4 Easy Tips For a Healthier Summer Barbecue
Summer is here and it’s time for grillin’ and chillin.’ Whether it’s a July 4th barbecue or another gathering, food will be aplenty—burgers, chips, sweets and more.
Depending on your health goals and needs, a barbecue may be your time to eat whatever you want. Or maybe you want to enjoy some grub without the food coma or questionable ingredients.
From recipes to tips and food swaps, we’ve got four easy, delicious ways to health-ify your summer hangout so you can nourish yourself while you have fun.
Have better burgers and meat
Store-bought meats can be loaded with antibiotics and additives like nitrates and nitrites that have been linked to serious health conditions. Here are some alternatives that have benefits.
How to have it:
- Try grass-fed or organic meat. Grass-fed beef is better in terms of health, flavor and sustainability since cows are fed a diet that is better and more natural for them. Organic meats like chicken, burgers and sausages have less antibiotics than non-organic meats. Pick up some quick-grilling grass-fed or organic burgers or sausages at the store or make a recipe like these honey lime chicken kebabs.
- Want to go the non-meat route? Hilary’s brand has a bunch of delicious, organic, gluten-free veggie burgers in flavors like curry veggie, black rice and “world’s best veggie burger.”
- Add sauerkraut. Top your burger, sausage or hot dog with some tangy sauerkraut for extra flavor and probiotics (good bacteria for your body and brain). Try Farmhouse Culture or a brand with live active cultures.
Get veggie with it
Try vegetables a variety of ways to get extra vitamins, minerals and fiber that nourish your body and mind. Veggies can get a bad rap as being bland or boring, but it doesn't have to be that way. Prep and season them different ways and enjoy the possibilities.
How to have it:
- Grill 'em up. Make kebabs or throw some thick sliced zucchini, eggplant or fennel on the grill to bring out the flavor. Then drizzle with a simple balsamic vinaigrette if you like. You can put grilled veggies on your burger too.
- Grill your salad. Yes, really. Raw veggies maintain more of their nutrients, but if you don’t feel like raw greens, grill a head or two of romaine lettuce and garnish as you like with nuts, cheese, and dressing with healthier oil like olive or avocado oil.
- Cauliflower rice. Substitute rice or other starchy foods with cauliflower rice (just grated cauliflower) that’s easy and versatile. Top cauli rice with your grilled burger/meat and veggies for an easy, balanced dish that still screams summer. See another cauli rice idea below. Stores including Trader Joe’s, Sprouts and Whole Foods all sell fresh or frozen cauli rice that just needs to be cooked quickly on the stove.
Try Other Protein
Meat isn’t the only protein superstar. Lentils and beans have protein plus good carbs, fiber and more to help fuel your body and leave you feeling full without a lot of calories.
- What’s a barbecue without pasta salad? If you’re not digging the starchy, mayo-covered version, use gluten-free noodles from Banza, Explore Cuisine and Trader Joe’s packed with protein and fiber from beans or lentils in a lighter recipe. They still have the taste and texture of traditional pasta too!
Have fun with fruit
Fruit is naturally sweet, has beneficial vitamins and fiber and makes a great snack or dessert. Seasonal fruits like berries are high in antioxidants that help protect your cells and tend to have less natural sugars than other fruit.
How to have it:
- Make a medley of fresh strawberries, blueberries, blackberries and raspberries for a red and blue treat that’s bright and festive for 4th of July or any summer occasion.
- For a simple no-bake “fruit crisp” top fresh berries and/or sliced peaches with grain-free granola and a little sugar-free yogurt or low-sugar whipped topping. Or layer fruit, yogurt and granola for a parfait.
- Grill it! This is a barbecue after all. Make fruit kebabs or grilled peaches brushed with coconut oil and sprinkled with cinnamon.
- Top a salad with organic red and blue berries and non-dairy or organic dairy cheese for a seasonal red, white and blue salad.
Jessica Hamlin is an LA-born and bred journalist and editor who started taking pictures of food back when everyone used film cameras. A graduate of the Institute for Integrative Nutrition’s health coach training program, she’s passionate about wellness and enjoys making and discovering delicious and healthy food. Her work has appeared in Clean Plates, NPR affiliate KPCC, AOL, and Eater LA.