Healthy Barbecue Food Ideas for Summertime Grilling

Healthy Barbecue Food Ideas for Summertime Grilling

Summer is rapidly approaching, and that means one thing  backyard barbecue! Not only is it an American tradition, but it's also packed full of yummy foods that scream for a backyard grill to do them justice. But hamburgers and mac salad aren't super healthy. So here's the low-down on healthy barbecue food ideas to keep you feeling fit and fresh during your next backyard gathering.

The Skinny on Those Delicious Sides

From beautifully marbled rib eye steaks to baby back pork ribs, from slow-smoked chicken to traditional cheeseburgers, the variety of goodies rolling off the grill is seemingly endless. Throw in some classic side dishes such as smoky, bacony baked beans, super cheesy mac and cheese made from scratch, creamy potato salad, and grilled corn on the cob, and you've got a feast fit for a king.

You've also got a recipe for an unhealthy feast that you'll probably regret later when you feel lethargic and heavy. Backyard BBQ menus tend to be heavy on red meats (rib eyes, brisket, beef hamburgers) and sides slathered with sour cream, mayonnaise, and cheese that shoot up the calorie count exponentially. That's before you add the buns, fries, and chips!

Don't sell your grill just yet! You can stick to your healthy eating principles and still enjoy the backyard BBQ. Break your meal plan into three main parts, making each a healthy array of goodies: proteins for the main course, a tantalizing array of side dishes, and a choice of sweet desserts.

Healthy BBQ Foods You'll Love

Serving up healthy choices at your backyard BBQ is as simple as building your menu. Offer a variety of dishes that let your guests fill their plates with lean proteins, an assortment of veggie-centric sides with lots of colors and textures, some whole grains, and a smorgasbord of fruits for something sweet to top it all off. 

Let's look at some examples of healthy choices for a BBQ.

Healthy BBQ Proteins

A good BBQ has to have a choice of protein dishes. An offering or two of red meat isn't bad, as consuming a small portion of steak or brisket isn't a health risk per se. The problem comes when you consume half the cow! 

Here are some suggestions for healthier proteins you can serve hot off the grill:

  • Grilled salmon or salmon burgers. These delicious proteins are high in omega-3 fatty acids. 
  • Ground turkey burgers. Make hamburgers like you normally would, but substitute ground turkey. Cook them the same as you would beef burgers. These will be much lower in fat and taste as yummy as you expect a grilled burger to taste — so long as you season it well!
  • Lean cut of steak. The key here is the word "lean." Make sure to trim as much fat as you can before grilling.
  • Grilled chicken breast. Throw these on the grill whole or cube them up for kabobs with peppers, onions, and mushrooms. You'll have protein, vitamins A and C, iron, zinc, and potassium all lined up on a tidy skewer.
  • Shrimp. An excellent grill choice, coming in at about 100 calories and 20 grams of protein in a 3-ounce serving. You'll also get a dose of phosphorus, calcium, potassium, and magnesium. 

Healthy BBQ Side Dishes

A BBQ is like any other meal, requiring all three macronutrients — carbs, fats, and proteins — to be balanced. Here are some popular examples of healthy sides you can offer to your BBQ guests.

  • Grilled vegetable skewers. You can use whatever's in your fridge to make the colorful, flavorful side choice. Grilled veggies retain their nutrients, including high levels of antioxidants. You can spice them up with sprinkles from your spice rack.
  • Grilled broccoli. Broccoli's benefits include reduced inflammation of chronic diseases, and it is rich in vitamins C, K, and A, as well as folate and magnesium.
  • Grilled mushroom skewers. Mushrooms are rich in anti-microbial, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, anti-bacterial, and anti-viral. They're also high in yummy flavor.
  • Grilled cauliflower skewers. Like broccoli, cauliflower is full of vitamins, minerals, and nutrients. One cup of cauliflower provides about 77% of daily vitamin C requirements and 20% of daily vitamin K needs. 
  • Grilled sweet peppers with goat cheese. Mini peppers have a high vitamin C content, and goat cheese is an excellent meat-free source of protein, as well as calcium and phosphorus.
  • Red cabbage slaw. Few things are as refreshing as red cabbage slaw. It provides a light, flavorful crunch and is packed with vitamin A, helps balance blood sugar, and provides antioxidants from the spring onion, parsley, and chili.
  • Sweet potato wedges. You can throw these on the grill or roast them in the oven. Either way, you'll soak up vitamin A and some good minerals. 

Healthy BBQ Desserts

Have you ever tried grilled fruit? The grill's heat gives the fruit a smoky-sweet flavor and delicious caramelized texture. Whether you use a grill-safe baking dish, skewer fruit on kebabs, or throw it straight on the grill, it can be ready in minutes. Just a few of the choices you can offer your guests:

  • Grilled plums. Grilling boosts the natural sweetness, and the cut sides will caramelize over the grill. Sprinkle with a bit of cinnamon or add a scoop of ice cream.
  • French grilled watermelon. Watermelon takes on a smoky-sweet flavor on the grill — season with a little salt and some lime juice.
  • Grilled apple and brie flatbread. This makes an amazing appetizer and is easy to prepare on the grill. Spice it up with honey, walnuts, and thyme.      
  • Grilled pineapple slices. For the adults on your guest list, flavor these pineapple slices with tequila or rum basting. Add cinnamon, vanilla, and a little sugar to amplify the natural sweetness.  

Now Make Use of These Healthy Barbecue Ideas

Now that you know how to make your next BBQ a bit healthier, it's time to start grilling. Check out Tiger Fitness for more information and tools for health and fitness.

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