Grilling season is going to be wrapping up in the next few months, but not before one of the biggest grill-out holidays of the season: Labor Day! Summer barbecues are a time to celebrate with good food. You can still have good food and be healthy at your barbecue.
Here are some healthy barbecue pointers that I follow for myself and my family:
Choose organic meats. My picks:
- Organic chicken breast or drumsticks (the drumsticks are only $3.00-$4.00 for 5 large pieces at Trader Joe’s)
- Organic, local, grass fed ground beef from Fruitful Yield (at about $5.00 per pound, it doesn’t cost much more than non-organic)
- Trader Joe’s 100% beef, nitrate- & nitrite-free hot dogs
- Applegate brand organic hot dogs, which can be found in many grocery stores
Choose whole grain or 100% whole wheat hot dog and hamburger buns
You can find these at any grocery store, and really, they don’t taste different. Especially with all the yummy grill flavor coming through, and of course condiments.
Choose produce from the farmers market
Add some veggies to your grilling repertoire. Right now in season there is plentiful corn on the cob, eggplant, yellow and green zucchini, onions, potatoes, fennel, all colored peppers, mushrooms, and more. If your kids are old enough, ask them to help wash and even chop some of the veggies for you into large pieces. Toss the veggies in olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Grill them, turning them once. After removing from the grill, drizzle a little balsamic vinegar over them and sprinkle with chopped parsley. Serve in a large dish- beautiful with all the colors!
Make fruit skewers with yogurt dip
Again, get your kids involved by having them help wash, portion, and skewer a variety of fruits. Be creative and make a rainbow of colors with different fruits. You can make a simple fruit dip with vanilla yogurt (or any fruit flavored yogurt really).
Try pasta salad instead of traditional potato salad
You can make a delicious, healthier version of pasta salad by using whole wheat pasta or quinoa, an olive oil and vinegar dressing, and plenty of veggies, olives, fresh herbs and spices to flavor it.
Of course, there will likely be a variety of not-so-healthy food choices at any barbecue. Make just one plate of food, and make it reflect the Healthy Plate Model: half of the plate filled with fruit and veggies, the other half split between whole grains and protein. Have a small dessert and drink water instead of soda.
Avoid over-cooking or charring foods on the grill, as this results in formation of cancer-causing compounds called heterocyclic amines (HCAs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). You can avoid these by cooking on lower flame for longer, pre-cook the meat a bit to decrease time needed on the grill, and trim off any charred pieces you do get.