Healthy Summer BBQ

( [email protected] ) Jun 12, 2004 12:16 AM EDT

High-fat, high-calorie favorites such as burgers and sausages aren’t the only foods on the BBQ menu. With summertime approaching, enjoying tasty meals outside with family and friends is a definite treat—but not necessarily an unhealthy one! From chicken kabobs to grilled vegetables, let Truestar show you all the healthy ways to enjoy your summer BBQ.

Meat, poultry, fish and soy

Follow these tips to prepare foods that are lower in saturated fat and cholesterol.

- Choose lean cuts of meat. Look for meats labeled “lean” or “extra-lean”.

- Choose fish and skinless poultry more often as they are generally lower in saturated “bad” fat than red meat. Avoid goose or duck as these are higher in saturated fat.

- Before you start the grill and begin cooking, spray the grill or foil with nonfat cooking oil spray.

- Limit fatty, processed meats such as bacon, hotdogs and sausages. For a good hotdog substitute, look for chicken, turkey or soy hotdogs which are usually lower in saturated fat and total fat than pork or beef. You could also look for “lean” beef hot dogs.

- Try vegetarian BBQ options such as veggie burgers, soy hotdogs, homemade ground soy burgers and barbequed tofu, which are lower in saturated fat and cholesterol. For more information on soy, click here.

- Avoid organ meats like liver, sweetbreads and kidneys, which are high in artery clogging cholesterol.

- If you opt for a bun with your burger or hotdog, choose wholegrain over white.

- Choose shellfish wisely. Shellfish may be lower in saturated fat but some varieties are high in cholesterol (shrimp, squid and oysters). Shellfish choices that are lower in cholesterol include scallops, mussels and clams.

Main dish recipe:

- Pineapple chicken kabobs

- BBQ fish sandwich


Grilled vegetables are a great side dish for the health conscious BBQ lover. Follow these tips for tasty and healthy grilled vegetables:

- Think color when choosing veggies. This will maximize the amount of vitamins in your meal.

- Spice up your veggies without salt by using seasonings such as garlic, onion, chives or pepper. Also, brush vegetables with a touch of olive oil, teriyaki sauce or your favorite marinade before putting them on the grill.

- Vegetable kabobs are a great outdoor menu option. Try kabobs with peppers, mushrooms, onions or other vegetables of your choice.

- Grilled asparagus and sweet corn are also delicious on the BBQ—just be sure not to add salt or butter!

Side dishes

Traditional summertime side dishes such as creamy coleslaw and potato salad are loaded with fat and calories. Try these healthier options:

- Enjoy a colourful leafy green salad with tasty additions such as fresh fruit, sesame seeds or nuts and balsamic vinegar and olive oil dressing.

- Have a baked or BBQ sweet potato instead of white potato. Sweet potatoes are loaded with more nutrients and disease-fighting compounds than white potatoes.

Side dish recipe:

- Healthy summer salad


- Grill slices of pineapple, peaches and nectarines for a sweet, lowfat dessert.

- Wrap bananas (in their skins) in tinfoil and place on the grill for about 10 minutes for a tasty, gooey banana dessert!

- Enjoy lowfat frozen yogurt or regular yogurt topped with grilled fruit and chopped nuts for a healthier treat.

- For more delicious and healthy desserts, see Tasty Truestar Desserts.

BBQ food safety

Food safety is always important, but even more so in the summer months when warm weather creates a perfect environment for bacteria to grow. Harmful bacteria in food can cause food-borne illness. Here are some important tips to keep safe:

- Always wash your hands with soap and water before handling food.

- Rinse fresh fish, meats and poultry in cool water to remove any bacteria that may have collected in their packaging.

- The #1 risk of food poisoning when barbequing is from raw and undercooked meat. Be sure to cook chicken, burgers, hotdogs and kabobs until they’re hot all the way through, the meat is no longer pink and juices run clear. However, do not cook them until they are charred and black. If they are charred or black, throw them away; these meats could contain cancer-causing substances.

- Keep raw and cooked meats separate as raw meat can contaminate the cooked meat. To prevent cross contamination: always wash your hands thoroughly after handling raw meat, use separate utensils for raw and cooked meat, never put cooked food back on the same plate that held raw food and don’t add sauce or marinade to cooked food if it has already been used with raw meat—reserve some marinade for basting.

- Research shows that high temperature charcoal grilling of foods that contain fat and protein, including BBQ favorites like hamburgers, hotdogs and chicken, can lead to the production of cancer-causing chemicals in the smoke called heterocyclic amines (HAs). To minimize the risk, you can precook foods and finish them off on the grill; less time spent on the grill means fewer cancer-causing agents in the meats. Also, choose leaner cuts of meat and trim the fat off meat because oil and fats often spark smoke (full of cancer-causing substances). You can also use a marinade to prevent burning and therefore reduce heterocyclic amine levels. One study even found that marinating chicken before grilling reduced HA levels by 90%. In addition, keep portions small to reduce cooking time and flip frequently.

- Be sure to keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold until it is time to eat them.

- Keep food covered whenever possible to protect it from insects, birds and pets, which can carry bugs.

- Throw food out if it has been sitting out for more than one or two hours. Perishable food is susceptible to bacteria growth.

- Wash fruits and vegetables carefully to get rid of any bacteria that may be on the outside skin.