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What It Takes To Burn Those Independence Day Calories

DETROIT (WWJ) - Independence Day isn't complete without a fireworks display and a barbecue with the all-American staple: the hot dog.

This July Fourth, Americans will enjoy approximately 150 million hot dogs, enough to stretch from D.C. to L.A. more than five times. But, as the obesity epidemic soars in the United States, now affecting nearly one in three adult Americans, more and more barbecue-goers are paying close attention to what they're eating and how it could impact their weight and their health.

"Summer barbeques can be a sore spot for many local residents struggling to keep the weight off," Deborah Gilkey, a registered dietitian, said in a release. "Given their popularity, chances are many in the area will be enjoying a hot dog, or three, on the Fourth."

Before digging in, there are a few things to keep in mind. On average, three all-beef hot dogs on a bun with ketchup can be the equivalent of 945 calories, with 500 calories coming from the 55.5g of fat, according to That's almost 47 percent of an adult's recommended daily caloric value and 85 percent of the daily recommended value of fat.

So, what does it take for the average American to burn off these calories?

  • Four hours and 22 minutes of walking, or
  • One hour and 48 minutes of jogging, or
  • One hour and 19 minutes of swimming, or
  • Two hours and 24 minutes of cycling.

"It can be difficult to put in enough exercise to burn the extra calories consumed at the cookout, particularly the high-fat content and calories in hot dogs. So, unless you're an active athlete, you may want to consider reading up on some tips for your barbeques intake this season," said Gilkey.

Here's some tips for staying on track at the barbecue: 

1. Don't leave your house hungry

Attending an event hungry, or worse, famished, makes it more difficult to hold back from diving right into the meat and cheese dip. Instead, have a healthy, high-protein snack to fend off hunger before the barbecue, such as a handful of walnuts, fat-free Greek yogurt or low-fat cheese with whole grain crackers. These foods will keep you fuller longer, and help you avoid feeling faint or famished.

2. Know you're going to eat ... a little bit

It's not necessary, or realistic, to go to a cookout and deprive yourself of all things food. Know that you may sample different foods, but do your best to keep track of what you have eaten in your head. Not sure how many calories are in each dish? Stick to the 50-calories-per-bite rule, assuming that each bite-size spoon full is worth approximately 50 calories.

3. Don't overdo it

If you overindulge and have three hot dogs, don't use it as an excuse to keep eating because you've already "ruined" your diet for the day. Enjoy the hot dogs and then get back on the program.

4. Offer to bring a healthy dish

Instead of loading your plate up with all of the unhealthy options on the picnic table, bring a healthy side dish (one that you enjoy) that you can eat and fill up on before surrendering to unhealthy alternatives.

5. Try a healthy alternative

If you're going for the hot dog tray, find out if there's an organic or natural meat alternative on the grill. Turkey or chicken hot dogs can be just as tasty, but have at least 30 fewer calories and nearly half the fat as an all-beef hot dog.

6. Distract your mouth

Sometimes your mouth just needs to feel loved, so chew on a piece of sugar-free gum or snack on low-calorie food items to satisfy your cravings.

7. Keep vegetables and fruit handy

Vegetables and fruit are great ways to fill your tummy and avoid overeating junk food. Before resorting to mayo-based pasta and potato salads, or indulging in a brownie, hang out by the veggie tray and fill your plate with healthy foods and a low-fat, yet delicious dip.

8. Use smaller plates/cups

It gives the appearance of more food and you won't feel obligated to fill up your plate with every item on the menu.

9. Stay hydrated

Keeping hydrated in the summer heat is important and can also help you to not feel as hungry. So drink water - alcohol doesn't count. But, if you do decide to have a beverage or two, choose a low-calorie option.

10. Be careful with condiments

Calories from small food items add up. Try to limit the unhealthy condiments on your hot dog, such as ketchup, cheese or chili, and be sure to choose healthy low-fat dips for your vegetables.

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