Have a Healthy BBQ! Light, Delicious Alternatives to Summer Cookout Staples
For many of us, July 4th marks the beginning of the summer BBQ season and the opportunity to indulge in the flavors we associate with summer. Taking from the concepts I have introduced since spring, it is easy to approach the BBQ from a healthy perspective and not lose sight of our journey toward healing, health, and vitality. Here are my simple tips to keep your BBQ safe and healthy, as well as recipes that will put you well on your way to hosting a cookout that leaves you and your guests thoroughly satisfied, not sluggish.
Replace heavy starches such as buns, breads, and potatoes with lighter alternatives. Instead of serving burgers on buns, try wrapping the burgers in soft lettuce leaves and garnishing with thick slices of beefsteak tomato, grilled onion, peppers, and mushrooms. Leave breads and crackers off the dip tray and substitute with fresh slices of vegetables. And if you want to avoid filling up on the empty calories of French fries, potato chips, and potato salad, prepare a more nutritious but equally filling dish with a healthy grain as its base. I particularly like making this quick salad of black wild rice and red quinoa: soak and cook equal amounts of black wild rice and red quinoa, add rinsed black beans, and then mix in chopped grilled vegetables such as zucchini, summer squash, mushrooms, onion, peppers, eggplant, and broccoli. Dress with olive or avocado oil and freshly chopped herbs, and season with Himalayan salt and black pepper.
Skip the mayo. Store-bought mayonnaise is full of vegetable oils and preservatives. For a fresher, lighter alternative, make your own simple homemade topping. Use olive, avocado, or walnut oil as your base and then mix in lemon juice and either white balsamic vinegar or rice vinegar. Then infuse this mixture with finely chopped or pureed herbs like basil, cilantro, parsley, or dill, and season with freshly ground Himalayan salt and pepper. If you really can't imagine life without mayo, try making your own—it's easier than you might think. In a food processor, add one large egg yolk and ½ tsp salt and push the button to blend. While blending, drizzle in 3/4 cup of olive oil very slowly, bit by bit, until it emulsifies into a soft cream. Add 1 minced garlic clove to transform your mayo into aioli.
Marinate meats before cooking. Though we all love the taste of scorched BBQ, burned meat can form cancer-causing compounds in the body. Marinating meat before cooking helps it avoid direct contact with the flame, as the sugars in the marinade will burn while the meat will not. When cooking poultry, simply keep the skin on while cooking and remove it before eating to avoid the char.
Keep yourself hydrated. Between the heat and the alcohol, it is very easy to dehydrate at a summer BBQ. For each glass of alcohol you drink, remember to compensate with 12–16 oz of unsweetened water or herbal tea. Prepare your favorite herbal tea in a large quantity the night before your BBQ and allow it to cool at room temperature before placing in the refrigerator. Add in a few complementary fruits, vegetables, and herbs, and serve to your guests in a beautiful glass pitcher.
Serve an abundance of fresh, locally grown market vegetables.There is no better way to get all those important health-promoting antioxidants and phytonutrients than to eat an abundance of locally grown produce. I love to serve some combination of these 6 produce-rich dishes:
Garden Salad with Figs & Goat Cheese Carefully wash and dry a mix of greens and herbs including locally grown lettuce, spinach, arugula, kale, dandelion, basil, and parsley. Place in a bowl and top with shavings of fennel bulb. Mix together a strong-bodied unfiltered virgin olive oil with lemon juice, Himalayan salt, and pepper, and add to the salad. Sprinkle with toasted pine nuts, walnuts, and sunflower or pumpkin seeds, and then garnish with sliced fresh black mission figs and honey goat cheese.
Baked Tomato Salad In a baking dish, mix together a collection of summer tomatoes, including a variety of heirloom, grape, yellow, purple, orange, and other varieties. Cut the large tomatoes in half. Add some sliced purple onion and whole peeled garlic cloves. Drizzle generously with a strong-bodied unfiltered virgin olive oil. Season with Himalayan salt and freshly ground black pepper. Bake at 350 degrees till tomatoes are just softening and serve warm.
Homemade Warm Salsa Cook some fresh corn on the cob and then remove the kernels. Combine the corn kernels with diced zucchini, summer squash, red onion, mixed peppers, mushrooms, and eggplant. Toss with olive or grapeseed oil, fresh herbs, Himalayan salt, and pepper. Sauté in a pan on the grill burner and serve warm.
Alternately, serve this salsa as a starter by spooning it into endive leaves and sprinkling it with fresh goat cheese, or use it as a topping on freshly grilled fish, poultry, or meat.
Grilled Lemon Fish with Fresh Herbs. Replace heavy turf with lighter surf by swapping out burgers for grilled fish. Start with a whole fish like red snapper or branzini. Keep the head and the tail on—if you're not sensitive to the sight—but make sure the fish is gutted and properly cleaned. Stuff the cavity with chopped fresh herbs and slices of lemon, sweet onion, mushrooms, and peppers. Season the cavity and the outside with freshly ground Himalayan salt and pepper. Brush with grapeseed oil, which tolerates high heat, and grill on a wood plank or in a fish basket. Serve with homemade salsa or pesto.
Freshly Picked Berry Bowl Craft a beautiful berry bowl to finish your meal with a burst of color. Mix together a variety of freshly picked berries like blackberries, strawberries, raspberries, and blueberries with a dash of white balsamic vinegar and an unexpected sprinkling of chopped fresh mint leaves.
Fun Fondue Melt dark chocolate in a fondue pot over a small burner at the BBQ table, and serve with a variety of fresh, well-dried berries for dipping. Dark chocolate has significantly less sugar than milk chocolate varieties, and will satisfy your sweet tooth without the sugar crash. Find dark chocolate too bitter? Serving it with extra-sweet berries will balance out the bitterness and have you coming back to the fondue pot again and again.
Our nutrition expert Peta Cohen has been a clinical nutritionist and metabolic specialist since 1996. Peta specializes in addressing underlying metabolic changes that occur as a result of lifestyle choices and aging to prevent diseases, and deals with root causes of complex and chronic health issues. Her extensive clinical experience and research have led her to share her knowledge at seminars and conferences worldwide. In Peta's posts for the BoomSpot, she shows that great health starts with you and gives practical tips on how to improve it right now.