Summer is a time to get out of the kitchen and fire up the BBQ! In my family, summer is also about planning for our 4th of July party between the parade and fireworks. What better excuse to invite over friends and family than a barbecue cook out? It’s a time to get out all our patriotic dishware, fill the coolers with ice and drinks, line our driveway in little American flags, and let the grill take center stage. But wait, a party? What if your doctor recently mentioned you should lower your cholesterol? Or if you should watch your salt? Or your sugar? Don’t worry! There is still so much food you CAN eat! And typically making a party “healthy” would make some groan, but there are simple ways to make the food you already eat, something you and the whole family will still enjoy. Here are some tips to keep your diet on track and let the grill help get you there!
Lean meats still give you protein you need to build muscle, and trimming the fat and/or skin will help cut back on extra fat and calories. Instead of high fat ground beef and brats, try boneless, skinless chicken breasts, 96% lean ground beef, sirloin steak, pork tenderloin and any kind of fish. Eating fish will allow you to get in your omega-3 heart healthy fats that raise good cholesterol. If you’re vegetarian, try vegetarian burgers or grilled tofu.
To limit your cholesterol intake, limit saturated and trans fats, that raise bad cholesterol. Eating more plant based foods and using beans and soy foods for protein will help lower your cholesterol.
Although salt is important for your body to function, most of us get too much salt in our diet. Read the nutrition label to find out how much sodium is in 1 serving of a food. Select foods with 140 mg of sodium or less per serving. Using other flavors without adding sodium can help. Try adding lemon juice, lime juice, dry or fresh herbs, pepper or red pepper flakes, or purchasing a low-sodium, or sodium-free seasoning blends.
Instead of loading on the barbeque sauce, which can be high in salt and sugar, this year try dry rubs, marinades, and maybe even smoking to add depth and variety to your meat! Even just a brine (fill 2 gallon Ziploc bag with water and add 2 TBS salt) can make a difference in your grilled chicken, making it juicy and tender. If using a dry rub, look for low-sodium spice blends with fewer than 5g sugar per serving. Want more ways to season grilled chicken? Check out the Bon Appétite website!
Grilled vegetables are perfect for the buffet serving style. Brush them with just a little healthy fat, such as olive oil, and slap them on the grill right next to the meat, or thread them onto kebabs. To switch it up, try a grilled Ratatouille salad or, if you’re adventurous, try grilled artichoke hearts.
When it comes to potato salads or coleslaws, you can reduce the fat and increase the protein when you replace 1 1/2 cups of mayo with 1 cup low fat Greek yogurt and ½ cup mayonnaise. Put a twist on a classic with a coleslaw with apple and yogurt dressing! Try to get in about 20g to 30g of dietary fiber per day. Aim for 5 cups of fruits and vegetables per day, as they are good sources of fiber.
Choosing a grilled or baked fruit with lightly drizzled topping is a great swap to incorporate a couple times a week. This increases your fiber, satisfies your sweet tooth and cuts sugar, salt, cholesterol, and calories all at once.
Try throwing fruit on the grill, like peaches, and leave on until tender. Serve with a chocolate hazelnut spread, warmed with a little milk, and drizzle over the grilled fruit, and serve.
Eating healthy doesn’t have to be a struggle when the foods you make for your own party can help you stay on track. You can have a low fat, low sodium, and/ or low sugar meals that taste as good as they look, and be surrounded by support from your friends and family while you do it.