Healthy Cookout Ideas for the Grill: How to Have a Nutritious Cookout

Vegetable skewers on an open grill

Image via thomas23, Flickr

The Memorial Day holiday is right around the corner and people are beginning to fire up their grills for the summer season.

Perhaps you’re cashing in on some much needed hometime over the holiday weekend. Or maybe you’ll be on the road — whatever the case, you can still have a healthy holiday cookout by taking small measures to make it a little more nutritious. It’s all about making little changes. With a few small “healthy upgrades,” you can have a delicious and nutritious cookout that you won’t have to feel guilty about later! Keep reading for our tips on how to have a healthy cookout.

Healthy Cookout Food

Hamburgers and Hotdogs

I think we’d all agree that the tried-and-true cookout foods are hamburgers and hot dogs. But let’s be realistic — red and/or processed meat aren’t exactly the healthiest choices for us, especially when paired with the often high-calorie, fattening cookout sides like potato chips and macaroni salad. Make it a little healthier by opting for turkey burgers or dogs over hamburger patties and hot dogs (I promise turkey burgers are delicious too :)). If you’re feeling especially crazy, you could go for a veggie burger, black bean burger, or — for only the most daring of truckers — a tofu dog.

OK, so you have your healthier hamburger or hot dog alternative. Your next order of business is figuring out what you’re going to serve it on. Our recommendation? Can the white hamburger buns and go for 100% whole wheat buns instead. You’ll get much more fiber and nutrients since whole wheat hasn’t been stripped of all its nutritional benefit like it’s white bread brethren. Want to take it a step further? Put your burger on a lettuce leaf instead of bread!

  Bratwurst Beef Hot Dog Turkey Dog
Calories 283 130 70
Total Fat (g) 25 g 12 g 6 g
Saturated Fat 9 g 5 g 2 g
  Hamburger Turkey Burger Veggie Burger
Calories 230 160 110
Total Fat (g) 15 g 8 g 4 g
Saturated Fat 6 g 2 g 0.5 g
  White Bun Whole Wheat Bun Lettuce Leaf
Calories 110 110 5
Total Fat (g) 1.5 g 1.5 g 0
Saturated Fat 0 0 0

Chips and Sides

Potato salad and macaroni and cheese may be the typical cookout foods, but with all that cheese, mayo, and sat fat goodness, they’re far from healthy. How about some light cole slaw or  vegetarian baked beans as healthy cookout sides instead? Both these items still have that traditional cookout feel but won’t add as many LBs to your waistline. Also consider sides like corn on the cob, salad, whole wheat pretzels, and raw veggies or grilled veggie kabobs. All are great, healthy sides that fit perfectly with the cookout theme.

  Potato Salad Baked Beans Grilled Veggies
Calories 179 120 50
Total Fat (g) 10 g 1 g 0.5 g
Saturated Fat 2 g 0 0


Drinks are often overlooked when it comes to planning healthy meals. Many of us are under the assumption that the calories, sugar, and fat in drinks “don’t count,” which is far from the truth. Be mindful about your beverage of choice at a cookout — sugary drinks like lemonade and sweet tea can quickly add up to a LOT of excess calories. Choose water or unsweetened tea instead. And….go easy on the beer, will ya?

  Soda (1 can Coke) Lemonade (1 cup) Unsweetened Tea
Calories 140 99 2
Sugar (g) 39 g 25 g 0

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About Amanda

Amanda is a former digital communications coordinator and frequent blogger for the, a website focused on truck driver health initiatives. Our mission is to encourage truck drivers to embrace a healthier lifestyle by providing both expert advice and real world experiences. Let us be your co-driver on the road to a healthier, happier life!