How to Eat Healthy at a Barbecue

When it's time to grill, use these strategies to stay on track.
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We all know the importance of a healthy diet in keeping our bodies in optimal shape, but we also know how delicious food can be, especially at a barbecue. The aromas wafting from the grill alone can be enough to make our mouths water. And when the spread is ready, it’s easy to pile our plates high with the good stuff.

Photo Credit: Stephanie McCabe

Photo Credit: Stephanie McCabe

There’s no reason to leave a barbecue feeling guilty, though. If you know what you’re doing, it’s totally possible to eat healthy and thoroughly enjoy your food.

Follow these five tips to satisfy your barbecue itch and remain on your health streak at the same time.

1. Always Start With Vegetables

Yes, just like mom and dad used to say, you should eat your veggies first. If you aren’t one for filling up on raw carrots and cauliflower, consider bringing your own produce to throw on the barbecue. You also can stick to this advice by loading up your burger with lettuce, onions, tomatoes and any other veggies you enjoy.

2. Consider Fish, Poultry or Veggie Burgers

Contrary to popular belief, steak and burgers do not have to be the star of every barbecue. Fish, chicken and turkey are all excellent alternatives to red meat. All these cook well on a charcoal grill, though the type of grill you have can make a huge difference in the quality of your food. (Check out this charcoal grilling advice!) If you do go for red meat, purchase high-quality, lower-fat options.

3. Watch Your Condiments

Many of us grew up eating burgers with our ketchup — rather than ketchup with our burgers. But the amount of hidden sugar in this condiment is staggering. Adding condiments like barbecue sauce, ranch, mayonnaise and ketchup can turn a healthy meal into an unhealthy one quickly. If you’re craving condiments, try mustard or ketchup with no added sugar.

4. Bring Your Own Side Dishes

Every thoughtful guest brings the host or hostess a gift, and barbecues don’t have to be an exception. Instead of a bottle of wine or six-pack, bring a healthy side dish or two, or some extra veggies to grill!

5. Opt for Fresh Fruit Desserts

Whether you’re the chef or a guest, add some fruit to your meal as your dessert. It only takes a couple of minutes to cook most fruit on a grill, and the sweetness will really come through.

If you really want to be the life of the party, take a mix of fruits and create a fruit kebab for everyone. Cut up some bananas, peaches and pineapple, rotate on a kebab stick and grill until caramelized. Let them cool slightly and serve!

6. Eat Well and Enjoy Yourself

Adhering to a healthy lifestyle doesn’t mean you have to turn down invitations to barbecue with your friends. Eating nutritious food can still be delicious, as long as it’s on your terms.

Fill up on veggies, keep your sweets all natural, limit your fatty meats and condiments, and bring foods you know you can eat. Then enjoy the company, the food and the day as you make memories that will last long after the meal is over.

Be sure to grill your food at the right temperatures so your meat is safe for everyone to consume. Here’s an excellent resource for grilling times that you can keep at your fingertips:

Grilling-Time-and-Temperature

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