With the sun shining and temperatures soaring, it’s time to get outside and fire up the grill. Not only is grilling a fun activity that involves the whole family, but it’s also a smart way to avoid an overcrowded, overheated kitchen and a mountain of dishes to wash up.
Whether you’re grilling for a weekday dinner or a weekend BBQ celebration, we’ll teach you all the right tips and tricks to put on a fun, healthy BBQ. And, because this is an 8fit article, we’ll also share some of our favorite BBQ skewer recipes, suggestions for healthy side dishes, tasty dip recipes and, of course, let’s not forget dessert.
Healthy BBQ tips
When barbecuing, there are a number of factors to consider like cooking oils, grilling temperature, cook times and food safety, too. Let’s get right to it.
Choosing the right oil
When debating which kind of oil to use, it’s important to consider the smoke points of different oils. The smoke point determines at which temperature the oil starts to burn and, as you might have guessed, turns into smoke. If this happens, it means that the oil is becoming carcinogenic, i.e. cancer-causing. That said, the higher the smoke point of an oil, the less dangerous it becomes when cooked. Here are the main ones to use and avoid while grilling:
- Do use: Avocado oil, coconut oil, ghee, sunflower oil
- Avoid: Extra virgin olive oil (EVOO), flaxseed oil
You don’t need to submerge your food in oil before putting it on the grill – adding a drizzle of oil is more than enough.
Tip from Coach Lisa: Fill an empty spray bottle with a good-for-grilling oil of your choice. That way, you can use it sparingly and quickly cover all surfaces.
Dangers of charring
When you grill meat at high temperatures or for long periods of time, a reaction in the food occurs which results in charing (blackening) of the food. Though you may love that “burnt” flavor and the aesthetics of those dark grill marks, your body may not love it all that mush (hello, carcinogens).
- Cook meat until it’s brown, not black
- Try to cook the meat until it’s medium or medium-well rather than well done
- If you do happen to burn some parts, trim those bits off before serving
- Be mindful that charing worsens when food is marinated in sweetened sauces, as sweeteners like sugar, honey and maple syrup burn faster
- Opt for lean meats, they have less fat and therefore less carcinogens
- Cut meat into small pieces to reduce cook time
There are many ways to marinate your meat such as with vinegar, herbs, spice rubs and certain types of fruits like pineapple, papaya and kiwi. Marinating meat serves three purposes:
- It infuses the meat with flavor and reduces the need for additional seasoning when it comes of the grill
- Fruits like pineapple contain an enzyme that tenderizes meat by breaking down the meat structure
- Herbs and spices lessen the carcinogenic effect as a result of their antioxidant content
Cleaning your grill
When fat drips from the meat onto the BBQ and creates smoke, carcinogenic chemicals form. Without proper cleaning, his residue can build up on your grill over time and transfer to your food whenever you use your grill.
As such, it’s important to clean your grill often and as best you can. Use a brush, a grill brick or similar tool to clean the surface of your grill as well as underneath. Use a mix of baking soda and vinegar for tougher residue and a more thorough cleaning.
Food safety is often overlooked in the heat of the moment – especially with party-related distractions. Here are some tips for keeping your BBQ healthy and safe, too:
- Clean utensils: Once you add the food to the grill, wash all utensils — tongs, knives and spatulas — that have come in contact with raw meat. As an alternative, have an extra clean set available at hand to use when you remove your food from the grill or while handling veggies.
- Clean surfaces: Make sure you’ve got clean chopping boards or plates to put your food on once it comes off the grill.
- Clean hands: Get into the habit of washing your hands meticulously, especially after handling uncooked meat.
Healthy BBQ recipes: Main dishes
Now that you know the best practices for a healthy BBQ how about some delicious, hassle-free recipes? You can prep them in advance, stick them in the fridge, then put them on the grill when the time’s right.
It’s quick, it’s easy and it only has five ingredients. Most people wouldn’t think of grilling fruit, but fruits like pineapple caramelize on the grill, making them irresistible to eat and the perfect summer treat. Combine pineapple with tofu and onions, then cover them in a curry marinade before placing on the grill. They’ll be ready to eat in just 10 minutes.
