7 Steps To a Healthy Barbecue This Summer


Summer is synonymous with barbecuing for most of us, and often it’s a time when all that’s on offer are a few old fat-laden sausages and burgers.

But, barbecuing doesn’t have to equal unhealthy food! 

So, before you dust off your barbecue this summer, here are 7 tips to help you enjoy the BBQ season while still eating healthy…

1. Go for lean or extra lean meats
If your barbecue normally consists of fatty, processed meats why not try healthier options such as chicken, turkey or soy hot dogs?

When purchasing meat look out for those marked “lean” or “extra lean” at the supermarket, and remember to trim any visible fat prior to cooking.

Another delicious option is to serve fish of some description. You could go for monkfish cubes, with alternate chunks of mango, then drizzle with a little olive oil to cook, and served with wedges of lime.

Or, if salmon’s more your thing, place salmon fillets into separate sheets of foil to make individual parcels, squeeze some lemon juice over, wrap up and pop on the barbecue for around 10 minutes.

2. Add flavour with marinades
Try marinading meats for a few hours before you begin cooking to add delicious flavours without hiking up the calories too much.

Worcestershire sauce (2 tablespoons contain 30 calories), low sodium soy sauce (2  tablespoons contain 120 calories), lime juice, and tomato paste (2 tablespoons contain 40 calories), work really well.

3. Serve a vegetarian option
Why not break away from the not-so-exciting veggie burger vegetarian option, and do something a little different?

You could try grilling extra-firm tofu – it will work really well on a skewer with some vegetables.

Another option is to serve barbecued halloumi – this cheese is firm so it won’t melt when cooked, meaning you can slice or cube it to cook over the barbecue until browned on the outside, and soft on the inside.

4. Go for barbecued veggies
Barbecued vegetables are delicious, and it’s a great way to add more variation and colour to your party food.

Go for vegetable kebabs, or try wrapping different vegetables in foil and then popping straight onto the grill.

Whole mushrooms, corn on the cob, and asparagus spears barbecue really well. Or, if you’re making up kebabs try layering onion slices with aubergine, bell peppers, and zucchini, or any combination of your favourite veggies.

5. Serve wholegrains on the side
Rather than opting for the traditional white breads, rice and pasta on the side, go for wholegrain options instead.

Look out for wholegrain, seeded breads and baps at the supermarket, and make your own wholemeal pasta, brown rice, or buckwheat salads with lots of extra vegetables, rather than serving creamy store-bought coleslaw’s and potato salads.

Another wonderful side option for barbecuing is jacket potatoes. Again, wrap them in foil, and simply place directly onto the coals, then leave to cook for approximately one hour while you wait for everything else.

6. Control your portion size
Choosing healthier portions at the barbecue will obviously help you keep the calories at bay. Encourage everyone to eat healthier by serving smaller portions:

  • Go for extra-lean 1/4 pound burgers, rather than 1/2 pound patties
  • Choose quality over quantity – for example fillet steaks, lean chicken breasts and lean pork chops
  • Serve plenty of vegetables and salads with your meats
  • Slice larger cuts of meat, such whole pork tenderloin or roast meats thinly before serving

7. Go for healthy munchies
It’s really easy to put all your calorie counting out of sink by overdoing it with unhealthy snacks.

To make sure that doesn’t happen, serve nuts in their shells rather than potato chips or salted nuts. Pistachios are a great option with only 100 calories for about 30.

Also remember the fibre and protein content in nuts will help curb your appetite too.

You could also make up a large bowl of fresh fruit salad and serve with low fat yoghurt for everyone to snack on.

Or, to finish off your meal with a healthy sweet treat, serve barbecued bananas – when the charcoal starts to die down, wrap bananas in foil in their skins and pop on the shelf, leave for about 10 minutes then unwrap and enjoy!

What healthy foods do you serve at your barbecue?

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About Melanie
Melanie is a Registered Dietitian who started Dietriffic in March 2007. Her aim is to make good health attainable and sustainable, without guilt and torture, making her approach popular with those who desire a level-headed approach to good health. Have you got your copy of her free book yet?

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{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

John W. Zimmer July 9, 2009 at 3:42 pm

Hi Melanie,

I have just found out that I have to eat low-sodium due to high blood pressure… and most of the processed foods I am used to eating are off the menu! :(

Anyway it is kind of funny that I just bought a roast – cooked it up and sliced it into 4oz serving sizes for lunches. The lean – low calorie sandwich meats had way more salt content.

I’m still in the discovery mode and trying to come to terms with eating healthy unprocessed foods… probably a good thing.

Have you done a low-sodium post?

John W. Zimmer’s last blog post..Want to Lose Weight? Try a Low-Salt Diet!


MySensei July 15, 2009 at 12:33 am

Great tips! I am all about the grilled vegetables. Kabobs are a summer grilling staple in house, nothing beats a nice marinade, grilled veggies and brown rice! I think I am going to try out the jacket potatoes on the grill the next – sounds like a great idea!

MySensei’s last blog post..Ask the Experts – How Can I Get Past A Weight Loss Plateau?


Melanie July 15, 2009 at 11:45 pm

Hi John,
Best wishes for your new diet changes…I agree, probably a good thing you need to cut back on the processed junk! :-)

Quite a while back I wrote this article:

Totally agree, they are delicious. Hope the jacket potatoes go well!


Greg at Live Fit July 16, 2009 at 9:36 am

My wife and I absolutely love to cook veggies on the grill. We’ll cut up a head of cabbage, chopped asparagus and yellow squash. Wrap the whole thing in some aluminum foil with seasoning and toss it on the grill for 30-45 minutes. Delicious!

Greg at Live Fit’s last blog post..The Rise Of Albino Wheat – Whitewheat Bread


Melanie July 17, 2009 at 11:03 pm

Hi Greg,
Sounds absolutely delicious!! :-) Thanks for the tip.


nicholas July 19, 2009 at 4:39 am


So right on the last tip. Grilled fruits make a great dessert, but I’ve never tried bananas! Some of my favorites are pineapples, peaches, apples, pears, and mangos.

nicholas’s last blog post..Grilling Around the Net #3


Melanie July 21, 2009 at 4:01 am

Hi Nicholas,
These are great suggestions too – love the idea of barbecued mangoes!


Trevor March 19, 2010 at 9:10 pm

Traditional barbecues are generally unhealthy. Some studies have shown a link between barbecues and cancer. I am on a mission to replace all barbecues with gardenstoves – a cleaner, easier and healthier way to cook outside.


Melanie March 20, 2010 at 11:14 am

Hi Trevor,
What is a gardenstove?


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