When summer starts to roll around, people tend to want to drive full speed ahead into the land of jacked and tan, while leaving behind their spare tires. Sometimes that can be problematic though, since summer is also filled with fantastic, calorie-filled cookouts and barbecues. That being said, there is almost always a way to eat out at summer bashes without sacrificing your social life and having to be that person. And for clarification, that person is the one that doesn’t BYOB (bring your own beer), but instead BYOFs (bring your own food, often in a cooler).

Just because you want to be jacked and tan doesn’t mean you can’t join in on some summer barbecuing. In fact, to stay lean and join the party, you just need to understand what summer cookout items will and won’t work with your diet (whatever diet that may be).

To help you do this, I’ve broken down some of the main diets out there, the calories and macros for common cookout items, and how these cookout items fit with each diet.

RECENT: A Refresher on Traditional Periodization

Common Diets

Keto: In ketogenic diets, you essential ditch the carbs and consume lots of fats and some proteins. A typical ketogenic diet is ~75% Fat, 20% protein, and <5% carbs. There are also higher protein versions of the diet, where the macros break down as ~60% fat, 35% protein, and ~5% carbs.

Paleo: In the Paleo Diet you eat like your ancestors and trade highly processed foods for animal proteins and plants. More specifically, a majority of daily calories get dedicated to lean meats, seafood, fruits, fruit oils, nuts, seeds and veggies. Not approved things included dairy, grains, salt, refined fats, refined carbohydrates, and added sugar.

Gluten Free: For people with gluten sensitivity, gluten consumption triggers GI distress, chronic fatigue, weight gain, and chronic inflammation. Thus, by eliminating gluten (a protein in wheat, grain, etc.) from the diet, those that are gluten sensitive tend to lose weight. So in the gluten free diet, all you have to do is avoid gluten (which can be much harder than it sounds).

IIFYM: With the “If It Fits Your Macros Diet” you aim to eat the appropriate number of calories, based on your basic metabolic rate and activity, to be in a caloric deficit (while achieving macronutrient needs). With this diet, you keep track of calories and macros consumed while eating 10-20% less calories per day (than are needed to maintain your weight).

Low Fat: In this type of diet, fats (especially saturated fats and cholesterol) are restricted. Low-fat dieters are advised to eat lots of plant foods (veggies, fruits, whole-grains) and moderate amounts of lean, low-fat, and animal-based foods (dairy and meat).

Carb Backloading: In this diet carbs are limited during the day (~30 grams). At night, after training, you get to eat carbs for a period spanning from post-training until bed. If you don’t train on a certain day, then you get to have a single carb meal at night. By doing this, you prevent insulin from rising during the day, allowing you to have in increased potential to burn fat. When you consume the carbs after you train, you are nutrient timing and partitioning calories into your muscles instead of fat stores.

Now that we have covered the common diets, let’s flash forward to navigating the BBQ scene (since I know you don’t feel like accessorizing with a BYOF cooler bag). Below are macros and calories counts for common BBQ foods, and some suggestions as to which foods work best with each diet.

All calorie counts and macros are approximations and vary by brand and size. 

Common BBQ Meats

Hamburgers: 254 calories (86g), 10g fat, 13g protein, 29g carbohydrates

—Add an extra 130 calories, 2g fat, 22g carbs, and 4g protein for a bun

—Add an extra 113 calories, 9g fat, 0.4g carbs, and 7g protein per cheese slice

Hot Dogs: 151 calories (52g), 13g fat, 5g protein, 2.2g carbohydrates

—Add an extra 110 calories, 1.5g fat, 20g carbs, and 3g protein for a bun

Ribs: 299 calories (3oz), 24g fat, 0g carbohydrates, 19g protein

Steak: 679 calories (251g), 48g fat, 62g protein, 0g carbohydrates

Sausage: 230 calories (2.67oz), 20g far, 9g protein, 1.5g carbohydrates.

Chicken: 43 calories (1 wing), 1.7 g fat, 6g protein, 0g carbohydrates.

Salmon: 421 calories (198 g), 27g fat, 0g carbs, 40g protein.

