Do you love BBQs but feel like they are a hard place to be when trying to make healthy choices? You are not alone. Most BBQs are full of processed meats, fried chips, sugary desserts, and high-fat side salads. So you may be wondering how you can still enjoy this popular event without compromising your health goals…
Here are 8 simple tips to help you stay on track and navigate BBQs all summer!
Marinate or rub
Marinating or using a rub on your poultry, fish, or meat can add a ton of flavor without the high sodium content or the high sugar and fat in sauces like BBQ sauce or ketchup. Marinate for at least 30 minutes before you start to grill. You will need ½ to 1 cup of marinade or 1-2 tbsp of rub per pound. Using vinegars or healthy fats like olive or avocado oil for your marinades or polyphenol packed herbs and spices for your rubs can add extra benefits.
Grill some veggies and fill half your plate with them
Grilled vegetables are so delicious and a great way to healthify your BBQ. You can grill almost any vegetable alone or in kebabs! Making sure you fill at least half your plate with vegetables is very important to your satiety. Vegetables provide you with fiber that helps you fill up without having to overeat on proteins and starches.
Bring your own side salads and veggie platter
If you are not hosting, bringing foods that you can and want to have is the best thing you can do! Most salads at BBQS are May0-laden, high in carbohydrates, and with very little if any vegetables. It is not only polite but convenient to bring a side dish like a green salad that you know you can eat. Veggie trays are another great option to bring to a BBQ since they can be store-bought. Opt for the raw veggies w/ hummus or guacamole over chips and dip!
Choose grilled or fresh fruits as dessert
Similarly to vegetables, you can grill a lot of different fruits. Cooking fruit brings out the sweetness in them and serves as a great dessert option since it not only has natural sugars vs processed sugars but fruits also have fiber and antioxidants. Great fruits to grill include mangoes, peaches, and pineapples! If you prefer fresh fruit instead, some BBQ favorites include watermelon, cherries, and berries.
Try having grass fed beef or replace beef with turkey, chicken, salmon, or black bean patties
Eating processed meats like sausages has been linked to higher risk of chronic disease and even some cancers due to the chemical compounds that are not found in fresh meat. Choosing grass fed beef over grain fed is ideal because it is higher in vitamins and nutrients and it is lower in saturated fats and therefore lower in calories as well. Beef is not the only option though, replacing the beef for poultry, seafood, or plant based can add variety and it can be lower in saturated fats, higher in omega 3s, and can even be lower in calories. Black bean patties can also be a great source of fiber!
Try an open face burger or a lettuce wrap to reduce the amount of carbs
If there are other starchy foods like potatoes, corn, or beans that you would also like, opt for an open face burger or a lettuce wrap to reduce the overall carbohydrate intake while enjoying the starches you prefer.
Use healthy fats for flavor
Most BBQ dishes contain high amounts of saturated fats and little to no healthy fats high in omega 3s. Try incorporating healthy fat sources like avocado on your burger to reduce or avoid mayo and ketchup or an olive oil based salad dressing instead of ranch.
Grilling makes food taste great but the blacked, charred pieces may contain carcinogenic compounds.
These compounds form when protein cooks at high temperatures and when meat juices drip on hot surfaces like charcoal and create smoke. Reduce carcinogens from forming by limiting grill time; avoid cooking frozen meats and consider making kebabs instead of large pieces of meat. Trim away visible fat in meats to reduce dripping and try using marinades with vinegar or lemon juice as the acidity protects surfaces from the carcinogenic compounds.
Want to try grilling up some different vegetables to wow your family and guests at your next BBQ? Check out this recipe for Brussels sprouts and Beet Kabobs!!
Brussel & Beet Kabobs
- 12 oz Brussels sprouts, halved
- 2 beets, peeled and sliced 1/4 inch thick
- 1 Tbs avocado oil
- 1 Tbs balsamic vinegar
- 1/2 tsp dried crushed rosemary
- Sea salt and pepper to taste
- Heat grill to high.
- Combine all ingredients in large bowl and toss to coat.
- Thread Brussels sprouts and beets onto skewers.
- Grill for 30 minutes, occasionally flipping.
Recipe by Aubrey H. Moore, DCN, RDN.