Every summer, people across the U.S. start up their grills and enjoy summer barbeque’s with family and friends. Good times, to be sure! However, too often, these affairs are not particularly healthy and many people simply believe that a good ol’ fashioned BBQ is not a healthy meal. So, the point of today’s article is to prove that line of thinking wrong. I believe that a summer BBQ can be healthy and tasty.
Start your BBQ planning by considering your protein sources. And with respect to your choice of protein, it’s important to consider the long term health affects of what you are eating. With that in mind, poor choices would include any type of processed meats, which means say “NO” to hot dogs and many sausages, as processed meats have been shown to increase the probability of cancer.
With respect to media reports about non-processed red meat increasing the chances of getting cancer, most of that is significantly overblown. However, there is a very small risk, and most importantly, there is a way to reduce that risk to almost zero. Marinading meat in a blend of healthy fats, herbs and spices has the effect of canceling out cancer risk. Marinades work great on steaks, pork tenderloins, kebabs, chicken and fish. These should be your go-to choices.
A quick word on burgers. Personally, I love burgers but for the purposes of this article, I can’t include them on the “go-to” list. I can’t say they are entirely unhealthy either, however, as they are a far better choice than hot dogs. Burgers don’t tend to be great choices for marinades, but even more important is “the ketchup effect”. Most people eat their burgers with ketchup and ketchup is loaded with sugar. It’s a truly awful product, to be perfectly honest. For the same reason, I can’t advocate ribs smothered in traditional BBQ sauces, which also tend to be high in sugar.
On the other hand, if you have to have a burger, and you can have it with salsa instead of ketchup, then that’s a different story. Salsa is a great condiment choice, not only on burgers but lots of other proteins.
Traditional sides include potato salad, potato chips, cole slaw and baked beans. We can improve on this as well. The main issue with potato salad and cole slaw is not the potatoes or the cabbage/carrot combination. The issue is the soy-bean oil-based mayo. Soy is horrible for your health. One solution would be spend a little more money to get a non-soybean oil-based mayo (consider this an investment in your health). Another solution would be to make your own homemade mayo, but if you choose this route, make sure to use organic, cage-free eggs. No commercial eggs!
Rather than potato chips, toss some pre-washed potatoes and/or sweet potatoes in the oven or microwave until soft. Then slice them in half, drizzle with olive oil and season with a bit of salt or garlic salt, and grill them. My suggestion would be to put them around the perimeter of your grill to prevent burning. Grill until browned and warm. Eat with a pat of butter or a little more olive oil. Delicious and so much healthier than potato chips.
Commercial baked beans are loaded with sugar. If you tolerate beans well from a GI perspective, baked beans can certainly be a healthy choice, but you have to lose the sugar. Make your own and use a combination of honey and molasses, which are healthier sugar choices. You can probably cut the total volume of sugar in half as well. Another good tip – make your baked beans with some bacon. Bacon has a strong flavor that will compensate for the lack of sugar.
Other good choices for sides include a tossed salad. To get fancy, you could grill some of the veggies, including the lettuce (romaine works best for this application). Another good choice might include a broccoli salad (broccoli, bacon, raisins, a little shredded cheese, tossed in a red wine vinegar).
Clearly, the most common beverages are beer, iced tea and soda. Having a beer or two at your summer BBQ is fine if that works for you. However, more than 2 beers is never a good idea and if you have some weight to lose, consider water. Commercial iced tea mixes have a ton of sugar in them. Make your own!! It’s super simple, doesn’t take a lot of time and sugar free. If guests need a little sweetness, offer packets of stevia, which is an herb and better than HCFS (which is what you’ll likely find in most commercial mixes). Finally, soda – absolutely horrible for your health. Find a way to stay away from it, if you can. Seltzer is a good compromise. Make a conscious choice to drink water when you can.
Say no to ice cream, cake and cookies. Invest some time in yourself and your family’s health and make some healthy desserts. My go-to dessert is fruit. Either a lovely fruit salad or watermelon. If you must have other choices, make a homemade, high protein, low sugar ice cream. I have made various types over the past few years and they are absolutely phenomenal and easy to make.
Additionally, pass on the deli cookies, supermarket cakes and Oreos. Seriously. Those are all crap. Make some paleo cookies – low in sugar, high in protein.
I hope you have found this article to be though-provoking and useful. All of these suggestions will make for a much healthier summer BBQ without giving up any flavor or taste. Also, keep in mind that this is not an “all or nothing” proposition. If you don’t have time to make homemade chocolate chip ice cream, that’s not an excuse to make the entire meal unhealthy and serve up hot dogs, potato chips, cookies and Budweiser!!! Do what you can. Do your best. And most of all, enjoy your summer with good food, family and friends!!!
One final note: if you are interested in recipes for any of the foods mentioned above, include marinades, salads, iced tea or desserts, feel free to drop me a line. I’m happy to share!