Grill your way lean

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photoStefanie Fisher, owner, Vancouver Adventure Boot Camp
photoGrilled Ahi Tuna fillet marinated with lemon,soy sauce, cilantro and spices accompanied by grilled baby peppers stuffed with quinoa and feta cheese.

Grilling is the most popular pastime of summer. While outdoor cookouts are a great opportunity to relax and visit with friends and family, it's easy to make a barbecue meal that exceeds 1500 calories. That's almost an entire day's worth of calories in one meal.

That type of eating will do some serious damage to your waistline over the course of the summer. The good news is that barbecue season doesn't have to be fattening. In fact, with a few small changes to your barbecue menu, you can turn summer into the perfect opportunity for weight loss.

So before you slather on the sunscreen and fire up your grill, read the following tips to grill your way lean this summer.

On the Grill: Believe it or not, grilling is actually a very healthy way to cook meat. Of course the type of meat that you choose will make all of the difference. Burgers and hot dogs are traditional barbecue meats, but they aren't the healthiest. Try the following:

• Choose lean cuts of beef, pork or poultry

• Marinade with low fat dressing

• Make hamburgers with extra-lean ground beef

• Take the skin off chicken before grilling

• Replace beef patties with ground turkey patties

• Grill up salmon or cod

• Forego the meat and grill veggie burgers

Side Dishes: This is where most people run into trouble. Barbecue side dishes are typically filled with loads of fat. Creamy coleslaw and potato salads can hold as much as 15 grams of fat per serving. Try the following instead:

• Make veggie kabobs and grill them

• Replace the mayo in your salads with low-fat mayo

• Serve fresh salad with light vinaigrette

• Try whole-grain macaroni for your pasta salad

• Grill up corn on the cob (pass on the butter)

• Put out a veggie tray with low fat dip

Drinks: Most people don't realize that beverages play a big role in summer weight gain. Margaritas, beer, soda pop and punch all contain lots of empty calories. Try the following:

• Drink water, it is always your healthiest option

• Stick with light beer

• If you have to have a soda pop stick with diet

• Brew unsweetened ice tea and serve with lemon

Dessert: Yes, there are ways to satisfy your sweet tooth while getting lean.Think outside of the box instead of turning to the typical fattening options like ice cream, pie, cake or cookies. Try the following:

• Grill mango, banana and pineapple on kabobs

• Stick with sorbet instead of ice cream

• Replace peach pie with grilled peach halves

• Choose light ice cream over regular

Remember, it's OK to splurge every once in a while. Enjoy yourself. Just keep in mind that by taking a few of the above suggestions you can enjoy great food while getting back into great shape. Here is one of my absolute favorites, I made this up myself: Grilled Ahi Tuna fillet (marinated with lemon,soy sauce, cilantro and spices) and grilled baby peppers stuffed with quinoa and feta cheese. Email me to request this delicious recipe: stefanie@vancouveradventurebootcamp.com

Stefanie Fisher is a certified personal trainer and a former member of the German National Team of Olympic Weightlifting with 20 years of experience in the fitness industry. She is the owner of the Vancouver Adventure Boot Camp and outdoor fitness program for women. Fisher can be reached at stefanie@vancouveradventurebootcamp.com or 360-823-9636.