Fire up the grill. This summer, your taste buds will flip over these healthy BBQ alternatives. Yes, it’s possible to make vegetables taste good, which will help you adhere to eating more healthy foods. BBQ season can be a flavorful and healthy celebration with just a few simple changes.

Summer BBQs and grilling are typically associated with hamburgers, hot dogs, sausages and other animal proteins. It’s okay to have some of these foods, but it’s better to focus on vegetables, listening to your body’s signals, making progress and staying active. By making meaningful small changes you develop healthy habits that you can maintain long term.

[See: Ways to Lower the Cancer Risk of Grilling.]

4 Ways to a Healthier BBQ

1. Sizzle Some Seafood and Add More Veggies.

Let some seafood and fish sizzle on the grate as a healthier alternative to traditional burgers, steaks and hot dogs. But the most important aspect about healthy BBQing is adding more vegetables. Adding vegetables automatically improves the meal as they are nutrient-dense and add fiber and water, which helps you feel satiated and full sooner.

2.Listen to your hunger cues.

Always listen to your body’s physiological ques for hunger and satiety — don’t starve and don’t stuff. Eat when you’re hungry, and stop when you’re comfortably full.

3. Focus on progress, not perfection.

Remember that it is not about perfection. You’re human — when you have that particular meal or BBQ where you weren’t able to make healthy choices, take the next meal as the opportunity to focus on healthy choices. The idea is to focus on progress, not necessarily about being perfect. Making small changes or modifications to improve your overall health works, making consistency easier.

4. Get active.

Be consistent about incorporating your typical healthy habits, such as physical activity. Toss a ball with the kids or dogs at the BBQ. Go for a walk with a friend or family member. You can be consistent about your engagement in physical activity while still enjoying your BBQ day.

[See: The Best Plant-Based Diets.]

10 Healthy BBQ Alternatives

Instead of the main component of your meal being an animal protein, aim for half (or more) of your plate to be nicely grilled, or fresh, non-starchy vegetables. Turn the protein into the supporting cast, and let vegetables be the star.

Make a Hamburger Healthier

If you’re served a beef burger on a bun, add some vegetables to it. Remember, healthy habits are about making incremental, progressive improvements. Adding vegetables to a dish automatically improves it. Eating vegetables helps reduce cravings and stave off hunger, helping you stay full and satisfied for a longer period of time.

Grill Lean Poultry or Seafood

If you’re going to be incorporating animal protein at your BBQ, choose fish or seafood that provide omega-3 healthy fats, which are important for your heart and brain. If you’re used to eating red meat, then try eating more lean poultry. If you typically eat poultry, take the next healthy move to eating more seafood and fish. Small changes or modifications help you improve your overall health.

Eating two to three servings per week of fish is recommended, while lean poultry is recommended one time per week. As for red meat, aim for one serving per month.

Experiment With Kebabs

Interestingly enough, you can enjoy vegetables and fruits on a gas or charcoal grill. Grilling provides great flavors to vegetables and fruits. Skew some mushrooms, onions, bell peppers, cherry tomatoes and pineapple for a healthier alternative to a meat kebab.

Baked Potatoes and Baked Beans

Baked potatoes are a staple at BBQ and provide a filling, nutrient-dense side dish as long as they are devoid of the butter, sour cream, cheese and bacon. Low-sodium, no-sugar added mesquite-type marinades and sauces can give a great flavor and taste to baked potatoes, as well as grilled vegetables and fruits. If baked beans are commonplace at your BBQ, try healthier alternatives with less sugar, such as black beans, garbanzo beans, black-eyed peas or even lentil soup.

Corn on the Cob

A staple at BBQs, corn on the cob is delicious but typically slathered in butter and salt. Kick it up a notch for a healthier alternative when marinated in skim milk and cinnamon before it’s given a nice char on a hot grill. You won’t be disappointed. It’s got an even sweeter flavor than regular corn.

[See: 7 Healthy Summer Dinner Ideas.]

Potato Salad

This BBQ favorite side dish can be easily made healthier than commercially available potato salads. Substitute the typical mayonnaise for a fat-free sour cream or a fat-free plain yogurt. Add some dill or cucumbers for a nice alternative.

Pasta Salad

You can make a whole-wheat pasta salad, instead of eating the refined flour in typical white pasta salads. Ensure that vegetables are the main character of the dish. You can grill tomatoes, onions and mushrooms to include in your whole-wheat pasta salad.

Chips and Dip

Potato chips are dry, not very filling, salty and fatty. Focus on things that contain more fiber and water so they fill you up, helping you eat less of the main entrée meal.

Dip into some hummus (garbanzo beans, lemon, garlic, spices) with a rainbow of cut vegetables (cucumbers, bell peppers, carrots, broccoli). You and guests will love this crunchy, beautiful vegetable crudité. People who come to our Pritikin Program here in Miami, enjoy many great BBQ recipes, including our famous Broccomole dip, which substitutes avocado for broccoli.


Water is always the best first choice for hydration. But if you’re looking for a healthier alternative to store-bought lemonade, splash into your glass some homemade lemonade consisting of water, lemons and a little bit of Splenda or Stevia. Or go for unsweetened iced tea. When choosing beverages, avoid added sugars, sweeteners or a lot of sodium.

Sweet Fruit Treats

Try a banana on the grill. Bananas caramelize when grilled to create a deliciously sweet, healthier BBQ treat. Tropical fruits, in general, are great on the grill. You can even try honeydew or cantaloupe.

You can make meaningful changes that help you develop healthy habits that you can maintain long term. You can do this by making small modifications and improvements, focusing on progress (not perfection) and working on consistency.

Lon Ben-Asher, MS, RDN, LD/N, is a registered dietitian at the Pritikin Longevity Center in Miami, Florida. A decade ago, upon completion of his MS degree in Dietetics and Nutrition from Florida International University, Lon began his nutrition career in the hospital setting — as Assistant Director of Patient Services at ARAMARK Healthcare-Cleveland Clinic Florida and as a clinical nutrition manager/clinical dietitian at the same location. But his passion was always in the wellness realm.

That passion was ignited by an internship Lon had at the Pritikin Longevity Center while in graduate school, when he walked in the door and immediately fell in love with the world of Pritikin. He was in awe of guests who had lost 100 pounds and more. So when an opening for a nutrition educator become available at the Pritikin Longevity Center, Lon jumped at the opportunity. Today, he’s an educator in classes on Pritikin’s campus, as well as “field trip” nutrition leader for Pritikin’s restaurant and grocery store excursions.

This always-enthusiastic Pritikin dietitian also enjoys his work with “Pritikin On Track,” a program that provides one-on-one phone consults for guests after they leave Pritikin to help guests continue to be successful with their food choices, the amount of weight they’ve lost, the energy they have and their reversal of problems like high blood pressure and diabetes. Lon is also a member of Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

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