Memorial Day is right around the corner, and for many of us, it’s the official start of the backyard barbecue season! It’s always fun to get together with family and friends for a nice communal meal of grilled meats, veggies, and sides. However, barbecue isn’t always known to be the healthiest type of food. This applies both to the cooking method, which causes carcinogens heterocyclic amine (HCA) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) to form, but also to the many sauces and fatty side dishes that often accompany barbecue.
Luckily, there are some really good alternatives that are both healthy and delicious. Here are a few of our favorite tips for eating barbecue that will help you eat well without sacrificing your health.
Skip The Sauce (Or Make Your Own)
First, let’s talk about barbecue sauce. That stick, sweet, and sometimes smoky concoction poured liberally over meat is tempting, but it’s also not so good for you. Today’s sauces are loaded in extra sugar and high-fructose corn syrup, making them nothing more than empty calories (as delicious as they may be). We highly recommend avoiding store-bought sauces, or at least ones that contain a lot of sweeteners. Alternatively, you can always make your own healthier version.
For those of us who prefer meatless diets, the barbecue can be a real minefield. Aside from avoiding meat, vegetarians and vegans often have to content with side dishes that are either full of fat, high in carbs, or both. However, thanks to some amazing innovations, there are now plant-based burgers that are quite convincing substitutes for the real thing. And if that doesn’t excite your palate, you could always make grilled cauliflower steaks, for example. The point here is that there are a lot of healthy options that you can choose from. Don’t be afraid to get creative!
Opt For Leaner Meats
Luckily, there are also alternatives for those of us who do enjoy a good steak. First, avoid ground meat, as that tends to have higher fat content. Or substitute lower-fat ground turkey for beef. You can also opt for leaner cuts of meat, using a marinade for a couple of hours to boost its flavor. Additionally, consider things like grilling chicken breast and salmon, both staples for a healthy backyard barbecue.
Improve Your Side Dishes
As mentioned above, side dishes at barbecues can be real problem for those looking to eat healthy (pasta salad drenched in mayo, anyone?). But there are a lot of healthier side dishes you can make that will both satisfy your tongue and your tummy. For example, white bean hummus makes a delicious veggie dip. If you want something creamy, use plain Greek yogurt like in this coleslaw recipe.