Grilling Smackdown: Best Choices for Your Next Cookout

It’s about time to kick off the unofficial start of summer with a Memorial Day cookout! And what better way to celebrate than with a nutritional smack down? Here’s a look at your favorite cookout foods with an answer to the burning question: which is healthier?
Burger vs. Hot Dog

Meat brings up lots of questions, such as where it’s from, how it was raised or how it was processed. For the sake of this smack down,  let’s assume that you’re choosing between the best possible options: a lean, local, grass-fed beef burger or a nitrate-free 100% beef hot dog. Lean burgers offer good amounts of B vitamins, zinc and protein (20 g). Keep in mind portion size: a burger should be made from 1/4 pound of ground beef. That’ll keep calories in check (178). Hot dogs are slightly lower in calories, compared to a quarter-pound burger, but not by much (169 calories in a typical dog). They also have way more sodium, while offering fewer vitamins and minerals. So unless they are your main reason for being in the summertime, stick to the beef burger. Better yet? Go for grilled salmon or a veggie burger.

The Winner: Burgers
Potato Salad vs. Macaroni Salad

Traditional potato and macaroni salads are just potatoes or macaroni, mixed together with some mayo and accessory veggies (celery, onions, etc.)  Judging this pair really comes down to the essential ingredients: potatoes or pasta. While the potato has gotten a bad rep as being a “white food” like pasta, the reality is it's an unprocessed whole food and, as such, it offers a lot more nutrition than white pasta. Potatoes have fiber (especially if you were to keep the skin on) — 3 grams in a medium peeled potato — plus protein (3 g), potassium, vitamin C and some B vitamins. Macaroni on the other hand has more calories per cup (221 vs. 134) and only gives you vitamins and minerals if it’s fortified.

The Winner: Potato Salad
Margaritas vs. Beer

No cookout smack down would be complete without a comparison of some favorite summertime sips. This is going to mainly come down to calories, since alcohol in general has some pros and cons. Calories in beer can vary widely depending on alcohol content and some other factors. But a standard 12-oz. bottle of non-light beer has 150 calories, 0 grams of sugar and some B vitamins (because it’s grain-based!). A 3.3-oz. margarita might have the same amount of calories ... but when was the last time you were served a 3-oz. margarita?? Also, this size typically has a whopping 29 grams of sugar. At a larger serving, the calories (and sugar) shoot up rapidly. Plus, some mixers are so sugary that they have 150 calories just in 3 oz. of mixer -- and that’s before adding tequila.

The Winner: Beer

Kerri-Ann is a registered dietitian and nutrition coach who writes on food and health trends. Find more of her work at kerriannjennings.com or follow her on Twitter @kerriannrd or Facebook.

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