Written by: Lori Kirwan, PhD in Exercise Physiology
We don’t know about you, but the May long weekend oftentimes acts as our unofficial start to the summer, and, with that, usually comes a BBQ or two with friends and family. But we also know that you’ve been so great about your diet so far this year and you don’t want to lose that momentum and throw your progress out the window just for a few classic BBQ favourites. That’s why we’re here with 10 ideas to help you keep your BBQ clean and not set you back.
Serve lemon water. We all know we need to drink more water but it can sometimes be hard to drink enough. By adding lemon and ice, and putting the water in some pretty glasses, you can encourage hydration amongst your guests. If you have the luck of a sunny day, your guests will be appreciative of the gesture. Adding fresh squeezed lemon adds vitamin C, improves digestion, and also freshens your breath. Plus, you can throw in some mint leaves for extra flavour and an extra vitamin boost.
Veggie sticks for appetizers. Your guests will eat what you have available for them. Prepare plates with chopped celery, carrots, peppers, cucumber, cauliflower, and broccoli. Organic produce should be your first choice, minimizing the amount of pesticides on the veggies. Soak the vegetables in water, vinegar, and baking soda for 20 minutes before rinsing and chopping; this is the best way to prepare the food and minimize toxins. But note, make sure you rinse thoroughly.
Veggie kabobs. We always encourage serving as many veggies as possible. BBQ kabobs are so delicious and healthy. In a small bowl, whisk together olive oil, garlic, lemon juice, oregano, and basil; season with salt and pepper, to taste. Thread bell peppers, mushrooms, tomatoes, onion, and zucchini onto skewers (add or subtract veggies, to your preference). Place skewers onto the grill. Brush your olive oil mixture onto the skewers, grill for 10-15 minutes, and serve. Serve these as appetizers so you and your guests will fill up on the healthy, clean stuff and won’t be as hungry for your main course!
Look for local grass-fed beef for burgers. To understand this further, click here. To summarize, grass-fed beef is leaner and lower in calories than grain-fed beef. It is also higher in α-Linolenic acid (ALA), one of the essential fatty acids that we need for health.
Romaine lettuce wraps instead of buns. Cut down on carbs and increase your veggie intake with lettuce wraps! You and your guests won’t miss the bread and will wake up the next morning feeling leaner.
Veggie burgers. Try this recipe for an incredible veggie burger that tastes so good you won’t miss the meat, and has no added bread crumbs or unhealthy fillers!
3 tbsp olive oil
½ chopped onion
½ teaspoon salt
1 ½ cups cooked lentils
¼ cup tahini paste
½ teaspoon ground cumin
½ cup fresh grated carrots
¼ cup chopped cilantro
1 cup shredded organic cabbage
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
- Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat and add the onion and salt. Cook until the onion is soft, but not brown. Set aside too cool.
- Place the cooked onion mixture, lentils, 3 tablespoons of tahihini, and cumin in the food processor. Pulse until coarsely chopped.
- Add the carrots and cilantro to the food processor to combine. You should be able to pinch the mixture into a ball. If it’s too dry, add a bit more tahini, and if it’s too wet, add more carrots and cilantro.
- Toss together the cabbage and remaining tahini, red wine vinegar, and olive oil in a bowl. Mix well and set aside as cabbage slaw for burgers.
- Put the patties on the BBQ and grill for 4-5 min on each side, or until golden brown.
Homemade sauce. Instead of using ketchup, make your own salsa! Click here for one of our favourite salsa recipes.
Avocado as a healthy fat topping for your burger. Avocado is loaded with healthy fats, fibre, and various important nutrients great for your health. For your burger, it can be a healthier substitute for cheese.
Fruit for dessert. If you and your guests have a sweet tooth, offer fruit for dessert. But, please note that fruit is high in sugar, and should be avoided if you are trying to burn fat, but if you need to satisfy your sweet tooth, at least you will get some vitamins and minerals.
Go for a walk, dance, or swim after your meal. Try to get people moving as much as possible, even at your backyard BBQ. Put up a badminton net and have a tournament. Go for a hike or walk around your neighbourhood. Set-up some music and host an impromptu dance party. Anything that gets people moving and active will help with digestion and make people feel better than if they were to just sit still.
Don’t let hosting a BBQ for your family and friends mean you start making unhealthy choices. Start incorporating a few of these tips at your BBQ this long weekend. Your friends, family, and future self will all thank you!
Lori Kirwan, PhD in Exercise Physiology
Group Exercise Instructor & Personal Trainer, Adelaide Club & Toronto Athletic Club