A Healthier—Yet Yummy—Labor Day BBQ

A Healthier—Yet Yummy—Labor Day BBQ

Ah, the annual Labor Day picnic. Every year, it’s a great time—getting together with family and friends to relax, catch up, and make some new memories. The only problem? It’s far too easy to eat and drink too much of all the wrong stuff. Uncle Phil’s grilled cheeseburgers, hot dogs, and brats; Aunt Josie’s three-cheese macaroni; friend Baba’s creamy potato salad (with bacon bits); and top it all off with Cousin Ginny’s sinfully rich triple-chocolate brownies and homemade ice cream (made with real cream!). Not to mention all the sodas and beer. And that doesn’t even take into account all the chips and dips and other treats laid out for a day of grazing.

So many tasty food choices and plenty of cold drinks to wash it all down—it’s easy to think that it’s okay to indulge since it’s only one day of the year, right? It’s all part of the fun.

But that endless feast of eats could turn out to be several days’ worth of calories, not to mention a week’s worth of fats, carbs, and sodium. Think about it—how many times have you woken up the next day vowing “never again”?

And let’s be honest. It’s summer. This barbecue is just one in a long string of weekends that offer a chance to overdo it.

How about making this year’s Labor Day your kickoff to making a few healthier food choices at those summer gatherings?

Here are a few ideas for a healthier—yet amazingly yummy—barbecue.

The meats. There’s nothing like the taste of meat off the grill. But instead of high-calorie, high-fat red meat like hamburger or highly processed meats like hot dogs and brats, opt for chicken breasts or turkey burgers for a healthier change of pace.

And forgo the barbeque sauce, which, depending on the brand, can add another 70 calories, 18 grams of carbs, and 290 mg of sodium per serving (that’s two tablespoons—and who can eat only two tablespoons?). That’s because of main ingredients like high fructose corn syrup and processed tomato sauce. Instead, try a few spices like cracked pepper and crushed garlic, which add a kick of flavor to any grilled food.

Veggies. What’s better than an ear of corn straight off the grill? But instead of smearing on margarine for extra flavor, opt for a dab of butter or better still, a little olive oil. In fact, many vegetables are mouthwatering when brushed with olive oil and grilled. Squash, eggplant, green beans, even carrots are all delicious choices when sliced, oiled, seasoned, and grilled for a few minutes over a nice flame. Or, make up some veggie kabobs with onions, peppers, mushrooms, grape tomatoes, and garlic cloves. Trust me, you won’t be sorry for having tried a few of these at your next outing.   

Fruits. If you’ve never had fruit straight off the grill, you’re in for treat. The natural sugar in pineapple, bananas, and peaches caramelize when heated, giving them an added richness like nothing you’ve tasted before. No need for the added calories from a dipping sauce or topping when you taste these super-sweet treats.

For an added bit of fun, make grilling at this year’s gathering a team sport. Have others help prepare some of the foods for grilling, or influence others by announcing some of the menu items you’ll be supplying in advance. Explore healthier foods together is a winning strategy that I see in patients—and people who are not my patients—who understand the value of good food and who get excited at the prospect of healthier meals.


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