Grilling season is here! With summer comes many get-togethers with friends and family for summer holidays, graduation parties, and other outdoor celebrations. Barbecues can be loaded with not so healthy choices of hot dogs, burgers, and desserts.
Signature barbecue foods tend to be processed and fatty meat products. Research has found that a higher consumption of processed meats is linked with high risk of heart disease. Other research has found that a high consumption of charred or well-done grilled meats may also increase risk of some cancers.
Have no fear! We have your top ten tips to hosting a healthy barbecue this summer!
1. Choose your protein - One of the biggest contributor to heart disease is that high saturated, fatty meat. Choose leaner proteins such as turkey burgers or chicken. We also love grilled fish like salmon or tilapia, which are full of heart healthy fats. Additionally, beans and legumes offer a great source of plant-based protein. Try out making your own black bean burgers like these here!
2. Aim for whole grain - When choosing buns for burgers or whipping up quick side dishes, opt for whole grain alternatives. Whole grains are a great source of fiber, which can help slow rises in blood sugar, keep you full longer, and promote digestive health. Make sure your whole grain breads and buns have the first word “whole” in the ingredient list on the back of the package. For more on whole grains, check out our blog article!
3. Grill up those seasonal vegetables - Grilling can be an excellent way to prepare seasonal vegetables. Most veggies can be tossed in some olive oil with a pinch of salt and thrown on some foil onto the grill. Try out some Missouri summer vegetables!
4. Pack a side salad - If you aren’t hosting the event, offer to bring a healthy salad or fruit salad so that you know you have an option for a healthy side. Greens are in season in the summer months in Missouri, making salads a perfect option. Chop up any mix of vegetables (and/or fruits) and bring a quick homemade dressing!
5. Prep fresh fruit - Fruit is a delicious and refreshing side for summer! We love making a fruit salad, grilling fresh fruit, or making a fruit based dessert. When grilling fruit, the natural sugars caramelize, giving them an extra, natural sweetness.
6. DIY Dry Rub - Rubs and seasonings can be extremely high in sodium. Many Americans consume too much salt through convenience foods, cured meats, and pre-made seasonings. Lower your sodium intake by making your own homemade rubs and seasonings. We recommend buying bulk seasonings and mixing different combinations into jars that you can have on hand. We love these combinations below from Cook Smarts.
7. Hydrate with H2O - Many barbecues tend to be accompanied by lemonade, sweet tea, sodas, or alcoholic beverages. These beverages add empty calories and do not offer many other health benefits. Stay hydrated in the summer months with good old water! Take a look at our creative tips to make water a bit more exciting.
8. Use the MyPlate Method - The MyPlate method focuses on ½ of your plate fruits and non-starchy vegetables, ¼ of your plate whole grains or starches, and ¼ of your plate lean proteins and nonfat or low-fat dairy. Build your plate with a whole grain bun, lean protein burger or fish, grilled vegetables or salad, and grilled fruit dessert!
9. Upgrade your Side Dishes - Try to health-ify your side dishes! Make coleslaw with a vinegar base instead of mayonnaise, add veggies to your pasta salad, bring guacamole or hummus with cut-up vegetables, or use plain Greek yogurt in your go-to potato salad recipe.
10. Indulge! Finally, don’t get so caught up in trying to be healthy that you don’t allow yourself to indulge. Choose indulgences mindfully. Pick foods that you truly enjoy; don’t just eat desserts you aren’t excited about just because they are available. Balance your indulgence by eating all of those delicious veggies and still giving yourself permission to eat those foods you love!
This summer, try out some of these tips for those upcoming barbecues! Choose vegetables where you can but also choose the foods you love in moderation! What tips do you plan on trying out this summer? Let us know in the comments below!
Let's Move! STL Dietitians