The Balanced Barbeque

With Father’s Day just ending and the 4th of July right around the corner, it is clear we have entered barbeque season.  We race towards the weekend when we can hang with family and friends, have some fun, get outside, and enjoy the sun.  Backyards and grills become an integral part of summer, where we often grab some steaks, burgers, and cold lemonade.  BBQs are great times to enjoy nature, but can also be occasions to eat lots of high-fat, high-calorie, and high-sodium foods.  A regular dose of cheeseburgers, macaroni and cheese, and apple pie will quickly destroy any dreams of staying slim for the summer months.  BUT don’t worry:  First of all, all items are ok in moderation.  One bite, or one bad meal, will not ruin your waist.  Second, I am going to walk you through all the elements of a BBQ to make sure yours is the best and most balanced for a fun, tasty grilling season.  Let’s start with the main entrée, the protein.  We will tackle the others in following posts.

Powerful Protein:  Hamburgers piled high with cheese and juicy foot-long hot dogs are staples of the typical BBQ, but unfortunately they are packed with calories and fat.  Instead try a leaner meat that provides more protein and fewer calories.  Great options include: grilled chicken breasts (without the skin), ostrich burgers, bison burgers, garden burgers, turkey burgers, or even tuna, salmon, or crab patties.   Grilling turkey sausages instead of beef or pork sausage provides great taste without the added calories and fat.  If you want to keep beef in you BBQ day make sure you get ground beef with less than 10% fat.  Tenderloins, strip steaks, and filets are leaner options, as is pork, the “other white meat”.  Remember:  a healthy serving of protein is the size of your palm, and no bigger than your entire hand if you choose a lower-calorie option such as fish. The garden where the vegetables are taken, has beautiful a heavy duty plant caddy.

Replace chicken wings, ribs, and fatty steaks with skinless chicken breast, fish/chicken and vegetable kabobs, or a salmon or halibut steak.  Grilled shrimp and tuna are also a great alternatives.  Fish can be cooked on the grill, drizzled in olive oil, lemon juice, topped with tomatoes, and peppers, wrapped up in tin foil and cooked on the grill.

Grilled Fish Steaks

  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 6 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 (6 ounce) fillets halibut


  1. In a stainless steel or glass bowl, combine garlic, olive oil, basil, salt, pepper, lemon juice, and parsley.
  2. Place the halibut filets in a shallow glass dish or a resealable plastic bag, and pour the marinade over the fish. Cover or seal and place in the refrigerator for 1 hour, turning occasionally.
  3. Preheat an outdoor grill for high heat and lightly oil grate. Set grate 4 inches from the heat.
  4. Remove halibut filets from marinade and drain off the excess. Grill filets 5 minutes per side or until fish is done when easily flaked with a fork.

Grill Tip:  Pre-made spice mixes may be high in salt and preservatives and often lack taste.  Instead of using these, try making one yourself that contains all your favorite flavors.  A basic blend includes picking your favorite herbs and spices, mixing them together, and transferring them to an airtight container (which can be stored up to 6 weeks).   Mix your blend with oil and vinegar for an instant marinate that can be used on fish, steaks, chicken, and pork.  But STOP:  Don’t forget the unbelievably mouthwatering delight of eating marinated vegetables; examples are squash (butternut, yellow, summer), onions, eggplant, peppers, asparagus, zucchini, corn on the cup, or mushrooms.  You can marinate your protein and vegetable by placing them in a plastic bag with the spices, oil and/or vinegar and keeping in the fridge for at least one hour before grill time.

Below are a couple of examples:

Beef Seasoning (Steak or Burgers)

Spicy Montreal Mix (makes 1 cup)
1/4 cup kosher salt
1/4 cup ground black pepper
1/4 cup granulated onion
2 tablespoons chili powder
2 tablespoons garlic powder

Pork Seasoning (Ribs, Tenderloin, or Chops)

Smoky Fennel Mix (makes about 3/4 cup)
1/4 cup kosher salt
1/4 cup ground black pepper
2 tablespoons celery salt
2 tablespoons smoked paprika
1 tablespoon ground fennel

No Salt Seasoning
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon paprika
1 tablespoons dry mustard
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon celery seed

Absolutely Ultimate Marinade
1 bunch green onions, chopped
8 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons tahini
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
Make Your Own Grill Seasonings

Grilling Temperatures:  Cooking food for friends and family can be extremely fun and rewarding, but you never want to risk making your guests ill  It is important that the meat is getting cooked properly and meeting the correct temperature.  Before firing up that grill, make sure you have a working meat thermometer handy to test meat before serving.  Below you will find the internal temperature the meat needs to reach for a minimum amount of time to kill all bacteria and microorganisms.

