The Essential Healthy Cookout Menu
Google “cookout menu” and chances are you’ll get a million (or at least close to it) recipes for creamy pasta salads, sugary baked beans, mile high pies, and of course dozens of ways to make hot dogs gourmet. These dishes have become synonymous with summer bbqs. Unfortunately, they aren’t doing anything to help America’s waistlines.
So, this summer, I’m challenging you to think outside the bun and make your next cookout menu a healthy one. After all, traditional unhealthy foods are novel every Memorial Day, but by the 4th of July, aren’t you sick of filling your paper plate with globs of things that make you feel crappy?
I’m sharing some of my fave recipes to set yourself up for success all summer long. Treat your guests to something different – yummy food AND leaving your summer soiree feeling happy and healthy.
Cookout Menu – Starters:
Don’t waste your time with chips, pretzels or other nutrient poor bowls of crunch. Make a gorgeous crudités plate, filled with veggies you may normally overlook: jicama, fennel, radishes, green beans and endive leaves are perfection on a smokin’ hot day.
Just whip up an awesome dip to go with them and you’ll feel so good about not having greasy fingers while munching.
Hollow out a pepper and use it as the bowl to fill with this Greek yogurt dip. In lieu of crudités or packaged fried chips, make your own chips by slicing soft tortillas (look for 5 grams of fiber or more on the package – I’m a fan of Food for Life Organic Ezekial) into chip size triangles and tossing them on the BBQ for a few seconds on each side.
Grilled jalapeños stuffed with goat cheese and sun dried tomatoes wrapped in extra lean and delicate prosciutto will give that whole you’ve just completed culinary school look. Full of appetite suppressing capsaicin and protein, these one up a pig in a blanket any day!
Cookout Menu – Main course:
I’m not anti-bread, but truth be told, eating the bun of a burger or hot dog just isn’t something I’ll ever encourage. Buns tend to be nutrient poor and way over processed, so really, why waste time with them?
I like to focus on the smoky barbecue flavor of the steak, chicken, fish or burger that normally goes inside. Just skip the bun and go the fork and knife direction, but I know that’s a little anti-barbecue, as it requires a seat and a table to be most effective. Do it anyway. I’ll join you on the grass.
Or, you can try putting your grilled eats into a cabbage leaf or sturdy lettuce leaf and chow down – this idea came from one of my favorite Korean dishes bulgogi:
Just a reminder – avoid charring meat as it is grilled over a hot barbecue. Don’t eat blackened or burned animal protein, including beef, pork, chicken or fish – we know that charred meats contain heterocyclic amines – compounds that are known to cause cancer.
Cookout Menu – Dessert:
Just because you’re praying for sun to wear your new polka dot bikini doesn’t mean you have to skip dessert altogether. You just need to take your focus off the tray of brownies and look to cleaner options that didn’t require the word “bake.”
Brush some peaches, pineapple and plums with a little bit of honey and a sprinkle of nutmeg. Toss them on the grill for 3 – 8 minutes, depending on how hot the grill is and serve on a stick or with a spoonful of sorbet or vanilla bean ice cream and fresh mint.
Happy and healthy bbq! I hope your cookout menu sets the tone for how you’ll enjoy your summer – living your most Nutritious Life, always.