Summer: ‘tis the season for cookouts! While a typical BBQ can include some not-so-healthy menu items (hello, hot dogs!), it doesn’t have to be that way. Follow these tips to keep your backyard grilling light, healthy, nutritious—and fun!
Taste the best flavors of the season.
In Maine, summertime means plenty of local produce at its peak of flavor and freshness. Now’s the time to indulge! Bring along in-season veggies from the farmers’ market or your garden, fill your plate with fruits and veggies first, and offer some vegetables to the grillmaster.
Simply add a light coat of olive oil and herbs to grillable veggies like red peppers, corn on the cob, zucchini, cherry tomatoes, mushrooms, cauliflower, and eggplant; place directly on a hot grill, on a kebab, or atop a piece of tinfoil; and roast until tender and brown for a delicious, easy dish everyone can enjoy.
You can even add fruit to the grill for dessert! Peaches, plums, and nectarines are grill classics. Try a sprinkle of nutmeg before they go on or add some fresh mint sprigs afterwards for a taste that can’t be beat.
Go lean—or vegetarian.
Although some traditional fare at BBQs is loaded with fat, salt, sugar, and calories, a healthy barbecue can be had.
- Pork has more cholesterol and fat than poultry.
- Hot dogs contain unhealthy nitrates and a heavy dose of sodium.
- Try lean cuts of meat, such as grilled chicken, turkey burgers, or fish.
- Keep your protein portion small—about the size of your palm.
- Opt for a vegetarian meal: tofu, tempeh, bean-based burgers, and portobello mushrooms are healthy alternatives that are easy to grill up. Consider marinating vegetarian proteins first for even more flavor.
“What can I bring?”
Many of us are trying to eat healthy these days. But what can you do when mayo-laden potato salads, bags of chips, and soda pop are there for the taking?
One simple trick for eating healthy at summer gatherings is to offer to bring a dish you know is healthy and help yourself to it. Chopped salads, veggies and a yogurt-based dip, or watermelon are all good choices. Browse our collection of healthy recipes for more inspiration.
Beverage choices abound at parties. Rather than sugary or alcoholic drinks like soda or beer at your next outdoor bash, drink plenty of water. It’s the heart-healthiest answer to “What would you like to drink?” Consider adding a slice of lemon or lime or some fresh herbs to make it feel more festive. Or mix up a batch of cool and refreshing Watermelon Lemonade.
Add a side of exercise.
Look for fun ways to add some movement to your cookout. Break out a croquet game, set up Twister, play family-friendly Mother May I?, or simply invite others along on a walk. Being outside with friends and family is great for your health—enjoy it!