Summer: An Opportunity for Healthy Choices

Our guest blog series returns this week with a post from Melissa Vajas, a member of DHS Group’s Customer Success team. In addition to holding a B.S. in Nutrition & Dietetics, Melissa is a Registered Dietitian through the Commission of Dietetic Registration. Through her work, Melissa’s goal is to help her clients make the small changes they need to make that will add up to greater overall impact on their health and wellness. One of those changes, is making small updates to favorites – leading to smarter and healthier eating – the topic of today’s blog! 


Backyard barbecues are a staple of the summer season. However, our favorite summer dishes can often be loaded with empty calories that can lead to unwanted weight gain. This year, make simple changes to transform your traditional cookout into an occasion that’s both delicious and nutritious.

Choose lean meats

Not all meats are created equal. Certain cuts of meats can be high in saturated fat, which is referred to as the “bad fat” as it can increase LDL cholesterol (the unhealthy cholesterol). Bratwursts, hot dogs, and sausages may be popular choices for cookouts, but these types of meats can contain large amounts of saturated fat even when labeled “reduced fat.” Check the nutrition label and pick cuts of meat that are lower in saturated fat, which support heart health.

How do I pick lean meats?

  1. Look for the words “loin,” “sirloin,” or “round,” on the package – these all indicate a trim cut of meat.
  2. Use lean ground beef or turkey for a healthier twist on a traditional backyard burger.
  3. Skinless chicken or turkey are healthy choices for cookouts. Tired of chicken? Toss a pork tenderloin on the grill for a unique and healthy main dish.

Watch out for added sugars

Most Americans consume too much added sugar. Added sugars (high-fructose corn syrup, brown sugar, honey, white sugar, etc.) are incorporated into foods during processing and when eaten too often, can increase the risk of developing diabetes and heart disease. Added sugars are found in a variety of cookout essentials including barbecue sauce, ketchup, soda pop, sweetened teas, and dessert.

To put it in context, a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that, “those who got 17 to 21 percent of calories from added sugar had a 38 percent higher risk of dying from cardiovascular disease compared to those who consumed eight percent of their calories from added sugar.”

What can you do? Go easy on the amount of barbeque sauces and salad dressings that you put on your food since both of these items can be high in added sugars. Use fresh herbs and spices to flavor your foods, which will help you avoid too much added sugar because the food will already be full of flavor! Instead of grabbing a sugar-packed beverage, like soda pop or sweet tea, reach for water or unsweetened tea, which has no added sugar. To jazz up plain water or tea try adding fresh herbs, fruits, and veggies for an extra kick of flavor. Lemons, limes, cucumbers, oranges, mint, and berries are great additions to beverages.

Be mindful of portion sizes

You can still enjoy your favorite summertime foods, but it’s key to watch out for over-sized portions. An easy technique that can help you save calories is separating your plate into three sections.

  1. Fill half of your plate with fruits and veggies, which are good sources of fiber and will help you feel full faster, which can aid in weight management. 
  2. Grains and starches (pasta salad, corn, and potatoes) should fill a quarter of the plate.
  3. Meat, poultry, and fish should fill the other quarter of the plate.

Make simple switches

Pasta salad is a common side dish for backyard BBQs. Try using whole wheat pasta, which is higher in fiber than white pasta. Having a colorful veggie platter? Use low-fat plain, Greek yogurt for veggie dips instead of sour cream. 

Need a healthy recipe for your next backyard cookout? Check out these healthy dishes!

Simple Summer Cucumber and Tomato Salad

Watermelon, Arugula and Feta Salad

Grilled Fruit Kebabs with Balsamic Drizzle

Seared Beef Sirloin and Grilled Peaches with Feta Cheese and Basil  

Rosemary-Peach Chicken Kebabs with Orange Glaze


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Ready to put the expertise of dietitians like Melissa to work for your employees in their quest for wellbeing? Learn about DHS Group’s HealthSpective program in less than two minutes in this quick video and then fill out this form to schedule a chat with one of DHS Group’s Business Development Managers.

Pro TipsK Gardner