How to Have a Healthy Barbecue

Here is a common summertime refrain from folks struggling with their diets:

“I love hosting friends and family for an old-fashioned grill-out, but my new diet will fail if I eat whatever I want at my backyard barbecue.  I need to throw a healthier barbecue, but I want my friends to enjoy the barbecue!!  What should I do?”

Who doesn’t love a barbecue?  What would the Fourth of July be without a grill-out?  The smell of grilled food; the beauty and comfort of a summer evening with loved ones.  And that food!  Oh, yum!  Cheeseburgers and hot dogs smothered in ketchup and mustard, potato chips, buttered corn, cookies…  Getting hungry?  Don’t worry!  Your next barbecue’s going to be the hit of the summer…don’t think of it as “healthy and boring” but rather as “exciting with new choices and variety.”

That’s tip number one: you don’t have to send all the old foods packing.  You just have to introduce some new items to balance things out a bit.  Depending on your needs and comfort, you may want to keep the old fatty parts of the barbecue around—some of your guests (especially the kids) might want them!  Whether to keep the old fatty foods around depends on you and your family.  If you’re far enough into your diet that you can resist the temptations while still enjoying yourself, then keep them around for guests.  If not, don’t sweat it: your guests are not going to go hungry!

So, what should you add to the mix to make your barbecue healthy?  Here’s my list:

  • Kebabs!  Try chicken or tofu with peppers, mushrooms, courgette, aubergine, any of your favorite vegetables, skewer them, brush with teriyaki sauce, and grill to perfection.  It’s a low fat 4th of July, and it’s delicious!
  • Salmon:  grill a whole fillet onto a sheet of foil large enough to fold like a taco.  Slice half a lemon: layer the slices over the top of the salmon and squeeze the other half over the top of the whole thing.  Season and wrap the foil to make a make a generous pocket and marinate overnight in the fridge.  Grill it for about 10 minutes, depending on thickness.  What a super low-cal 4th of July treat!
  • Poultry based sausage or burgers, like turkey burgers.  Think these are gross?  Maybe you haven’t tried one for a while…some of the brands have fun flavors, and a few are really delicious!
  • Bring out the veggies!  Grilled vegetables are great!  Add salt, pepper and your favorite flavoring (Worcestershire sauce, anyone?), and you’ll be shocked by the flavor of a grilled veggie!  Most vegetables cook in less than ten minutes on direct medium heat.  Give these a try:  Red, white, or sweet onion, sliced into 1/2-inch thick rounds; corn on the cob (take off the husks and silks); whole portabella mushrooms grilled like a burger or cut into thick slices; small mushrooms strung on a skewer or kabob; eggplant, cut lengthwise into 1/4-inch slices; zucchini, cut lengthwise into 1/4-inch slices; asparagus spears—trim off the white end and grill the spears whole; asparagus!
  • Remove the fat from your meat before you grill it!  Most of the fat in chicken is in the skin—get rid of it!  Most of the fat in steak and pork chops is in the visible fat—get rid of it!
  • Is there a healthy BBQ dessert?  Yep!
    • Try grilled fruit:  pineapple is phenomenal—top it with a low-fat, low-calorie homemade ice cream.  And experiment with some other fruits…  So many possibilities!  If grilled fruit doesn’t work fo you, try a  fruit salad or a light-fruit based sherbet.
    • Remember fruit-flavored popsicles, from when you were a kid?  They are often surprisingly low calorie, and you can make your own!  Pour fresh juice into an ice cube tray.  Cover it with aluminum foil and then poke popsicle sticks or decorative toothpicks (tell your guests to be careful!) through the foil into the juice in each ice cube compartment (the foil should hold the sticks in place until your juice is frozen).  Freeze and enjoy!  You can add different colors to make the pops more “adult”…you can also accomplish this by spiking the popsicles with a little vodka or rum!

Best wishes keeping your Independence Day healthy!  Happy 4th of July!

Don’t forget to check out HealthyWage, the website the pays you to be healthy!

Kate Miller
Kate Miller

Kate Miller, mom of 5, is on a mission to stay fit and healthy. As HealthyWage's Community Manager, she's fortunate to be surrounded by inspiring success stories day after day. In 2012, Kate lost 50 pounds and documented most of her journey right here on the HealthyWage blog. Since then, she's had to learn the subtle intricacies of staying on track by mastering the daily ebb and flow (and parties and holidays and periods of extreme laziness) of life.

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