6 Family-Friendly Cookout Ideas That Won’t Tip the Sugar Scales

Family Enjoying Outdoor Barbeque In GardenWarmer weather means it’s backyard cookout and barbecue season! Summer activities like family camping trips, reunions, road trips, and picnics all center around yummy, outdoor, finger-licking good food.

At this time of year, we often gravitate towards pre-packaged foods that are easier and more convenient to transport, pack up, warm, and serve. You may not know it, but many of these barbecue-type foods, condiments, and beverages are filled with sugar.

We all know the usual places sugar lives like candy, soda, and baked goods, but sugar also lurks and hides in some very unsuspecting places. With so much talk these days about the health risks of added sugars, a good place to start cutting down on your family’s intake is with some of these summer foods.

Let’s take a look at how much sugar you might be getting at a typical summer cookout:

Ketchup: 1 tablespoon = 1 teaspoon of sugar
Honey barbecue sauce: 2 tablespoons = 3 teaspoons of sugar
Thousand Island salad dressing: 2 tablespoons = 1 teaspoon of sugar
Pre-made iced tea: 8 oz. serving = 6 teaspoons of sugar
Pre-made lemonade: 8 oz. serving = 7 teaspoons of sugar
Ice cream: 1/2 a cup = 5 teaspoons
Marshmallows: 1 regular-sized = 1 teaspoon of sugar (and who eats just one?)
Hot dog and hamburger buns: 1 bun = 3 grams of sugar
Hot dogs and hamburgers: Even packaged meats, especially flavored varieties like “smoky” or “maple,” have added sugars.

Isn’t it shocking to realize how much added sugar you and your family might get in a single backyard meal?

Here are 6 ideas for your family cookout that won’t tip the sugar scales:

Make your own condiments. I know it sounds like a chore, but condiments are where so many of the hidden sugars appear. By preparing condiments yourself you can control the amount and type of sugar you include. In a couple of hours, you can have sugar-free and healthy batches of homemade ketchup and barbecue sauce which will last you most of the season.

Read labels. If you can’t make it yourself, be sure to read the labels and look for brands with the lowest amount of added sugar.

Skip the processed meats. Make your own burger patties from real ground beef and add your own spices and seasonings. Choose unflavored, unprocessed ground beef, pork or chicken.

Beware of salads and dressings. The pre-packaged macaroni, pasta, and potato salads, the coleslaws, and the salad kits have lots of added sugars and preservatives. Cook up some extra potatoes or pasta with dinner the night before, shred up some leftover cabbage and carrots, and throw together a simple dressing with some oil and vinegar. Easy peasy quick and healthy salads.

Choose healthier beverages. Instead of the sugar-filled lemonade, iced tea, and soda pop—which is the absolute worst—fill up your water jug with unflavored sparkling water and add citrus wedges, cucumber slices, or frozen berries for a delightful refreshing drink.

Dial back the desserts. On occasion a decadent, indulgent dessert is a must. On a regular basis, though, opt for some healthier sweets like fruit, full-fat unflavored yogurt, homemade cookies made with a natural sugar alternative, nuts, and homemade fruit based ice creams whipped up in the blender.

Follow these 6 tips to keep the sugar scales and blood sugars balanced this summer. Bring on the sun!


  1. Jennifer Deveau on June 19, 2017 at 1:57 pm

    Please send update information to his email address.

    I mainly bake/cook everything from scratch, but love learning of other the ways to reduce sugar consumption for my family. Jen

    • Michelle on August 24, 2017 at 10:41 am

      Will do Jen. Thanks for your comments. Making everything at home really does help to reduce sugar and other nasty additives. Great job!

  2. Lisa Holcomb on July 18, 2017 at 12:20 pm

    Awesome Michelle! Thank you for the motivation tips you have that make food fun and SO easy to zero out the sugar! Amazing. Time for farm fresh cucumber, mint and spring water with a squeeze of lemon and little umbrella

    • Michelle on August 24, 2017 at 10:39 am

      Oh that sounds like the perfect hot summer refreshment Lisa! Very nice.

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