A Healthier Take on Summer BBQ

RVNAhealth nutrition programs

Q:  We love hosting summer cookouts. How can we make our favorite barbecue foods healthier?

A:  To put a fresh and healthy spin on your cookouts, skip the hot dogs, hamburgers, cole slaw and potato salad for lighter options that are trending now. Another reason to lighten up? Without all those mayonnaise-based dressings, your food will stay safer outside on a hot day. Here are some ideas to keep you both healthy and safe:

Lighten Up and Foil Fat with a “Foil Pack”

Opting for grilling favorites that are lower in saturated fat than burgers and hot dogs is the way to start. Go for grilled chicken breasts or lean chicken sausage and a healthier salad on the side. One of my favorite prep methods is the foil pack. Wrap individual portions of meat and veggies in foil and toss on the grill.  A cool no-cook salad with zucchini noodles – also known as zoodles – adds a modern touch. Recipes below.

Healthy Hydration

While you’re at it, lighten up your drinks. Hydration is particularly important in the summer, but alcohol and sugary drinks aren’t thirst quenching and can even cause dehydration. If plain water isn’t your thing, try infusing your water or seltzer with flavor. Add fresh fruits like citrus, berries, and pineapple. Even better, use frozen fruit to both chill and infuse your drink. When you’re finished, the fruit will be defrosted, and you can eat it as a snack!

Safety First

To keep summer buffet foods safe, serve hot foods immediately and keep cool foods chilled (put a salad bowl over ice, for example). Cover food and clean and remove the serving utensils when not in use. As an extra measure, keep hand sanitizer handy so folks can clean up before digging in.

These simple swaps and precautions will keep you and your barbecue healthy and safe all summer. Enjoy!

Try these recipes at your next cookout!

Chicken, Tomato, Corn Packs

For each serving, cut a 12” piece of foil and place a boneless, skinless chicken breast, ½ cup grape tomatoes cut in half, ¼ cup corn kernels, and minced garlic to taste. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon of avocado oil or canola oil, salt and pepper. Seal all sides of the foil and grill on high until the internal temperature is 170 degrees (approx. 20-25 minutes).

Caprese Zoodles

Toss 1 package of zoodles (found in the produce section of most grocery stores) with 2 tablespoons olive oil, salt and pepper. Let marinate for 15 minutes. Add 2 cups of cherry tomatoes cut in half, 1 cup of mozzarella balls, 1/4 cup of torn basil leaves, and 1 teaspoon dried oregano. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar.

Meg Whitbeck, MS, RD, is available for private consultations. For more information, contact RVNA at 203-438-5555.

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