  • Pork, veal, beef, lamb, bison Steak/chops: 145°F for 15 seconds
  • Ground meat (hamburger): 155°F for 15 seconds
  • Poultry: 165°F for 15 seconds
  • Stuffed meats: 165°F for 15 seconds
  • Seafood: 145°F for 15 seconds
  • Salmon or fish burger:155°F for 15 seconds

Tell us your favorite healthy BBQ recipe!

The Sweet Side of Barbeques

The 4th of July is behind us, but the summer barbecue season is still in full swing.  Let’s not forget about the sweet endings.

You don’t have to skip dessert!  For some, a barbecue is not complete without a sweet finish, which brings us to desserts.  Pies and cakes can topple any healthy BBQ or diet plan, so make sure you are providing alternative options throughout every course.  Grilled or fresh fruit topped with fat-free yogurt is a great treat; try pineapple, peaches, mangoes, or papayas on the grill.  Chocolate covered fruit and frozen fruit are also great desserts and snacks.  Instead of serving ice cream, use frozen yogurt with fruit toppings.   Serve large slices of watermelon, cantaloupe, or honeydew, or serve a large mixed berry and fruit salad.  The popularity of this item may surprise you!

Crumble Tip. Instead of making a pie, try a crumble.  It has less sugar and butter, but still tastes great.   When selecting a fruit, choose and in-season berry to make your dessert even more mouthwatering.  The website 20 Low fat desserts has a list of 20 great, low calorie dessert recipes.  Check out the apple fig compote, as it is divine!

Refreshing Drinks:  We have been hit with a heat wave this summer and it is important that there is always enough water and fluids available.  It is common for children and the elderly to not recognize signs of thirst and easily become dehydrated. 

Water Alternatives:  There are many individuals who do not enjoy the taste of water and turn to beverages that contain empty sugar calories:  soda, iced tea, lemonade, sports drinks, and fruit juices.  Here are some clever inexpensive ways to give water a makeover that everyone will love.  Serve pitchers of fruit infused iced water, or “aguas frescas.  One pitcher could be sliced cucumbers with mint and lime and another with sliced lemon, oranges, andstrawberries.   Click here for a great recipe:  Peach Aquas Frescas.

Remember that BBQs are wonderful summer traditions that can easily be made over into healthy food festivities.  Try these recipes out and let me know what you think.

Share any healthy BBQ recipe that you love!

Buns, Beans, and Macaroni: the BBQ Carbohydrates

When we think about food served at a BBQ, meat is almost always the first image that comes to mind.  However when you take a closer look, you will notice that the meat is always accompanied by a slew of carbohydrates.  You may see pasta salads, macaroni and cheese, rolls, hamburger and hotdog buns, corn, potatoes, and beans.  Carbohydrates, which include bread products, grains, rice, and starchy vegetables, are an important part of a balanced meal and a successful BBQ.  Nevertheless, healthy, whole grain carbohydrate choices are important. They provide more fiber, vitamins, and minerals, while allowing one to feel satiated faster, stay full longer, and decrease the chance of over eating.

Bread Tip:  Choose whole grain hamburger and hot dog buns for the BBQ.  A great way to reduce carbs is to use only half of a bun with your meat.

 Pasta Salad, hold the Mayo please:  Pasta salad is swimming in hidden calories that’ll hinder you from keeping your summer shape.  Here is great recipe to add to any outdoor festivity that incorporates a whole grain pasta choice and vegetables.

Rainbow Butterfly Pasta Salad

1 cup bow tie whole grain, whole wheat, or rice pasta

3 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil

1 cup chopped red pepper

1 cup chopped green pepper

2 medium carrots, shredded (about 1/2 cup)

1 medium yellow squash, chopped

1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese (about 1 ounce)



Cook the pasta as the label directs. Drain and toss with 1 teaspoon olive oil to prevent sticking; let cool.

