Healthy Barbecue

Healthy Barbecue


Well, it’s the last week or so we are “allowed” to wear white pants…and how many want to show them off going to the family BBQ for a big Labor Day celebration? It can be hard trying to eat healthy at this type of gathering. People don’t like to be considered an “outlier”, “too much trouble” or titled “high maintenance”. If any of you have a family like I do, I typically get teased for being on a “diet” all the time, even though all I do is try to make healthy choices.


So how do we overcome this obstacle? All our friends and family coming together with an abundance of scrumptious meats, side dishes, and desserts? In this situation, I would advise to not deprive yourself of enjoyment, but to do your best in making better choices and being mindful of portions.


In this environment, coolers are often every few feet, piled high with beer, wine, sodas, and other high-calorie beverages. The best-case scenario for us would be to grab a bottle of water, but if you must indulge, try setting your limit to one. Consuming calories in the form of a liquid does nothing to satisfy hunger, nor keep us full. Additionally, sugar-sweetened beverages like sodas provide zero nutritional value and only empty calories that tend to settle down right on our waistlines.


When building your plate, be mindful of portions. Choose lean meats, such as white meat turkey and chicken. If pork is an option, a smaller portion may be necessary due to higher fat and cholesterol content. Did you know leaner cuts of pork, such as the tenderloin, are almost as lean as white meat chicken? Be mindful of how the meat is prepared: whether it is fried, basted in oil, or coated in sugary seasonings and high calorie dressings. If hamburgers and hot dogs are options, try to have at least 93% lean ground beef and low-fat hot dogs (maybe even throw in a whole wheat bun!)


Side dishes can be deceiving… even if they are “vegetable” based, such as sweet potato casserole, green bean casserole, or potato salad, they can be loaded with fat, sugar, and therefore high in calories. Avoid heavy cream or mayonnaise based sides, such as pasta or potato salad. Choose vinegar based cole slaw over mayonnaise based. Healthier options would include dishes such as: fresh garden salad, fresh fruit salad, steamed or roasted vegetables (green beans, corn on the cob, asparagus, squash/zucchini, etc.) baked potatoes, sweet potatoes, beans, and whole grain dinner rolls. Aim to have at least half your plate full of fresh fruits and vegetables. It is also fun to mix things up a bit, such as putting broccoli on your baked potato instead of loading it down with butter and sour cream. However, if you must have cheese or sour cream, opt for lower fat or fat free versions. For dessert, choose fresh fruit over pies and cakes!


Don’t ignore your cravings! I am by no means trying to steal the thunder from the barbecue. As you build healthy lifestyle habits, you will find yourself gradually leaning towards these types of food anyways, and choosing healthier options becomes second nature.


Now’s the time to put your apron on, grab those tongs, fire up the grill and enjoy the last little bit of summertime. I’ve included a few delicious, healthy side dish options for your enjoyment courtesy of Fitness Magazine™! (



Grilled Red Pepper Salad


Tomato, Corn, and Avocado Salad with Spicy Vinaigrette


Cauliflower Mac and Cheese with Golden Bread Crumbs