We are full swing into summer at my house. Lazy days at the pool, sipping icy lemonade while watching fireworks and BBQ's filled with family and friends are just to name a few summertime traditions. While many of our summertime activities revolve around enjoying the outdoors and grilling, it's tempting to splurge on some goodies during our BBQ feasts. Even though grilling is typically a healthy way to cook, if you are regularly cooking high fat items during these get-togethers, you may not be looking your best during this swimsuit season! Here are 5 ways to lighten up your BBQ and stay healthy this summer:

1. Trade in those high fat meats for some low-fat alternatives:
A typical BBQ that serves hamburgers and hot dogs, potato salad, cole slaw, lemonade, and ice cream sundaes can set up back almost 2000 calories! If you add alcohol into the equation, you may add an additional 500 calories. Although it is fine to indulge during these fun occasions, it's important to add some healthy alternatives to your next party. Instead of high-fat hamburgers, try substituting lean meats like bison or ground turkey breast. Or go vegetarian and grill a Portabella mushroom and serve it with some low-fat cheese on a fresh whole-wheat bun. And, if you like hot dogs or grilled sausage, try lean turkey hot dogs, poultry sausage or soy alternatives. Stay away from high-fat cuts of beef, chicken with the skin on, and ribs and try grilling boneless, skinless chicken breasts, salmon and my favorite--shrimp kabobs! These tasty, low-fat meats are great on the grill and are perfect for your summer party.

2. Lower fat on those high-fat sides:
What doesn't say BBQ than tons of salads and sides at your feast? Items like macaroni salad, pasta salad, potato salad, cole slaw and potato chips are traditional favorites and scream "summer!" Since these sides are full of fat, calories and sodium, pick one to serve at your party and substitute your menu with plenty of grilled vegetables and even grilled fruit! I love using skewers on the grill and will load them with a variety of vegetables like zucchini, cherry tomatoes, mushrooms, peppers and onions. Melons, peaches and pineapple work well on the grill on kabobs or sliced. And, I also like grilling potatoes. I will slice both white and sweet potatoes and grill with some olive oil and seasonings. It's a great alternative to potato chips! These sides will fill you up because they are full of fiber and keep you looking your best.

3. Lay-off the pie ala mode:
Desserts made with fresh fruit and ice cream are the typical fare served at parties during the summer. If cut up fresh fruit won't satisfy you or your guests, try lightening up some of your favorites. Serve sliced strawberries and blueberries over angel food cake for your own take on a "red, white and blue" dessert. Or, if ice cream is your dessert of choice, try a low-fat ice cream bar. Many of these bars are less than 100 calories and will satisfy your craving for a cool summertime treat.

4. Watch extra calories from what you drink:
Hydration is important on hot summer days, and when you are outside it's easy to lose track on how much you drink. Water is always your best bet, but when at a party that may not be an option. If you want to offer a variety for your partygoers try sun tea made with herbal tea bags. I love to use raspberry or blueberry herbal tea in the summer with sliced lemons or oranges as a refreshing touch. And, if you want to have mixed drinks, stay away from the frozen ones like margaritas and daiquiris, which are loaded with calories. Try a chilled white wine or make sangria with lots of mixed fruit!

5. Think safety-first this summer:
It's important to think about safe food handling, especially during a party where food may be kept out for long periods of time. If you are serving mayonnaise-based salads or dips, it's important to serve them on a bed of ice. Perishable foods should not be kept out for more than two hours and if you have extreme heat (over 90 degrees F), your food should not sit out for more than an hour. Also, remember to cook meat thoroughly and use a meat thermometer when grilling. Discard all marinade that had raw meat in it. And, wash all your produce! Even items like melons should be given a thorough cleaning!

By taking these five steps you will not only lighten your summer meals, you will stay fit and healthy this season!

Author's Bio: 

Heather Stefan is a Registered Dietitian with more than 8 years experience with a Bachelor's degree in Dietetics. Heather gained knowledge throughout her career working in both outpatient and inpatient care at two separate hospitals, writing for local newspapers, and teaching community classes. Her specialties include: weight management using a non-diet approach, lifestyle modification, cardiac care, pre and postnatal maternal health, and diabetes.

Heather is currently a licensed provider for Real Living Nutrition Services, which provides online weight management and nutrition coaching. She is also a health educator in her community and writes a nutrition column for her local newspaper.