Posted 1 year ago

Eat this Not That – Memorial Day Edition

Eat this Not That – Memorial Day Edition

We all can feel the summer heating up. Winter spoiled us this year and now the heat is back to reclaim its misery. This means, cookout season is upon us. It is no secret that cookout foods are amazing, but those hot dogs and potato salads come at a high caloric cost. There are many foods that can act as a substitute for our beloved BBQ, without compromising the enjoyment that comes with grilling by a pool alongside our friends and family.



This Arizona heat requires lots of hydration. For those who love sodas, try some low sugar alternatives like flavored soda water or freshly made juice. There may be some added sugar in the juice, but at least you are getting the vitamins and minerals from the fruit. Fruit is also packed with water for a hydrating snack, making it a great choice as a beverage and a food! Other options that are great for hydration are coconut water and cactus water. Add some fruit to these and you have a refreshing summer drink.



 Now, let’s shift focus to the foods. No cookout is complete without some good protein options- ribs, burgers, and hot dogs, to name a few. But with these foods comes a high amount of saturated fat that can negatively affect are cardiovascular health and add a lot of calories. Swap out those meats for some of these options:

Hot Dog without bun (314 calories, 18g of fat, high in sodium) à Chicken Sausage without bun (150 calories, 9g of fat)

4oz of 80% hamburger patty (290 calories, 23g fat) à 93% burger patty (170 calories, 8g fat)



Sides are the unsung heroes of cookouts. From mac and cheese to potato salad, all play a vital part in the cookout. These are also the hidden culprits for high calories. Here is a list of some lighter options to these delicious sides:

Sour cream à Greek yogurt: This is a great swap to for dishes like potato salad and coleslaw. The sour taste is maintained while adding some protein.

Macaroni salad à Greek pasta salad

Spinach artichoke dip à hummus with whole wheat pita and vegetables

Baked beans à low sugar alternative baked beans

Cream-based dressings à Greek yogurt or olive oil-based dressings



 Last, but certainly not least, dessert. If you ask me, I could say “no” to all the foods listed above. When it comes to sweets, it’s a different story. Consider some of these foods before you go into making your famous fudge brownies:

Fruit with cream cheese dip à Fruit salad

Store bought popsicles à Homemade popsicles or fruit bars.

Ice cream à Frozen fruit blended with cottage cheese and a dash of honey for added sweetness.


There are so many ideas out there for healthy alternatives. Luckily, the internet can be a great place to find some inspiration. I challenge you to experiment with some of these foods, they will be a hit! You probably won’t be the only one hoping for some healthy options at the cookout and it could be a great conversation starter with new people. If there is a food that is too good to pass up, be mindful of portion sizes and try to eat the more nutrient-dense options on your plate first. Enjoyment is still very important and if you don’t allow yourself to have one or two special foods, sustaining these mindful choices could be difficult over time. Life, especially nutrition/diet, is centered around balance. Balance of health and enjoyment. So go enjoy your Memorial Day and the rest of the summer and make sure to stay hydrated while you do it!

About the author

Rebecca Mrotek is a former Sun Devil graduate from the medical nutrition Master’s program at Arizona State University. She became a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist after interning through the University of Houston. Her passion for helping others started as a diet aide at Mayo Clinic Hospital in Phoenix, AZ. After almost two years spent at the hospital, she transitioned to skilled nursing facilities, providing life-saving nutrition support and preventing malnutrition amongst the health-impaired and elderly. She played a key role in the decreased rates of weight loss and implemented a dementia program to prevent weight loss within the population and monitor disease progression. While she is so excited to be a part of the Ironwood team, she still has a heart for skilled nursing and consult for facilities during her free time. Her understanding perspective and personal touch within every interaction mirrors the Ironwood culture and has made her an exceptional dietitian.

When she is not working, you can find her next to a barbell at the gym or on a mountain with her six-year-old son. If it is active or outdoors, Rebecca is always down. She believes that the true example of health involves the mind, body, and soul. These three components work in a harmonious relationship and need constant nurturing to function. Rebecca is a huge advocate for mental health within the nutrition field, advocating for intuitive eating and body acceptance. Her values reflect the ideals of Health at Every Size and she firmly believes that if you put love into your heart, body, and mind- it will give love back.

Please ask your Ironwood Cancer & Research Centers provider for a referral to see our dietary counselors.