Beat the Barbecue Bulge: Six Winning Strategies

August 6, 2013

Summer is barbecue season. Who doesn’t enjoy fresh grilled meat, salads, and snacks when the weather turns warm?

You’re not doing your weight-conscious guests any favors, however, if you serve traditional barbecue fare.

From oversized burgers to sodium-rich chips and creamy potato salad, barbecues can turn the back yard into a minefield. Here are six tips for reducing the calories – without sacrificing flavor.

1. Meat

Pork Kebabs

Grilled steaks and hamburgers are undeniably delicious. It’s not a barbecue without barbecued meat – but traditional foods bear too high a load of calories.

Your guests will never know you’re helping them diet if you add portion control and fat management.

Ditch bulky store-bought burger patties and make your own, thinner ones from ultra-lean chopped sirloin or ground chicken breast.

Instead of huge T-bone steaks, choose lean cuts of beef, including top loin, filet mignon, and flank steak. Or opt for lean chicken, turkey, or pork. Trim all visible fat from the meat and remove poultry skin before grilling.

2. Sauces and Marinades

Store-bought barbecue sauces add flavor to grilled meat, but there’s a catch. They’re sweetened with high-fructose corn syrup, thickened with oil, and packed with salt. You might as well have a second slice of pie.

Instead of sauce, marinate meat and grill it with a dry rub. A simple marinade can include olive or canola oil with lemon juice and herbs such as mint, thyme, rosemary, sage, basil, and oregano. Use garlic, chilies, ginger, or mustard to add zip to your grilled offerings.

3. Side Dishes

Replace white rolls with whole-grain buns or whole-wheat English muffins. Serve corn on the cob, tossed salad, or fire-roasted potatoes seasoned with sea salt.

A delicious side dish is grilled vegetable kebabs using peppers, mushrooms, onion, cherry tomatoes and zucchini brushed with balsamic vinegar or a low fat marinade.

4. Snacks

We all love potato chips, but they have no place at a health-conscious barbecue. Potato chips are high-glycemic empty carbs that are stored in the body as fat because they boost insulin production.

Instead of chips, offer savory snacks such as olives, pickles, or fresh-sliced vegetable platters with low-fat hummus.

5. Dressings

Like us, you probably grew up eating potato salad that was little more than potatoes swimming in a sea of mayonnaise, with perhaps a bit of dry mustard to add flavour.

Mayonnaise-based dressings are delicious, but there are equally delicious options that won’t work so fast to clog your guests’ arteries.

Try a blend of non-fact Greek yogurt with a bit of apple cider vinegar, or dress potatoes in a vinaigrette of olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, and rosemary.

6. Drinks

Beer and barbecue go together like picnics and ants, but you’re no party pooper if you offer low-calorie alternatives – especially if they’re tasty. Try low-alcohol apple and pear cider as an alternative to beer and soda.

Apply these six strategies and you can make the next barbecue you host a substantially healthier affair – and your guests will spend the rest of the summer talking about the bold flavors and innovative menu choices.



  1. Cokiboki

    August 6, 2013 at 7:06 pm

    OMG, I looove pear cider and it has less alcohol then beer too! I prefer it over beer anytime since it doesn’t have that nasty bitter aftertaste and after a nice chicken burger it’s almost like drinkable dessert!

  2. David Goodwin

    August 7, 2013 at 9:44 am

    I had not thought of most of these ideas. I’m going to try the oil-and-vinegar alternative for potato salad. I’m so tired of mayonnaise-based dressings! Would you recommend balsamic vinegar? I could try an apple cider vinegar, but I’m worried about the sweetness.

  3. Lauren Burley Copley

    September 20, 2013 at 12:33 pm

    Hi David I think balsamic vinegar could work well! Another really tasty and
    healthy salad dressing is to mix together 2 tablespoons of Balsamic
    vinegar with 2 tablespoons of oil, lemon juice, some salt and one or two
    teaspoons of brown sugar. If you are using onions in the salad, let
    them soak in the dressing before adding the other ingredients…:)

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