These lamb koftas are easy to make and even easier to eat. The smell of those spices sizzling over hot coals is so amazing it makes your mouth water. Pair these koftas with a tzatziki-style cucumber, mint and yogurt sauce. Prepare the meatballs a day in advance and chill them if you’d like, then cook them on a thin grill rack, or use skewers for easy dipping.
Beef & pepper skewers
The great thing about this dish is that you can prepare all the elements on the grill — even the potatoes. The beef and bell peppers are slathered in cilantro and chili marinade, and the potato wedges are baked on the side. For maximum flavor, prep your skewers in advance and refrigerate for about one hour.
Healthy side dishes for BBQ parties
A BBQ wouldn’t be complete without some tasty extras which is why we’re giving you some options for sides, dips and even a dessert.
The classic accompaniment to a healthy BBQ would, of course, be salads. There are countless combinations you can try out, but adding potatoes and turning it into a potato salad is an automatic winning dish.
- Grilled vegetables are another great complement to a BBQ dish. Bok choy, beetroot, sweet potato and aubergine all grill to perfection when sprayed with some oil. We advise sprinkling veggies with seasonings and wrapping them in aluminum foil before throwing them on the grill. Be patient as they cook.
- Up for homemade healthy coleslaw? Then grate cabbage and combine it with plain yogurt instead of mayonnaise. If you feel like something lighter, go for a plain ol’ slaw instead by using lemon juice and spices instead of yogurt.
- Baked potatoes are always a great option as you can top them with anything you enjoy. They’re especially well-suited for vegetarian guests who can eat them as a main (combine with a protein like Greek yogurt for a satisfying topping).
8fit recipe suggestion: The Spiced Corn in Coconut Milk recipe is a tropical crowd-pleaser and is ready in no time. Add corn on the cob to a curry-spiced coconut sauce, then topped with fresh chili and coriander. For this occasion, grill the corn on the BBQ and add the sauce later. You can also skip the added protein powder if you’re eating it with meat or grilled tofu.
Healthy dips are easy to make, so instead of heading straight to the store for some sauce, try making your own. Not only are they better for you, but they’re yummy too.
- Yogurt-based dips are a great way to add creaminess to your dish without the all of the fat and calories of sour creams and cheeses. Flavor the yogurt with garlic, herbs or a variety of dry spices. If your favorite dip recipe calls for mayo, try mixing yogurt with some mustard, lemon juice and salt instead.
- Guacamole is always a winner at the table. Start with the basics – avocado, citrus juice, garlic and a touch of chili – then extras like onion and tomato to bulk it up or make it more chunky.
- Like guacamole, you can’t go wrong with fresh salsa. Salsa lends your meat or veggies that extra oomph of flavor and an extra pop of color. To make salsa, chop up tomatoes, onions, cilantro and jalapeños, then add a squeeze of lime juice to bring it all together.
8fit recipe suggestion: Our Tahini Green Dip is basically a variation of hummus, i.e. blend chickpeas with parsley, tahini, lemon and garlic. Dollop spoonfuls onto your meat and enjoy in big mouthfuls.
Last but not least, a dessert recipe suited for the BBQ. Making dessert on the grill is a not-so-obvious but great way to create delightful sweets. Try grilling fruits like pineapple, peaches, plums, figs and bananas.
8fit recipe suggestion: This Baked Peach with Ricotta recipe can be prepared in the oven, or better yet, on the grill. Start by cutting the peaches in half, removing the pit and placing them on the barbecue set to low. After about 10-20 minutes (depending on your grill heat or flame), removed the peaches and fill the cavities with the ricotta and cinnamon cream, prepared while you waited. Finish the dish off with a crunchy walnut topping.
Now, go have fun
Now that you’re equipped with all the tools you need for a healthy BBQ, you can enjoy some delicious food and good company. Remember, parties like BBQs are all about having fun. Don’t restrict yourself, simply enjoy the food in moderation. If you’re committed to your 8fit meal plan, add some of our suggested 8fit meals to your BBQ menu. Then, jazz things up with some healthy mocktails and refreshing flavored waters.