Healthy Barbecue Guide

If you’re anything like me, when you think of summer barbecues you think of burgers, hot dogs, coleslaw, potato salad, and lots of other deliciously fattening foods. But it doesn’t have to be that way. You can have a tasty, healthy barbecue without piling on the pounds. Here’s how.

1. Make Your Own Burgers

Instead of buying ready made burgers that are full of fat, salt and other nasties, make your own. Buy some 95% lean ground beef and pat it into burger shapes, using about 1/4 lb per patty. One patty will contain just 140 calories and 5.4 grams fat. Substitute whole wheat buns for white ones, add salad and avocado and, voila, a healthy, delicious burger!

2. Have chicken instead of hot dogs

Instead of gorging yourself on fatty, salty hot dogs, opt for some lean chicken in a tasty marinade. I like to use chicken tenders rather than full breasts because they cook quicker. An hour before you light the grill, mix the chicken with a marinade of your choosing. Then, when the grill is hot, throw on the chicken and enjoy.

Here are my two favorite homemade marinades:

(a) Mix together a bunch of chopped, fresh cilantro, 1 chopped chili, 2 cloves crushed garlic and 1 freshly squeezed lime.

(b) Combine 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar, 1 tbsp honey, 1 tbsp soy sauce, 3 cloves crushed garlic, 1 chopped chili.

3.Grill Some Fish

Grilled fish is delicious and healthy. You can marinade it before cooking or just put a little salt, pepper and lemon juice on it before serving. Either way, this is a great, healthy alternative to many of the barbecue usual suspects.

4. Try Vegetable Kebabs

Vegetable kebabs are a wonderfully tasty way to up your daily intake of veggies. All you will need is some skewers, plenty of vegetables and a hot grill. I usually use red onions, mushrooms, bell peppers, garlic, and zucchini, but you can use any vegetables that take your fancy. Chop them into 1 inch cubes, line them up on the skewers and cook.

5. Throw on Some Corn

Fresh corn on the cob is a fantastic source of thiamin (vitamin B1), pantothenic acid (vitamin B5), folate, dietary fiber, vitamin C, phosphorus and manganese. It can help maintain a healthy heart, support energy production, maintain your memory and support lung health. So what better reason could there be to throw some corn on the barby? Just make sure you savor the naturally sweet flavor without coating it in butter!

6. Kill the Mayo

Summer barbecues always seem to be filled with mayonnaise. It’s everywhere – in the coleslaw, the potato salad, the spinach dip. So if you want to have a healthy barbecue, make a pact with yourself that you’ll avoid all foods with mayonnaise.

7. Avoid the chips

I know it’s a lot to ask, but if you really want to stay trim this summer, you’re going to have to avoid the potato chips. It’s so easy to stand chatting, beer in hand, slowly working your way through a bowl of potato chips. But remember this – one 8 ounce bag of potato chips contains 85 grams of fat. That’s 131% of your daily recommended intake of fat and 124% of that is saturated. If you’re going to find this one difficult, just don’t stand near the bowl.

8. Salad, salad, salad

Summer is a wonderful time to enjoy tasty salads. Instead of gorging on 3 burgers, take just one and fill your plate with plenty of fresh salad. And instead of slathering it with hundreds of calories of dressing, try a sprinkle of balsamic vinegar and olive oil instead.

9. Have a Fruity Desert

You can eliminate a huge portion of fat and calories from your usual barbecue intake by avoiding cookies and cake for desert, and opting for fresh fruit instead. Watermelon, pineapple, strawberries, mango and many other fruits make delicious summer deserts. And they are far kinder to your hips!

10. Don’t Drink Your Calories

We often forget that our drinks make up part of our daily calorie intake. Make sure you don’t consume your daily amount at the cooler next time you’re at a barbeque. Swap an ice cold sparkling water for that sugary soda you usually drink, or have a vodka, lime and soda instead of a sugary cocktail or calorie-laden beer. And if you really want a soda or a beer, just keep it at one or two. Don’t gorge yourself.

As you can see, I’m not suggesting that you eat rice cakes and low fat cottage cheese at your next barbecue. But with some simple tweaks to the usual menu, you can have a delicious feast without piling on the pounds.

Esther Schultz is a freelance writer based in Los Angeles. She writes regularly about nutrition and weight loss at where you can find out how to eat your way to the perfect figure.

Find More Barbecue Articles