In a large bowl, toss the cooled pasta with the bell pepper, yellow squash, and carrots. Drizzle with the remaining 3 tablespoons olive oil and toss to coat. Add the parmesan and 1/4 teaspoon salt; toss again and season to taste.

Starchy Vegetables:  Instead of serving a pasta salad or baked potato, substitute a sweet potato or yam as a healthy nutrient rich side.  Roasted corn on the cob or squash are also delicious starchy sides that will satisfy your guests without adding to their waist line.  Try this delectable dish!


Roasted Squash Medley

5 Servings

2 Peeled and Chopped Butternut Squashes

2 sliced white onions

1 chopped Zucchini

1/3 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1 Tbs Salt

1 Tbs Pepper

  • Chop up vegetables, squash should be in cubes.  Place all vegetables in a bowl, add olive oil and spice; mix.
  • On a baking sheet, lay out the vegetables.
  • Grill or bake at 375°F for 20 minutes. Vegetables should be tender.


Beans:  Beans a healthy carbohydrate packed with protein and nutrients, and can be added to many different dishes at an outdoor event.  Instead of a pasta salad, make a bean salad or black bean dip.  Canned beans are certainly convenient for summer cookouts and parties; unfortunately they can be a deceivingly high-calorie side dish.  Make your own flavorful, lighter version with these recipes and tips.

  • Start with canned beans like pinto or cannellini, look for the low sodium options, and rinse and drain them; this removes up to 40 percent of the sodium.  Place the beans, flavorings like ketchup, Dijon mustard, and/or fruit juice in a bowl. Transfer the mixture to a baking dish and bake until bubbly.  To add a zing, stir in fresh rosemary or thyme.  Instead of pork fat, add a sprinkle of smoked paprika or some spicy chipotle pepper to create that smoky flavor.

Vegan Baked Beans


  • 1 (16 ounce) package dry navy beans
  • 6 cups water
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cups chopped sweet onions
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 4 (8 ounce) cans tomato sauce
  • 2 tablespoons cider vinegar
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1 teaspoon dry mustard
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Directions (10 servings)

  1. Place beans and water in a large pot, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium, and continue cooking 1 hour, stirring occasionally, until beans are tender. Drain, and transfer to a large casserole dish.
  2. Preheat oven to 300 degrees F (150 degrees C).
  3. Heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Stir in the onions, and cook until tender. Mix in garlic, and cook until golden brown. Mix onions and garlic into casserole dish with the beans. Stir in the tomato sauce. Mix in vinegar, bay leaves, mustard, pepper, nutmeg, and cinnamon.
  4. Cover and bake 3 1/2 hours in the preheated oven, stirring frequently and adding water if necessary. Remove cover, and continue baking 30 minute

Post your favorite carbohydrate side recipe!

BBQ Take 2: Grilled Vegetables!


Make your barbeque synonymous with vegetables.  This is a greatway to meet your daily vegetable requirement.  Never let your burger go naked.  Dress it up with lettuce, tomato, grilled onions, zucchini, and pepper.  Encourage friends and family to try their meat on a whole grain bun with grilled eggplant, zucchini, red peppers, and mushrooms with a tapenade spread.   The grill is a great place to cook squash, Portobello mushrooms, asparagus, carrots, and eggplant.  Try the below recipe!

Eggplant and Pepper Tapenade


1 eggplant
2 medium red bell peppers

Slice the eggplant and red peppers and grill for 20 minutes or until the veggies become tender.  Place the grilled eggplant and red peppers into a food processor/blender, mix until it turns into a spreadable paste.  Use this spread on your burgers Instead of mayo or mustard for a healthy low-calorie option that has great taste.

Salad Tip: 
Do not forget to serve a large tossed salad as a side dish at your picnic table.  Mix spinach with sliced strawberries, oil and vinegar with sesame and poppy seeds on top to create a delicious summer salad, see this link for directions:  Spinach and Strawberry Salad.


Do you remember those seasoning and marinade recipes  we talked about before?  Use them on the vegetables to get the pickiest of eaters to gobble down their veggies.

Share your favorite salad or grilled vegetable recipe!

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