If health is your goal, steer clear.
Nothing screams "full-blown barbecue season" like Fourth of July weekend. And, in my opinion, how healthy (or not) you eat at such gatherings is more or less up to you. Even if you aren't the host, you can control how much you eat and even offer to bring a healthy dish with you. Just saying.
But let's be honest: Sometimes you just don't care about eating healthy. It's a holiday; I get that. Some of your favorite dishes are offered and you just want them all. Fair enough. But if you at least want the option of eating healthy, it helps to know some of the nutrition facts about the not-so-healthy popular barbecue foods. Then you can decide what to do with this information. Maybe it helps you to choose differently, or maybe you are simply saving it for a rainy day.
While of course this list is not exhaustive, here are six foods and one beverage you're likely to come across this weekend that have particularly high calorie contents:
1. Baby Back Ribs
Ribs can definitely make your mouth water; however, just two of them can also cost you around 290 calories and 7 grams of saturated fat. And who can actually stop at two? Also, let's not forget that the barbecue sauce may have around 850 milligrams of sodium and 19 grams of sugar.
2. Italian Pork Sausage
As a kid, I loved when my dad threw sausages on the grill, but I haven't had one in years. I just can't stomach the fact that one 4-inch link is 230 calories and has 6 grams of saturated fat. And its sodium content can be almost as high as 1,000 milligrams – ouch! True, the calorie count might not seem so bad, but again, who eats only one? Even as I kid, I'd eat two.
3. Creamy Potato Salad
This dish is hard for me to put on this list because I'm crazy about potatoes. But most people make potato salad with too much mayonnaise for words.
A half cup – picture one big, heaping spoonful – can be around 180 calories. And, if you consider that potato salad is only one of many side dishes you're likely to consume, digging in is asking for trouble.
This is the one dish I like to offer to bring as a guest because there are so many healthier ways to make it.
4. Spinach Dip
Typical ingredients for a spinach dip include cream cheese, mayonnaise and sour cream, which can add up to around 100 calories for just 2 tablespoons. Whether or not to dig in is always a conundrum for me because I love that you can use nutrient-packed veggies to scoop it up, but I don't like how many calories it has for an hors d'oeuvre.
A good compromise? Munch on the veggies sans dip (unless, of course, you are creating a much healthier version) so you can save your calories for the baby back ribs
What's a barbecue without a burger? But if you eat 4 ounces of 85-percent lean ground sirloin, add one slice of cheddar cheese and sandwich it between a typical hamburger bun, you'll take in almost 500 calories.
I can't argue that you aren't reaping some nutrition benefits by eating a burger – it contains iron, vitamin B12, selenium and calcium – but if you go for it, just don't pretend that you still have plenty of room for dessert.
I always enjoy a burger at a barbecue, but opt out of the cheese and bun
6. Blueberry (or Other Berry) Pie
Attention all pie lovers: I'm sorry. But one slice of a 9-inch pie is around 360 calories – and that's without the ice cream. Sure, there are fresh berries, which are packed with antioxidants, but that's not enough to justify the pie's calorie content. If you must, enjoy the slice – and say no to second helpings.
7. Frozen Margarita
It's sad but true: One – yes, one – 12-ounce frozen margarita is around 300 calories. And on a hot summer day, stopping at one can take a whole lot of willpower. It's probably safer to stick to light beer, wine or vodka and seltzers so you aren't drinking all your calories. But truth be told, if you invite me to a barbecue and make a wicked margarita, I'll be there. Cheers!
Copyright 2016 U.S. News & World Report