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 of our favorite barbecue foods are far from healthy. Traditional barbecue meats--like hamburgers and hot dogs--are highly processed and loaded with fat, and the plain white buns many of us serve with them have little nutritional value.

Don't despair, barbecue-aficionados--your grill doesn't need to play host to a high-fat dinner. There are many ways to create a grilled meal that will satisfy friends and family, while providing tasty and nutritious fare.

Choose Leaner Meats

Choosing leaner meats can go a long way toward lowering the fat and calorie content of your barbecue meal. Consider exchanging fatty pre-made burgers for chicken breasts, or make your meal more decedent with a juicy sirloin or eye of round steak. If you are using whole meats, you can make the meal even healthier by trimming off the excess fat first.

Do you still have your heart set on traditional burgers? You can make your meal healthier if you 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, and you'll avoid the chemicals present in processed meats.

Experiment with Fish

Meat isn't the only thing that you can enjoy on the grill. Fish is a delicious alternative, and offers significant health benefits. Recent studies have shown that the type of fat present in fish may actually lower blood cholesterol levels, and eating two to three servings of fish per week may reduce your risk of coronary illness.

There is a huge range of fresh fish that 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. Try a simple marinade of olive oil, good quality salt and crushed black pepper. You can even make your meal more visually appealing by picking up vegetable skewers to create vegetarian shish kebabs. Grilled veggies are so tasty--even the kids will be asking for seconds!

Cut Out the Soda

It might seem easy to serve soda at your barbecue, but 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, sparkling water, or pure fruit juices with no sugar added. Longing to add a little fizzy carbonation to your drinks? Try making your own fruit spritzers by mixing club soda or sparkling water with fresh fruit juice.

HealthAhead Hint: Cut the Fat, Save the Flavor

You can enjoy the delights of barbecue season--fun with family and friends, outdoor eating, and tasty grilled foods--without sacrificing a healthy diet. Cut the high-fat, high-calorie foods out of your barbecue meal, 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.