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July 4th – Time to Eat, Drink, Be Merry and… Count Calories?

Counting calories this Independence Day? Come on! It’s the 4th of July. Time to let loose, slosh back another beer, and buff up with beefy burgers, right?

Not so fast. Who said Independence Day was about stuffing your face like a gorilla in a banana plantation and drinking as if attached to an intravenous beer-drip? Besides feeling like a beat-up box of fizzled-out firecrackers the next day, you know your weight-control motivation will be hard to pick up again.

Then again – you don’t want to be a party-pooper either. So can you enjoy your favorite celebration foods and not go too overboard with the calories? We think so! Just a few swaps here & there and you can halve your calorie intake without even breaking a sweat! Check out these smart swaps:

Hot dogs

Usually you… Grab a pack of franks, cook, place in a bun with mustard, ketchup, onions, and relish, and eat. Not exactly an epicurean epic. The condiments don’t do you much harm, but to be frank about the frank – ouch! A teeny 2 oz wiener can pack a 180 calorie punch, with 17 grams of fat to boot (that’s over 25% of your daily fat intake). At 385 calories, 18g fat, 45g carbs, this little dog’s bite is worse than his bark.

Why not? Use low-fat wieners. Tasting is believing but there are some really, really good low-fat franks out there. For example, Healthy Choice Beef Franks have only 70 calories and 2.5 grams of fat, and (we’re willing to put it out there) they taste as good as the regular version. Turkey dogs are also a good low-fat option, though still slightly higher in calories and fat than low-fat franks. One low-fat dog with condiments totals 275 calories, 2.5g fat, and 45g carbs.

Burgers

Try a fish taco as a lower-calorie alternative to burgers

Usually you… OK, no need for details here. Patty, burger, bun, ketchup, onion equals… 433 calories, 20g fat, and 35g carbs.

Why not? Try an alternative burger recipe from the CalorieKing kitchens. Add plenty of lettuce, tomato, and onion for extra flavor, crunch, and vitamins. For an even better twist on the burger and bun, skewer some fish and vegetables, barbecue, and wrap in a corn tortilla when cooked. Add some Firecracker Salsa for a flavor boost. Average counts for one fish taco with vegetables and salsa: 250 calories, 1g fat, 28g carbs.

Baked beans

Usually you… Well, everyone’s home-grown recipe is slightly different, so in the interests of bean democracy let’s just say your July 4th beans are some version of the following: One or more heat-and-eat tins of baked beans mixed with brown sugar, molasses, ketchup, and onion powder, all boiled into a sweet, gooey brew. A half cup serving of these beans comes to 182 calories, 1g fat, and 37g carbs.

Why not? Relax and enjoy your baked beans! If you can manage to stop at a half cup serving, beans are a reasonably healthy choice. They’re an even better choice if you opt for dark beans and leave out the added sugars. Most canned baked beans already have plenty of sugar in them. If you want an even healthier alternative, try a three-bean salad or side of plain black beans.

Corn on the cob

Savor the sweet taste of grilled corn

Usually you… de-husk the cobs, pop them on the grill (no harm yet), and then (here comes the killer) butter ‘em up – with about 200 calories and 22 grams of fat! This method gets you a corny 280 calories, 23g fat, and 14g carbs.

Why not? Let the smoky barbecue flavor your corn. Believe it or not, butter smothers the naturally sweet taste of corn, rather than enhancing it. When barbecuing corn, keep in the husk or wrap in foil for a deliciously juicy cob, or de-husk and grill until golden brown for a crispier texture. Use a little salt, garlic salt, or other seasoning to further bring out flavor. If you leave the butter alone you can gnaw your corn to the cob for only 80 calories, 1g fat, and 14g carbs.

Potato salad

Usually you… put the Irish to shame with a mother of all potato salads. Potatoes by the pound, mayonnaise by the bucket, hard-boiled eggs by the hen house, a dash of mustard, some seasoning, and an obligatory string or two of celery. An average serving (1 medium potato, 3 Tbsp mayo, 0.5 hard-boiled eggs) comes to 450 calories, 36g fat, 26g carbs.

Why not? Lighten up your potato salad by using a fat-free mayo, yogurt, non-fat sour cream, or a mixture of the three instead of mayonnaise. Try using small rose potatoes with the skins on to increase the amount of fiber. You can also chop eggs into smaller pieces so you end up with less per serving. By using fat-free mayo, you’ll get down to 180 calories, 3g fat, and 35g carbs. There are also a number of excellent low-calorie potato salad recipes in the CalorieKing recipes.

Apple pie

Usually you… Start by buying fresh ingredients for the hand-kneaded crust you’re going to make and then… yeah, right! If you’re like most of us, what you really do is buy an apple pie, heat it up, and serve – disguising that store-bought look with plenty of cream and ice cream. Then you smile and say thank you when someone compliments you on your fine home cookin’. That little piece of pie, plus a dollop (or wallop) of cream, and a scoop of ice cream comes to, wait for it… 700 calories, 43g fat, and 72g carbs.

Why not? Escape to another location while everyone is chowing down on calorie, uh, apple pie and prepare for the next course… watermelon! Although you may be craving pie, once you sink your teeth into a slice of fresh, juicy, sweet, delicious, crunchy, melt-in-your-mouth, watermelon, all thoughts of… what were we talking about? Oh yes, all thoughts of apple pie will be gone. Dessert has a much friendlier face when it’s only 50 calories, 0 fat, and 12g carbs per 9 oz. slice (weight includes rind).

Grand totals

You can see the cumulative calories of a typical 4th of July menu compared to a healthier version here. Don’t forget to add any alcohol, soda, or juice calories to the totals.

Full-Calorie Menu Lower Calorie Menu
1 hot dog: 385 calories, 18g fat, 45 carbs 1 hot dog, low-fat frank: 275 calories, 2.5g fat, and 45g carbs
1 burger: 433 calories, 20g fat, and 35g carbs 1 fish taco with vegetables and salsa: 250 calories, 1g fat, 28g carbs
½ cup baked beans: 182 calories, 1g fat, and 37g carbs ½ cup baked beans: 182 calories, 1 g fat, and 37g carbs
1 corn cob with butter: 280 calories, 23g fat, and 14g carbs 1 corn cob without butter: 80 calories, 1g fat, and 14g carbs
1 serving potato salad: 450 calories, 36g fat, 26g carbs 1 serving potato salad, fat-free mayo: 180 calories, 3g fat, and 35g carbs
1 piece apple pie: 700 calories, 43g fat, and 72g carbs 9 oz. slice watermelon: 50 calories, 0 fat, and 12g carbs
Calories = 2430
Fat = 141g
Carbs = 229g
Calories = 1017
Fat = 8.5g
Carbs = 171g