Make the barbecue an excuse for healthy eating

There are two bitter ironies in the culinary/social year; Christmas and party dresses, barbecue season and bikinis. Why are we surrounded by invitations to food and drink festivals at the two times of the year when we want to look good scantily clad? Well, there’s not much we can do about it; What’s the point of being super skinny and beautiful and being home alone?

If you’re going to a cookout this weekend, you can eat a serving of potato salad, a grilled burger, 2 sausages on a bun, a tablespoon of Helmans mayonnaise, a serving of Pringles (no, that doesn’t mean the whole box, just a handful), a scoop of pistachios, and a can of beer, and you’ll go home with 1185 calories and 62g of fat in your belly. If you have another can of beer and a Magnum sundae, the number jumps to 1,600 calories (78.5 g fat). Oh! You can see how it starts to add up. I don’t know about you, but I’ve seen people eat a lot more hot dogs and drink a lot more beer than that; the average American barbecue would total 2,260 calories, 126 grams of fat, and 109 grams of sugar. That’s more than a full day’s calories in one sitting. Big whoops!

However, if you ignore all the health warnings associated with burning your cookout dinner, barbecuing can be a much healthier affair;

o Skip ready-made marinades that may contain additives and large amounts of salt and fat, and experiment with your own; use tons of fresh herbs, garlic, chili, olive oil, honey, and lemon and lime juice; mash it in a mortar and pestle and coat everything, letting the flavors infuse.

o Swap out hot dogs and burgers for shrimp skewers, foil-baked mackerel, skinless free-range chicken breasts, or lean fillets. Make vegetable and tofu skewers with large chunks of mushrooms, onion, tomato, zucchini, and bell pepper (fry the tofu a little first).

o Swap out chip and snack bowls for dips; homemade hummus or natural yogurt mixed with finely chopped onion, cucumber, chives and salt, and serve with pita strips, carrots, bell peppers, celery and cucumber sticks. Make a delicious sauce to add to fish, meat or use as a garnish by finely chopping red onion, tomatoes, cilantro, garlic and fresh chili, and dressing with lime juice.

o Ditch pale, doughy hamburger buns and buns for pita, tortilla wraps (go organic, as many others contain hydrogenated fats), granary buns, or just leave them out; there is no law that says you have to wrap everything in bread.

o Make a potato salad swapping the mayonnaise for natural yogurt (no one will notice if you season it with salt and pepper and chop some onion, garlic and herbs). Try my delicious fat-burning coleslaw; Chop red cabbage, red or spring onion, apple pieces, grated carrot, avocado, baby spinach leaves, chopped chives and mix with low-fat natural yogurt (I also add chopped fresh chilli and raw garlic).

o Instead of a thick pudding, make a huge fruit salad or serve giant wedges of cold watermelon. For the kids, make ice pops with smoothies, or slice a banana lengthwise and push in 2 squares of green and dark dark chocolate, wrap in foil and bake over the coals, serve with low-fat crème fraiche.

A barbecue is the perfect social occasion on a beautiful summer day; Make your cookout an excuse to eat something really healthy! Until next time, happy teasing.

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