Side Dishes

Raw Veggies:

    • Carrots: 25 calories (61g), 0.1g fat, 6g carbohydrates, 0.6g protein
    • Celery: 6 calories (1 stalk), 0.1g fat, 1.2g carbohydrates, 0.3g protein
    • Cherry Tomatoes: 27 calories (1 cup), 0.3 g fat, 6g carbohydrates, 1.3g protein
    • Chips: 152 calories (1oz), 10g fat, 15g carbohydrates, 2g protein
    • Corn on Cob: 155 calories (1 ear), 3.4g fat, 32g carbs, 4.5g protein
    • Potato Salad: 357 calories (1 cup), 20g fat, 28g carbs, 7g protein
    • Coleslaw: 291 calories (1 cup), 19g fat, 28g carbs, 1.8g protein


  • Watermelon: 87 calories (1 wedge), 0.4g fat, 22g carbs, 1.7g protein
  • Cherries: 77 calories (1 cup), 0.5g fat, 19g carbs, 1.6g protein
  • Strawberries: 47 calories (1 cup), 0.4g fat, 11g carbs, 1g protein


  • Ketchup: 19 calories (1 Tbsp.), 0g fat, 4.5g carbs, 0.2g protein
  • Mustard: 3 calories (1 Tsp.), 0.2g fat, 0.3g carbs, 0.2g protein
  • Hot Sauce: 0 calories (1 Tsp.), 0g fat, 0g protein, 0.1g carbs
  • Steak Sauce: 32 calories (2 Tbsp.), 0.1g fat, 7g carbs, 0.4g protein
  • BBQ sauce: 29 calories (1 Tbsp.), 0.1g fat, 7g carbs, 0.1g protein
  • Relish: 20 calories (1 Tbsp.), 0.1g fat, 0.1g protein, 5g carbs


  • Beer: 154 calories (1 can), 0g fat, 13g carbs, 1.6g protein
  • Soda: 150 calories (12 fl. oz.), 0g fat, 39g carbs, 0g protein
  • Diet Soda: 0 calories, 0 fat, 0 carbs, 0 protein
  • Water: 0 calories, 0 fat, 0 carbs, 0 protein
  • Wine: 123 calories (5 fl. oz.), 0g fat, 4g carbs, 0.1g protein

Hard liquor:

  • Whiskey: 70 calories (1 fl. oz.), 0g fat, 0g carbs, 0g protein
  • Rum: 64 calories (1 fl. oz.), 0g fat, 0g carbs, 0g protein
  • Vodka: 64 calories (1 fl. oz.), 0g fat, 0g carbs, 0g protein


Keto: For the keto dieters, the meats will be your go-to, with or without cheese. The only limitation will be to avoid carb-filled hotdog and hamburger buns. When it comes to sides, you are really stuck with some celery. Carrots or cherry tomatoes are also an option, but they will use up some of those few carb macros you have available. In general though, you are better off sticking with what’s on the grill and ditching the sides. When it comes to condiments, hot sauce and mustard are your best friends. For drinks, your best bet is to stick with diet soda, water, and—if you feel like you need a drink—some hard alcohol.

Paleo: If you are not at a Paleo-only BBQ with some of your CrossFit clan, then you might have to be a bit picky at a poolside BBQ party. As a Paleo dieter, processed foods are a “hell no”, so you will need to stick with chicken, steak, and fish. Don’t even think about having buns, cheese, or heavily processed hotdogs and hamburgers. The same is true for sides like coleslaw, chips, and potato salad. However, you can have the fruit and veggies sides (as long as no sugar is added and they are not processed). Since condiments are pretty processed, those are off the eatable list. Water is also approved, but processed alcohols like wine, beer, and spirits are a no-no.

Gluten Free: When it comes to the meats on the grill, the fresh meats, poultry and fish are what you want to go for (so long as they are not breaded, batter-coated, or marinated). Veggies and fruits are also good choices for sides, but you will have to avoid the corn on the cob. Most likely, you will also have to avoid the chips, coleslaw, and potato salad, and condiments (unless labeled as gluten free). Beer will also be on the banned list, but luckily wine and hard liquors (rum, tequila, and potato vodka) are not. If you like soda, you’re in luck, because Pepsi and Coke are considered gluten-free.

IIFYM: This should be self explanatory, but you can eat whatever you want; just don’t go over your calories and macros for the day.

Low Fat: When it comes to the meats, you will want to stick with the low fat, lean meats like chicken and white fish (not listed).  Additionally, things like corn on the cob, fruit, and veggies will be on your “eat this” list. Most condiments and drinks will be okay too, as they do not contain high amounts of fat.

Carb Backloading: If you arrive at the BBQ early in the day, before your carb meal, you should see the section on keto dieters and follow that. However, if you come to the cookout post training, all bets are off, and you really don’t need this article because you can eat most of the high carb things your heart desires. That being said, even in full on “carb coma mode”, you should avoid pairing high carbs and high fats. Thus, in post training mode, high carb, foods are a go, but save the high fat stuff for the early part of your day.

So, now that you have your cheat sheet to navigate summer cookouts while staying on track; stop reading, stop prepping, and start enjoying a great time!

The information contained in this article is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment in any manner. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have.