mark Trapp are co-owners of Push Fitness, a personal training studio in Schaumburg specializing in weight loss, muscle toning and nutrition. Contact them at

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