How to Cut Hundreds of Empty Calories From Your Summer Menu

Article posted in: Nutrition
empty calories

Certain foods are synonymous with summer and tempt you at every barbecue. We’ve said this before but it’s worth repeating: small indulgences are okay. Just mind the frequency and amount. On a regular basis, however, you’ll need to make some adjustments to stick to your low-carb diet. From ice cream to hamburgers, we’ve made a list of those summer favorites and figured out how you can cut empty calories and enjoy them guilt-free.

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Check out nine ways to cut hundreds of empty calories from your summer menu:

 1. Don’t Scream for Ice Cream.

ice cream

It’s not the dairy that’s the problem. (Remember, whole-milk dairy products are recommended on South Beach because reduced-fat products typically contain more sugars and additives.) And sugar is definitely the issue with ice cream. One cup of chocolate ice cream has 285 calories. A chocolate protein shake can contain about 150 calories. Add ice and you’ve got yourself a milkshake.

Calories saved: 135 calories

2. Skip the Fries.

French fries

These salty, savory treats are the favorite fare at summer fairs. While we whole-heartedly approve of all the walking you’ll do on the boardwalk or around the fairgrounds to find your fries, walk a little farther until you find the fresh-popped popcorn. Hold the butter.

Calories saved: 325

 3. Cheers!


Want to relax on the deck with a cold beer? A glass of wine? Go ahead. Alcohol is permitted after the first week of the program. You just have to watch your portions and choose your drinks wisely. Stick to 4 ounces of dry wine (like chardonnay: 95 calories). If you’re a liquor drinker, one serving is 1-1/2 ounces. One serving of beer is a 12-ounce bottle or can. Regular beers have 145 calories and mixed drinks such as margaritas can have 300 or more calories in eight ounces, according to the USDA.

Calories saved light vs. regular beer: 42

Calories saved dry wine vs. cocktail: 277

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4. Let’s Be Frank.

empty calories

Hot dogs themselves aren’t bad. They’re high in protein, contain some monounsaturated fats (the good ones), and only have about 155 calories. The problem is the roll. The loads of ketchup. The sweet relish. These empty calories add up. What’s a baseball fan to do? Hold the bun and add regular mustard (a zero-calorie food).

Calories saved: 182

5. Dress Down.

empty calories

Salad dressings—especially light or reduced fat options—are one of the biggest sources of hidden sugar and empty calories. Just two tablespoons of light raspberry vinaigrette contains 5.1 grams of sugar, according to Nutrionix. Make your own dressing with red wine vinegar (5 calories) or lemon juice (5 calories).

Calories saved: 60

6. Iced, Iced Coffee

empty calories

Frappuccinos, iced mochas and other gourmet coffee drinks can come with hundreds of calories in a small, 12-ounce cup. Simple iced coffee with two tablespoons unsweetened almond or whole milk plus a sprinkle of cinnamon has less than 20 calories, according to United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Calories saved: 300+

 7. Boiled Not Fried.

empty calories

Instead of eating 199 calories in the form of a 3-ounce fried catfish filet, why not find yourself a shrimp boil and eat 101 calories from a 3-ounce serving. Watch your portions of the corn and potatoes. The sausage, shrimp and onions are fair game!

Calories saved (shrimp instead of catfish): 98

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8. Try Turkey.

Homemade turkey burger

It’s not always easy to find ground beef with meat/fat ratios like 90/10 or 95/5. And, if you can find it, it’s almost always more expensive than traditional ground chuck. Ground turkey makes tasty burgers that have less than half the calories of ground beef (166 vs. 349). To trim even more calories from your burger, hold the bun (220 calories) and wrap your patty in a sturdy lettuce leaf (one calorie).

Calories saved (turkey in lettuce vs. beef in a bun): 402

9. “Pasta” Salad

empty calories

Craving your favorite pasta salad? You can still have this popular summer side. Just substitute the pasta for chopped spaghetti squash and add some roasted vegetables, sundried tomatoes, mozzarella and fresh basil. Dress with red wine vinegar and a little heart-healthy olive oil.

Calories saved (spaghetti squash vs. pasta): 179

  *Nutritonal Data obtained from United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).