But there are plenty of options that are lower in calories and fat, and loaded with far more nutrition than typical fare. Here are just a few of our healthy barbecue favorites from our chefs. Full of crowd-pleasing flavor, they’re sure to make you and your guests forget that the old standbys took a vacation.
Serve a Satisfying Starter
A little something to nosh on while the grill is getting fired up is always appreciated, but you can satisfy your barbecue-goers better if you skip the heavy, empty-calorie sour cream and onion dip and potato chips. Instead, kick things off by scooping low-calorie Red Bell Pepper Hummus or Fatoosh Salad onto some grilled whole-grain pita slices. The protein they pack will better tame rumbling stomachs (and with far less fat and sodium).
Chef’s Tip: Lightly brush the whole pita with olive oil and place on the grill. Then, slice into “chips” or wedges and serve.
Try a Mocktail
While some of your guests may always reach for a cold beer, novelty non-alcoholic drinks provide them with fun, tasty options to enjoy that are less caloric and far more hydrating and healthy. The refreshing H2-Tini puts extra watermelon you may have left over from making a fruit salad to good use!
Chef’s Tip: To avoid watering down your mocktails, allow guests to put ice in their own drinks instead of adding it to beverage pitchers.
Rethink Your Burgers
Beef isn’t the only option when it comes to grilling a hearty burger. You’ll still get plenty of protein when you opt for a chicken or turkey burger—and less saturated fat. Salmon Burgers offer the same benefits, plus good-for-you omega-3 fatty acids that help fight inflammation and promote heart health. Mushroom Burgers—another protein alternative—provide a satisfying, meaty texture and are low in fat and sodium.
Chef’s Tip: Choose whole-grain buns, rather than the standard potato rolls, and offer organic ketchup, fresh lettuce, tomatoes, onion slices, salsas and other healthy toppers.
Savor Seafood Fillets
The occasional London Broil is a fine healthy barbecue choice; we recommend grass-fed beef, which is leaner with less fat and, therefore, fewer calories per ounce than regular corn-fed beef. But fish is another great, often-forgotten-about grilling option, with salmon and trout being good sources of omega-3 fatty acids. Searing seafood is quick and simple, and it brings out a smoky flavor in the fish that may even be appealing to those who typically don’t care for it. Try recipes like Grilled Tuna with Watermelon Salsa or Salmon with Peppered Balsamic Strawberries for a fruity twist. Our Cinnamon-Soy-Glazed Mahi Mahi with Asian Pear Salsa offers unique flavor, including a touch of sweetness from cane sugar.
Chef’s Tip: To prevent your fish (particularly thinner types, like tilapia) from falling apart on the grill, consider leaving the skin on your fillets or using a wooden grilling plank. (Soak the board in water for two hours prior to use.) There’s no need to flip the fish when it’s cooked these ways.
Sideline Typical Sides
Lighten things up with twists on typical recipes: Try our Fat-Free Cole Slaw, Fat-Free Potato Salad or our Southwest Pasta Salad. Or, serve up grilled veggies instead. Since this preparation takes just minutes, it retains most of the vegetables’ vitamins and nutrients. Choose a variety, like bell peppers, onions, tomatoes, corn, eggplant, summer squash and zucchini, for a great combination of flavors. Or opt for something more out-of-the-box, like our low-calorie Roasted Tomatoes with Radicchio.
Chef’s Tip: Lightly coat vegetables with olive oil to prevent sticking and skewer smaller pieces, like cherry tomatoes, for easier handling. Cut round foods, like onions and eggplant, into thin, circular pieces to make them easier to flip with a spatula or tongs.
Put a New Spin on Sweets
Instead of the usual brownies for dessert, which are usually full of butter and added sugar, turn fruit into an unforgettable healthy barbecue finale. Heating up pineapple, peaches or strawberries on the grill releases their juices and causes natural sugars in the fruit to caramelize, leaving you with a decadent treat even kids will clamor for. Plums are the star of this Grilled Fruit with Honey Cinnamon Yogurt recipe.
Chef’s Tip: Be sure to clean the grill grates before adding your fruit to get rid of any lingering main course flavors.