Friday, June 29, 2012

Get Your Grill On: Slimming Down the Sides

Summer picnics and barbecues are known for their side dishes just as much as they are for the main course. Popular meal additions include chips, potato salad, macaroni salad, baked beans and festive desserts. These additions can provide more calories, fats and carbohydrates than you would expect. For example, one half cup of traditional potato salad contains about 180 calories and 10 grams of fat! It can really add up, especially if you like to have a taste of everything.

You can slim down your side dishes, even your family's traditional favorites, with a few simple substitutions--without sacrificing taste, of course. Trade full-fat mayonnaise or sour cream for low-fat mayonnaise or plain, non-fat yogurt. Substitute at least half of what the recipe calls for and you'll reap a significant reduction in fat and calories. You won't even be able to tell the difference! Omit the yolks in side dishes that contain eggs and use vinaigrette dressing versus mayonnaise in coleslaw.

Don't forget to serve veggies that you (and your guests) can fill up on! One cup of raw vegetables contains only 25 calories and is loaded with filling fiber. Eat your vegetables first and you won't be as tempted to overindulge in higher calorie sides. If you're not so keen on veggie trays or green salad, try marinating veggies in low-fat vinaigrette dressing or vingar. Mushrooms, cucumber, onions and green beans all taste great marinated.

Since you've already got the grill going, why not toss some vegetables on there too? Zucchini, yellow squash, bell peppers, onions, mushrooms, eggplant, asparagus and corn on the cob are excellent grillers (and you might be able to pull them straight out of your garden!). Brush vegetables with a small amount of olive oil, balsamic vinegar and garlic before grilling to enhance their flavor.

What better time than summer to enjoy the natural sweetness of fresh fruit? For dessert, add some fruit to your plate. I'm not saying you have to skip grandma's cobbler or your aunt's famous cake, but maybe take a smaller piece. Here's a simple (and beautifully colorful) idea for fruit salad: in a glass bowl, alternate layers of cut strawberries and blueberries. Sprinkle lemon zest and a few chopped mint leaves on top of every other layer. Serve with a side of plain non-fat yogurt mixed with honey or Nutella (1 teaspoon honey per 1/2 cup yogurt or 1/4 cup Nutella per 1/2 cup yogurt). People won't believe it's healthy!

It's certainly okay to enjoy yourself (and the food)--hey, it's a party! But slim down when you can. You'll end up having a great time without any regrets.

How do you slim down your side dishes? Do you have any side dish "makeovers" to share? We could all use some fresh ideas to keep things healthy and tasty this summer!

Enter my Kellogg's give-away by July 3!

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