Firing up the grill!

Summer is here and we are ready to get outside! And as the parkas get packed away- the first thing on the mind of most Canadians is how fast they can fire up the grill! While grilling can be a lean method of cooking, with white buns, calorie packed sides and dessert to boot- the average backyard barbecue can become something of a calorie gutbuster!

So to truly enjoy your barbecue season- here are my top tips for a healthy cookout!

1. Think outside the red meat box! The World Health Orgnanization has recently recommended staying away from processed meat (think hot dogs, deli meat) as much as possible and limiting your intake of red meat to 4 oz three times per week. So remember that not every time you fire up the grill has to be for a steak! Try grilled chicken, fish and even salmon or tuna patties for healthy varieties (feel free to pop over to the recipe section of the website for some ideas!).

2. Maximize one (or two) menu item. Avoid making 3 or 4 different kinds of proteins. The more variety, the more each person tends to eat, as they want to try each item. Even 1-2 small servings of meat with buns can quickly add up in calories.

3. Focus on toppings! When trying to limit your portions and improve the nutrition of your meal, fiber is always your friends. To sneak in some extra fiber to help keep you fuller and reduce portions- think no further than your favorite toppings. Sautee some mushrooms and onions, grilled some veggies, serve up some saurkraut, and load your hamburger with lots of raw lettuce, tomatoes and onions.

4. Steer clear of Starchy sides. While moderate amounts of high quality carbohydrates are reasonable at a meal- barbecues can often be a carbohydrate overload (think buns, pasta salad, corn, potato salad…just to name a few). Have whole grain buns, and one whole grain side like quinoa salad or corn on the cob for those who don’t want bread or as a gluten free option, and keep any other side dishes vegetable based.

5. Make the most of marinades. Barbecue sauces are often high in sugar and calories so use them sparingly during cooking and as condiments. Instead choose marinades with fresh herbs, flavored vinegars or lemon juice that are full of flavor, not sugar! The more flavorful the food , the less sauce your guests will need!

6. Rethink your drink. Instead of serving lemonade or pop with dinner, choose water flavored with fresh fruit. My favorite is to freeze ice cubes of fresh lemon or orange juice and use them to flavor and chill your water pitcher.

7. Discard Dessert: Instead of higher calorie cookies and cake, choose fresh fruit or check out my recipe for Peanut butter Banana (N)Ice cream to compliment your next barbecue!

Summer is the best time to get outside and enjoy! Make an afternoon of it. Pack a bag with baseballs, frisbees, etcand enjoy time being active outside before sitting down to a healthy, and delicious barbecue dinner!