Food & Nutrition
Throw a Healthier Barbecue
Fresh and Healthy off the Grill
Summer is here, and you can’t wait to take part in the joy of a barbecue, complete with delicious foods fresh off the grill. Unfortunately, some barbecue foods are highly processed, loaded with fat, and have little nutritional value.
Don’t despair, barbecue-aficionados—your grill doesn’t need to play host to a high-fat dinner. Here are some ways to create a grilled meal that will satisfy friends and family, while providing tasty and nutritious fare.
Never Mind the Chips
Get creative and healthy with appetizers at your barbecue. No need to resort to chips or other fatty warm-ups to the meal while your guests chat and wait for the main course.
Brush a flatbread or pita with olive oil and Italian herbs, and top with a bit of low-fat cheese. Grill until hot and the cheese melts. Sprinkle basil or arugula on top, cut into triangles and serve your nutritious meal starter.
Choose Leaner Meats
Leaner meats can lower the fat and calorie content of your barbecue meal. Consider exchanging fatty pre-made burgers for chicken breasts. If you use whole meats, trim off the excess fat.
If your heart is set on traditional burgers, buy extra-lean ground beef and make your own patties at home. Better yet, swap out ground beef and use ground chicken or turkey instead. You’ll have a lighter, more nutritious meal while avoiding the chemicals in processed meats.
Experiment with Fish
Fish offers significant health benefits and is a delicious alternative to meat. Research shows that the omega-3 fatty acids in fish can help lower your blood pressure and cut your risk of developing blood clots.
The American Heart Association recommends eating two servings of fish a week. Many types of fresh fish can be grilled to create a mouth-watering meal. Consider trying fresh fish steaks, such as swordfish, tuna, halibut, salmon, or monkfish.
Throw Veggies on the Grill
There’s nothing like a grill to transform vegetables into colorful delicacies. Red, green, and yellow peppers, eggplant, onion, and zucchini all taste delicious when grilled. Grilled veggies are so yummy—even the kids will be asking for seconds!
Try a simple marinade of olive oil, good quality salt, and crushed black pepper. Make your meal more visually appealing by picking up vegetable skewers to create vegetarian shish kebabs.
Cut Out the Soda
Sugar-loaded carbonated beverages are high in calories and low in nutritional value. Try incorporating healthier drink choices into your meal.
Provide water to keep everyone hydrated, and consider offering unsweetened ice tea. Try making your own fruit spritzers by mixing club soda or sparkling water with fresh fruit juice.
Dessert on the Grill
At your next barbecue, trade a dessert of cookies, pie, cake or ice cream for a tasty dessert loaded with vitamins and antioxidants: fresh-grilled fruit. Grilling fruit softens and sweetens it, giving it a lovely, caramelized flavor.
Halve peaches, plums, or apricots and brush the fruit lightly with olive oil before placing it on the grill. Or make fruit kebobs with whole strawberries, pineapple, cantaloupe, watermelon, and apples in any combination you like.
Cut Fat, Savor Flavor
Enjoy the delights of barbecue season—fun with family and friends, outdoor eating, and tasty grilled foods—without sacrificing a healthy diet. Cut out high-fat, high-calorie foods and introduce healthier choices.
Load your grill with whole meats, like chicken and steak, a fresh cut of fish, and marinated veggies, and you’ll discover a new realm of mouth-watering flavors. By making a few adjustments to your menu, you can host a barbecue that is both delicious and nutritious.
- American Heart Association (n.d.). Fish and omega-3 fatty acids. http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/GettingHealthy/NutritionCenter/HealthyDietGoals/Fish-and-Omega-3-Fatty-Acids_UCM_303248_Article.jsp
- Mozaffarian, D., Appel, L., Van Horn, L. (2011). Recent advances in preventive cardiology and lifestyle medicine. Circulation, 123: 2870-2891 http://circ.ahajournals.org/content/123/24/2870.full