Summer is finally in full swing! That means getting outside and kicking off BBQ season! There is so much potential to keep it healthy at your patio parties, but it’s so easy to be deceived by some of your picnic favorites.
There are simple and delicious ways to substitute some not-so-healthy BBQ classics with options your friends and family will love. Chips and dips are notorious for hiding unwanted calories and sugar in what appears to be a somewhat healthy snack. In your sour cream-based dips, try using Greek yogurt as a healthy alternative. Lighten up homemade guacamole by cutting it with another vegetable like peppers or tomatoes. Skip the jarred salsas (which can be loaded with salt) and make your own fruit-based salsa, like a strawberry mango salsa, instead. If you’re ready to forgo chips and dip all together, set out crudités, a beautiful display of raw veggies seasoned with lime, salt, and chili powder.
Because so many great fruits and veggies are in season this summer, you can easily make vibrant, flavorful salads that your guests will love to eat. Watch out for salad dressings that may not be as healthy as you thought. I recommend making homemade vinaigrettes, which are super simple and don’t contain preservatives, colorings, and added sugars. You can even lighten up picnic staples like potato salads and coleslaws by making no-mayo alternatives with vinaigrettes and plenty of flavorful herbs. Try substituting sweet potatoes and other vegetables for a nutrient-rich twist on a classic potato salad.
While hamburgers and hot dogs have become synonymous with summertime barbeques, they don’t typically make the grade when it comes to healthy options. Replace traditional hot dogs for an uncured organic chicken dog with no nitrates or nitrites added. Or, if no one will miss the dog, cut it from the menu all together and try serving pork or shrimp skewers instead. You’ll know exactly what you’re serving your guests without any of those mysterious fillers. Skewers can be packed with vegetables, they don’t need a bun, and you can add your favorite sauces. Hamburgers may be even tougher to forgo, but the substitutes might be your next crowd-pleaser. All the not-so-healthy extras that come with a burger quickly add up in extra calories, fat, and sugar, so try serving grilled skinless chicken or lean steaks in their place. Grilled chicken and lean steaks are packed with flavor and lighter in calories, especially when seasoned with herbs and served with toppings like a salsa verde. If you must have burgers, there are tons of healthier burger options, such as turkey burgers and black bean burgers. Portobello mushrooms make a great vegetarian alternative to veggie burgers, which have fillers that aren’t so diet-friendly. Watch out for the condiments that are high in sugar, like ketchup and barbecue sauce, and fat, like mayonnaise. Mustard is a great substitute that has a variety of flavors that’s lower in fat and sugar.
Drinks and desserts round out a barbecue, but there are healthy options for these indulgences, too! Grilled fruits, such as pineapple and peaches, are in-season and delicious. Homemade popsicles are also nutrient-rich and a better option to the store-bought alternative. Piña coladas, long island ice teas, frozen margaritas, and many other summer drinks are practically desserts in a cup that are very high in calories and sugar. Avoid pre-made cocktail mixes that are high in sugar and preservatives and switch them out with fresh, homemade options. They’ll taste fresher and are healthier than the alternatives. Beer-drinkers can balance out beer intake by alternating with water. Wine-drinkers can lighten up their favorite drinks by mixing wine and club soda to make wine spritzers. A great non-alcoholic option is iced tea, unsweetened or sweetened with fresh fruit juice. This is a refreshing alternative to sugary lemonade and punch.
BBQs not only provide the opportunity to enjoy delicious food, refreshing drinks, and great weather, but also the opportunity to have fun while staying active. Instead of sitting around the table and drinking, pick up some yard games that guests of all ages will love. Corn hole, ladder ball, frisbee toss, and water balloon tosses are examples of fun yard games suitable for all ages. BBQs are also a perfect time for pick-up sports. You and your guests can team up to play softball, volleyball, basketball, or touch football. Kids and adults alike will love hula hoop and double-dutch contests too.
BBQs are the perfect way to spend time with the people you love while sharing the season’s best foods. When planning your next BBQ, don’t forget to keep it fun, fresh, and different while staying healthy.