How Can I Make Barbecue Healthier?

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These tips can help you get out there and enjoy some barbecue at restaurants without compromising your health goals.

By Rachael Derr, RD

Q: “I love my barbecue but hate feeling guilty after I order it. How can you make barbecue healthier?”

A: Summer is here and with Labor Day right around the corner, I know I can’t get barbecue off of my mind! Here are some tips to make your barbecue a healthier choice at restaurants, when the weather is too hot to grill at home:

  • If your aim is to reduce calories:
    • Stick with lean protein choices like eye of round roast or steak, sirloin tip side steak, top round roast and steak, bottom round roast and steak, top sirloin steak, boneless, skinless chicken breast, pork tenderloin, seafood or tofu.
    • Watch your portion size! BBQ restaurants are notorious for large portions. When your meal arrives at the table, ask for a box and take half of your meal home for lunch the next day!
  • If you are reducing your carbohydrate intake:
    • Steer clear of sides like cornbread, macaroni & cheese or pasta salad.
  • If you are cutting down on fat:
    • Avoid side dishes that are fried or have the words “creamy, creamed, smothered or buttery,” as such dishes are typically loaded with saturated fat.
  • If you are reducing your sugar intake:
    • Go light on the BBQ sauce, which is usually sweetened with sugar, molasses or both.
    • I know a lemonade or soda probably sounds right with BBQ, but these beverages can have, on average, 39 grams of sugar for a 12 fluid ounce serving. Stick with water or unsweetened iced tea to reduce your sugar intake.
  • If you are increasing your fiber intake:
    • Increase your portion size of fruit and veggies!
    • Collard greens, beans, salad and succotash are all great BBQ sides that will help you get your fiber.
  • If you are incorporating more nutrient-dense foods: 
    • Focus on superfoods, which are nutrient powerhouses that pack large doses of antioxidants, polyphenols, vitamins, and minerals
    • Tomatoes, Brussel sprouts, salmon, avocados, spinach, cauliflower, collard greens, black beans, asparagus, baked potatoes, berries and mustard greens are all superfoods commonly found in BBQ cuisine.

The tips above can help you get out there and enjoy some barbecue at restaurants without compromising your health goals.

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