Surviving Summer Barbecues

Ah Memorial Day. The unofficial start of summer. A long weekend hopefully filled with friends, fun and a seemingly endless stream of BBQ’s. Contrary to what many people think, BBQ’s can actually be a healthy eating venue. Before you head to your first summer barbecue, I’ve pulled together some tips and facts that will help you navigate the spread.

Tips on Vegetables

  • Go for as many different color vegetables as possible. Doing so will maximize the vitamin spectrum of your meal.
  • Cut vegetables up into strips and chunks, marinate with spices such as garlic, onion, chives, and/or pepper. Try to stay away from salt as much as possible.
  • Before you begin cooking, spray the grill or a piece of foil with Pam or lightly coat your vegetables with olive oil (keeping in mind that oil can turn to bad fat once it is heated).
  • If you do choose to put your vegetables in foil, do not seal them inside the foil. Doing so will steam your vegetables forcing important vitamins out.
  • Grill you vegetables for a few minutes, take them off, and add extra seasoning and a touch of 100% extra virgin olive oil.
Tips on Meat, Poultry and Fish 
  • When buying meat, choose only lean cuts. Look for meats labeled "lean" or "extra lean."
  • Limit high fat processed meats like bacon, hot dogs, and sausage. Remember that some chicken and turkey hot dogs are lower in saturated fat and total fat than pork and beef hot dogs. You may also want to consider buying "lean" beef hot dogs that are low in fat and saturated fat.
  • If hot dogs and hamburgers are your thing, try to avoid white bread buns/rolls. Instead, use 7 grain bread or rolls.
  • Limit the amount of “organ” meats like liver, sweetbreads, or kidneys that you serve. Organ meats are high in cholesterol, even though they are fairly low in fat.
  • When buying fish and poultry, chose only skinless pieces. Skinless pieces are generally lower in saturated fat.
  • Limit use of goose and duck. They are higher in saturated fat, even with the skin removed.
  • Choose shellfish wisely. While most shellfish are low in saturated fat, they can be high in cholesterol. Squid, shrimp, and oysters are high in cholesterol while scallops, mussels, and clams are low.

Food Safety for BBQ's

Food safety is especially important to be aware of in warmer months. Why? Harmful bacteria in food that can cause food borne illness find themselves in a more hospitable environment during the summer. Here are some important tips that many people overlook:

  • Always wash your hands with warm, soapy water for 20 seconds before handling food. If you are not going to be near a sink, buy pre-packaged hand wipes.
  • Clean fresh fish, meats, and poultry by rinsing them in cool water to remove any bacteria that may have collected in their packaging.
  • Well-cooked meat prepared on outdoor grills may contain unwanted elements which increase risks for certain types of cancer. To reduce the risk of cancer be sure to use a marinade (to prevent burning), trim fat, keep meat portions small so they require less cooking time, and flip frequently.
  • Always marinate your meat, seafood, and/or poultry in the refrigerator. Do not use the sauce that you used to marinate raw meat, seafood or poultry on cooked food. Instead, reserve some fresh marinade for basting
  • NEVER put cooked food items back on the same plate that previously held raw food - take a fresh plate out to the grill!
  • Always wash fruits and vegetables. Cantaloupe and other melons are often left unwashed and are common sources of food borne illness (bacteria on the outside skin are transferred into the edible portion of the fruit when they are cut).
  • When in doubt, throw it out - discard food that has been left out over 1-2 hours or if ice is gone from the cooler. Even after a short amount of time, perishable food is very susceptible to bacterial growth.
Now you're armed with knowledge you need to have the healthiest summer yet! Happy Memorial Day! 

    Heather Bauer, RD CDN
    Heather Bauer, RD CDN


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