Hidden Calories in BBQ Food: Make Healthier Choices Instead

4 min readDec 9, 2021

By Sam Davis, BHS, CPT, FNS

Hidden Calories in BBQ Food (Image Source: Shutterstock)

As we all know, poolside BBQs with friends and family often lead to unhealthy BBQ options, and while hamburgers and hotdogs are advertised as the go-to BBQ choice, they are probably the worst choices for your health. Here, we go over which foods to avoid, and 2 alternative options to the everyday hamburger and hotdog. With a few simple changes, you can easily make healthier choices at your next barbeque.

BBQ Foods to avoid:

Creamy pasta/potato salads:

These salads are loaded with mayonnaise, pasta, and other creamy dressings, which means it is loaded with calories as well. These are also a bit dangerous if left out in the sun; it becomes a breeding ground for food poisoning. If this is something you must have on your plate, bring your own and try a pasta or potato salad with a vinaigrette dressing. Or, use Icelandic or Greek yogurt as the foundation for your salad dressing.


There are many things that are pretty scary about our meat industry, and processed meats are the scariest of them all. You’re better off having the butcher grind the meat for you, or even better, you can make your own patties at home. Here’s why: . It’s often used as a cheap filler in ground beef. There is a ton of trans fat in beef and a ton of additives in ground beef like sodium phosphate and nitrates that allow the beef to last longer on the shelf. And speaking of sodium, one burger can pack between 500 milligrams all the way up to 4000 milligrams of sodium. The recommendation is no more than 2300 milligrams per day.

Opt For Very Lean Patties (Image Source: Shutterstock)

Opt for very lean patties, and make sure the packaging says 100% pure lean beef. Even better, go for a lean turkey or chicken patty. It’s also better for your cardiovascular health by limiting red meat. It’s a win-win! Have the butcher grind the lean meat of your choice while you’re at the grocery store, and then at home, you can use a healthier binding agent like breadcrumbs, one egg, or ground up oats. The substitute is ½ cup per 1 pound of ground meat.


The industry has found a way to make every part of the animal consumable. And this means grinding up everything that we wouldn’t normally buy off the shelf (including gizzards, cartilage, and bones), adding some serious spices to it (some sodium nitrate to extend the shelf life), and stuffing it into an intestinal lining. Viola; you have the modern hot dog. They are extremely high in sodium and have a ton of fat, so I would suggest steering clear of this BBQ meat.

Hotdogs Are Extremely High In Sodium And Have a Ton Of Fat (Image Source: Shutterstock)

Opt for a chicken dog instead. Applegate Farms makes awesome, healthier alternatives. They have a bunch of different flavors and there’s no additives or preservatives. If you still need that good ol’ beef dog in the summer, find hot dogs from Niman Ranch. It’s a family-owned company that offers Uncured Beef Franks. They are MSG, nitrate, nitrites, and gluten-free. If you’re concerned about your protein intake, these puppies pack 12g of protein into one dog.

It’s Easy to Make Healthier Choices at Your Next BBQ

There are always healthier alternatives to BBQ foods that not only taste better but also make you feel better, too. It’s important to remember where our food comes from and how it’s processed, because the majority of the food industry does not care about our well being, but cares mostly about how much money they can get out of one cow, or one pig. So by adding fillers to processed meats, they are able to double the amount of meat from one cow. Look for words like “pure” and “99–100%,” and continue to check the ingredients label, even on meat.

*This post may contain affiliate links to the products and services that we talk about.




We’re a BIPOC-owned mental health and wellness company. We create expert-driven content specifically designed to help you become 1% better each day.