June 4, 2013 8:55 pm
Updated: March 11, 2015 9:53 am

Tips for a healthy barbecue this summer

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Barbecue season is upon us, but it doesn’t have to be just about the beer and burgers. Before you fire up your grill, consider some expert advice on how to make your barbecue a little healthier.

Meats

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“When you’re purchasing your meat, you want to make sure the skin is off,” says registered dietitian Lalitha Taylor. “And when you’re barbecuing or grilling, you want to make sure you’re marinating your meats quite well because you don’t want to be burning and getting a good crisp on them. Because that crisp is potentially carcinogenic.”

When it comes to choosing a meat, chicken and turkey burgers are typically more heart-healthy than red meat, since they contain lower amounts of saturated fat.

“Saturated fat is a hard fat at room temperature, and it’s going to remain hard in your body,” explains Taylor.

To minimize the negative impact of red meat, which is rich in protein, trim the fat or choose a leaner cut that doesn’t have as much of the white marbling.

Taylor also has a trick to give you burgers a boost.

“You can add these all-bran buds to your chicken, your turkey or even your ground beef. Mix it in – it completely disintegrates – you won’t even know it’s there. It’s a great way to stretch your meat…and you’re getting the benefit of fibre.”

Fish

Salmon is especially great to throw on the grill.

“You can actually get planks of cedar and plop your salmon on those planks, and let the flavour of that cedar kind of permeate through the salmon. That is a delicious way of having a lean protein source during barbecue season.”

A big health benefit of salmon is that it contains Omega 3, an essential fatty acid that we can’t make in our bodies, and can only get from our diet.

“They prevent our blood from being sticky, we want our blood to be nice and thin,” Taylor explains.

She adds that the Omega 3 that’s found in fish like salmon, herring, mackerel, and trout also helps lower bad cholesterol, and is important for cognitive development.

Buns

When picking out your bread or hamburger buns, opt for 100 per cent whole grain choices – they can be a great source of fibre.

If possible, avoid breads that are “enriched,” as they’re made of white flour and will not be as high in fibre or protein.

You can also look for thinner buns, or ditch the buns altogether and use a tortilla wrap for your burger.

There’s also the option of lettuce wraps for the ultra health-conscious types.

Side Dishes

Not all salads are created equal. Any salad can quickly turn bad for you if you pile on the sodium-rich dressings. Potato and pasta salads can also be very high in fat and calories.

One particularly beneficial vegetable that you can grill or throw on a skewer, is a pepper.

Red peppers actually have more vitamin C than oranges, and they’re very low in calories,” Taylor reveals.

Kale is another vegetable rich in nutrients. Taylor considers it a “powerhouse” of nutrition.

“In comparison to 19 other vegetables, kale actually has the highest antioxidant activity,” she says.

Not only can it help prevent vision issues, but it’s also high in calcium and iron.

If you’re going to use the leaves to make a salad, Taylor recommends marinating them a little longer in a dressing because of their chewy texture.

Or, you can also bake them with olive oil to make kale chips, which can serve as a healthy substitute for potato chips.

Portion sizes

Try to fill up half your plate with vegetables, and limit your starches to the size of a fist. Your protein should be the size of a deck of cards.

“Anything is ok in moderation. Watch the dressings, watch the portion sizes, and maybe substitute it up with some healthier choices. Maybe get some green salads in there, get some kale chips, get some vegetable skewers,” Taylor says.

“Get creative, get some recipes – and have fun with it!”

Do you have a healthy summer barbecue recipe to share? Post it in the comments section below!

Follow @TrishKozicka
With files from Su-Ling Goh, Global News

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