A healthier summer BBQ

As the days start to get longer and warmer in June we know that summer is just around the corner and that means everyone is firing up their grills to get ready for BBQ season. Grilling can be a nutritious, low-fat way to cook your meals and a summer BBQ can be a great simple way to round up your family and friends for a delicious feast. Here are some tips for making your summer BBQ healthier and tastier!

Choose lean meats

  • Go for skinless poultry, fish, and shrimp more often and choose lean beef and pork (such as tenderloin). Also, trim any visible fat around the outside before cooking.
  • If you are having burgers, try switching it up with veggie burgers, turkey burgers or salmon burgers instead of beef burgers which are high in saturated fat.
  • Marinade your meats in a glass dish or Ziploc bag for anywhere from ½ hour up to 1 day in a mixture of citrus juice, vinegar, oil, herbs and spices or try a dry herb or spice blend rubbed on the meat (see below for a recipe for a great sodium free marinade!). This will help to keep your meat tender while grilling and will give it lots of flavour.

Load up on veggies

  • Grill up a variety of mixed vegetables such as bell peppers, zucchini, onion, asparagus, corn or eggplant drizzled with olive oil and cracked pepper before grilling and tossed with balsamic vinegar after grilling. Try making veggie kebabs to make them easy to serve!
  • Make a big salad to have on the side:
    • Instead of boring old iceberg lettuce, try using different greens such as kale, arugula, baby spinach, water cress, cabbage or spring mix.
    • Make your salad a rainbow by using a variety of in-season fresh vegetables like cherry tomatoes, bell peppers, cucumber, zucchini and carrots.
    • Add a variety of different mix-ins like fresh herbs, sunflower seeds, walnuts, goat cheese, dried cranberries, dried apricots, almonds, avocado, pine nuts, chickpeas or apples. The sky is truly the limit with salads!

Pay attention to portion size

  • Portion control can be a helpful way to allow you to indulge in your favorite foods without going overboard. Use these handy guides to keep your portions in check without needing to measure:
    • Use the palm of your hand (or deck of cards) as a guide for the size of your meat portions. This is about 3oz of meat and is one Canada’s Food Guide portion of meat, fish or poultry.
    • Try to fill half of your plate with a variety of vegetables (grilled, steamed, raw, salad…doesn’t matter how it is prepared!)
    • Keep your starchy sides (pasta salad, potato salad, burger buns etc.) to about the size of your clenched fist (or tennis ball); this is equal to about 1 cup. For bonus marks, have whole grain options such as whole grain buns, whole grain pasta salad or quinoa salad!
    • When using salad dressings or spreads, use the size of your thumb as a guide which is equal to about 1 tablespoon. Keep in mind that full fat creamy dressings and mayo will be much higher in fat and calories (about 100kcal per tablespoon) so it is best to choose oil and vinegar type dressings or low-fat options when available.

Beware of sugary beverages and alcoholic drinks

  • Calories can add up very quickly when you are drinking sugary beverages or alcoholic drinks, and research has shown that your body does not compensate for these extra calories by eating less.
  • Sugary beverages are the easiest way to go overboard on sugar and calories. Just one can of regular pop has almost 9 teaspoons of sugar!
  • For alcoholic beverages: a 12oz regular beer is about 150 calories, a 5oz glass of wine is 100 calories and 1oz of hard liquor is about 60-70 calories.

Get active!

  • Plan games or activities to play with your family and friends before or supper to enjoy the summer weather and avoid mindless snacking.
  • Toss a ball around, play a game of horseshoe, make art with sidewalk chalk or go for a walk in the river valley….whatever makes you happy!  We spend so much time indoors in the winter here in Edmonton, it’s important to take advantage of beautiful weather while it is here!


Cajun Marinade

  • 1 clove garlic, finely minced
  • 2 tsp chili powder
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 2 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 Tbsp canola oil
  • 2 Tbsp water
  • 4 tsp freshly squeezed lime juice
  1. In a small bowl, whisk together garlic, chili powder, cumin, coriander, pepper, oil, water and lime juice.
  2. Place four 3oz pieces of meat in a resealable bag. Pour marinade over meat to coat both sides. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or up to overnight.
  3. When ready to cook, drain off and discard excess marinade.
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