Healthy and Grillicious: 5 Steps to a Great Summer BBQ
By Sarah Stevenson
Summertime and the living is easy. Swimming, surfing, fishing, and sun lounging fill your days. BBQs fill your nights. But all of those activities require some degree of exposed flesh, and you want to look good in that little white sundress or fitted V-neck T-shirt, so you need to be smart this summer. After all, you didn't eat healthy and work out all year just to waste it on a few summer parties full of junk food, right?
Of course, it's one thing to navigate through someone else's BBQ. Basically, you just avoid eating junk. But what happens when you're hosting your own party? A summer grill-up is a great time to show off lessons learned during your transformation into fitness. Why not host a body-beautifying BBQ? Here are some healthy, fun alternatives to your average waistline-busting fare. (Hint: If you're invited to a potluck, you can also use these great ideas to keep your platter healthy and nutritious.)
- Appetizers. These devilish little starters can be the naughtiest foods to sink your teeth into. In fact, it's probably best to skip most of these little fat bombs at a typical BBQ. The only saving grace of the first course is generally the veggie platter—as a health nut, you'll probably be spending a lot of time there. The only problem is, well, in a word, "Boring!" So instead of your basic carrot-celery-tomato-broccoli mix, add some multi-colored, phytonutrient-rich veggies you don't typically find on a boring old platter.
- Bell peppers. The brighter the pepper, the higher the concentration of antioxidants and vitamin C.
- Asparagus. Raw asparagus fancies up your platter, and it happens to be a great source of protein, calcium, iron, and vitamins A and C.
- Squash. Another vivaciously-colored and great-tasting veggie that you can sink your teeth into. They are also a great source of vitamins B1, B6, and C, folic acid, fiber, and potassium. Just like bell peppers, the richer the color, the richer the nutrients.
- Broccolini. Sometimes mistakenly called baby broccoli. Everybody loves babies, right? When it comes to broccolini's nutritional value, yes. Baby broccoli has a nice deep green color and contains protein, potassium, folic acid, calcium, iron, fiber, and vitamins A and C.
Add some hummus spiced up with a little garlic or cayenne to those veggies and really make them sing. Your platter will be the talk of the town (or gym).
- Drinks. What goes hand in hand with BBQs like beer? Truth is, it's not going to kill you to have a high quality craft brew or two, but that doesn't mean you need to host a frat party. Guests are going to bring booze. Guests are going to drink booze. The best you can do is have lots of healthy alternatives on hand. Fill pitchers with a variety of iced herbal teas. Offer plenty of water, and fill it with slices of fruit or cucumber to entice your guests to hydrate properly.
- Main course. Just think PROTEIN. (That veggie platter should have done you right for carbs.) Ditch the hot dogs and hamburgers and get a little creative. Processed meat is quite popular because it's quick, easy, and doesn't make a huge mess (except in your gut). Conversely, while fish is great for your insides, it can really mess up a grill. Here's a little trick. Choose a nice moist fish like mahi-mahi or salmon. Take a one-foot-by-one-foot square of aluminum foil and rub it with seasoning, lemon, and just a dash of olive oil. Place your piece of fish in the center, wrap it up (not too snug—give it a bit of room to breathe) and place it on the BBQ. You can cook up to five of these at a time, and if you keep them wrapped until the guests are ready to grub, they stay warm. Leave on the grill for 10 to 12 minutes and you have yourself a nice healthy meal. Fish is high in protein and an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids.
- Dessert. Summertime is the best time for healthy desserts, given all the yummy seasonal fruit on hand. Start by cutting a watermelon in half and scooping out all the contents. Then fill it with all types of fruit, like strawberries, blueberries, melon, bananas, peaches, plums, and kiwi. It is a super creative, fun summer dessert, and when you're done, you can use the leftovers for compost to feed your garden. Fruit is high in fiber, low in calories, rich in vitamins, and contains no fat.
- Entertainment. Most cookouts include a round of flag football, Frisbee®, or horseshoes. But you're working toward that BBQ of the Year trophy, so how about you finish the festivities with a boogie? Crank up the tunes, clear the floor, deck, or lawn, and make room for some dancing fools. Sure, you might get a few eye rolls at first, but all will be smiling pretty—and sweating pretty hard—by the end.
Admittedly, the above blueprint won't induce the artery-hardening bacchanalia we typically associate with BBQs. But it'll still be a heck of a party, and you'll have some pretty blissful guests knowing that they don't have to diet for the next week to make up for a fatty, sugary shindig. You can really influence others by showing them that a summer barbecue can be nice and healthy. There is no need to compromise your waistline for a good time.