Approximately 75% of adults in America own a grill or smoker, making it a very popular method of cooking especially during the summer and early fall months. Grilling is a great low-fat way to prepare foods as it does not require the addition of any fat during the cooking process. Hotdogs, hamburgers and brats are traditional barbecue favorites, but there are a number of other creative options.

Whether you are hosting a cookout or attending one, healthy eating doesn’t have to be a challenge. A great way to cut calories and fat is to grill up lean cuts of meat like chicken breasts, lean steaks or turkey burgers. Try marinating meats with dried herbs and spices to add extra flavor. Portobello mushroom caps and sliced eggplant can be basted with oil, seasoned and grilled until tender for a delicious meatless entrée.

Vegetables can be a nutritious addition to a backyard meal. Cherry tomatoes, summer squash, onions and bell peppers can be placed on skewers and grilled for an easy-to-eat side dish. Traditional salads like potato and macaroni can be made lighter with reduced-fat mayonnaise and fat-free sour cream or Greek yogurt.

Fruit can be a healthier alternative to traditional desserts. Try grilling pineapple or peach halves on low heat until the fruit is hot and slightly golden. Cut fresh fruit into a fruit salad and toss with chopped mint leaves for a refreshing, low-calorie treat.

Participating in backyard games, like corn hole or ladder golf, is a great way to curb endless snacking and help burn some of those extra calories you may have consumed. Last but not least, stay hydrated. Be sure to drink plenty of water or other calorie-free beverages throughout the event. Water will help fill you up and can control your hunger.

Seeking support from others or a professional can help you meet your health goals long after grilling season is over. The Mayo Clinic Diet Program is a 10 week long class, starting September 13th 2017, which provides information on weight loss, nutrition and physical activity. It is led by expert facilitators including a registered dietitian, an exercise physiologist and a psychology counselor. Hurry because registration is limited! For more information or to register call 608-392-9587. To learn more about the Mayo Clinic Diet Program and other classes, visit

Healthy eating and backyard barbecues can go hand-in-hand. Next time you fire up your grill, try one of these healthier barbecue-inspired recipes:

Grilled stuffed portobello mushrooms

Serves: 4


2/3 cup chopped plum tomato

¼ cup (1 ounce) shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese

1 teaspoon olive oil, divided

1/8 teaspoon dried rosemary

1/8 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper

4 garlic clove, crushed

2 (5-inch) portobello mushroom caps

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

2 teaspoons low-sodium soy sauce

Cooking spray

2 teaspoons minced fresh parsley


Prepare the grill to medium heat.

Combine the tomato, cheese, ½ teaspoon oil, rosemary, pepper, and garlic in a small bowl. Set aside.

Remove brown gills from the undersides of mushroom caps using a spoon, and discard gills along with the stems. Combine remaining ½ teaspoon oil, lemon juice, and soy sauce in a small bowl; brush over both sides of mushroom caps. Place the mushroom caps, stem sides down, on grill rack coated with cooking spray, and grill for 5 minutes on each side or until soft.

Spoon ¼ cup tomato mixture into each mushroom cap. Cover and grill 3 minutes or until cheese is melted. Sprinkle with parsley. Serve warm.

Nutrition information: Per serving (1 mushroom cap): 83 calories, fat 3.5 g, saturated fat 1 g, sodium 123 mg, carbohydrate 10 g, fiber 2.5 g, protein 5.4 g

Recipe from: Cooking Light

Sour cream-dill potato salad

Serves: 6


¾ pound fingerling potatoes

½ cup diced English cucumber

2 tablespoons reduced-fat sour cream

1½ tablespoons plain fat-free Greek yogurt

1½ teaspoons chopped fresh dill

¼ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon ground black pepper


Cut potatoes into 1 inch pieces. Place in a saucepan filled two-thirds full with cold water. Cover and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to medium-high and cook 5 minutes or until potatoes are tender. Drain.

Combine cucumber, sour cream, yogurt, dill, salt and pepper in a large bowl. Add drained potatoes to cucumber mixture and toss to gently coat. Refrigerate and serve cold.

Nutrition information: Per serving ( ½ cup): Calories 50, fat 1 g, saturated fat 0.5 g, sodium 87 mg, carbohydrate 11 g, fiber 1 g, protein 2 g

Recipe from: Cooking Light

Jamie Pronschinske is a registered dietitian in the diabetes education department at Mayo Clinic Health System in La Crosse.


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