Make healthier choices at BBQ gatherings

If you are trying to go the healthier route foodwise, cookout offerings can really derail you because they tend to be loaded with fat, salt, sugar, and calories.

Hot fun in the summertime typically involves lots of gatherings that center around yummy BBQ’s.  If you are trying to go the healthier route foodwise, cookout offerings can really derail you because they tend to be loaded with fat, salt, sugar, and calories. How can you stay on track with your weight loss goals when there is a spread of mouth-watering culinary temptations?

Bring a few low-cal dishes.  Why not volunteer to bring a dish or two of foods you can nibble on that are not fatty-filled.  A fresh veggie tray with a low-cal dip is one healthy option that you can load up on sans the guilt. Arrange your veggie tray with fresh bell peppers, carrots, cucumbers, radishes, celery, zucchini, broccoli, tomatoes, and squash; these healthy offerings are always welcomed. Grilled veggies are also delish.  Offer to bring a few raw veggies that your host can grill for you.

Take a pass on the mayo-based coleslaw. Instead, try making a healthy vinegar-based slaw that is tasty and low in calories (see our recipe below).

Fresh fruits are always a hit at any gathering. Arrange a tray of summer faves you can nosh on that include strawberries, blueberries, watermelon, cantaloupe, cherries, peaches and watch how fast they all disappear.

Load up on green salad.  Go ahead and fill up your plate with a green salad, which is a crowd-pleaser.  Don’t be afraid to jazz up the green stuff with healthy offerings like sliced raw almonds, black beans, chickpeas, or raw veggies like asparagus and corn.  Green salads can be satisfying and healthy, but you can undo the healthy part by going overboard with the fatty store-bought dressings. Folks will typically use more than a standard serving of dressing when eating salad, and the calories, added sugars, sodium, and saturated fat can undoubtedly add up. So if you plan on bringing a green salad to a cookout, why not bring your own dressing too. (see recipe below)

Stick to a healthy dessert. It will take quite a bit of willpower not to indulge in the various pies and cakes that folks tend to bring to BBQ’s. There are several ways to satisfy a sweet tooth without putting your health in jeopardy. You can always opt for a slice of fresh juicy watermelon or a bowl of fresh mixed fruit. Frozen fruit bars not only help beat the summer heat but have a dessert-like flavor. The popsicle-like treats are made with real fruit, veggies, milk, and even tea, and they typically clock in at under 100 calories with 12 grams of sugar or less. They also tend to be free of high fructose corn syrup and artificial colors. So try bringing your host a box of Whole Fruit–Fruit Bars, Power of Fruit, Nestle’s Outshine Fruit & Veggie Bars, or Brewla Specialty Brewed Bars (can all be found at your local retailer). When dessert is served, you won’t be envying all of the other guests because your yummy fruit pop will make you smile.

Vinegar-based cole slaw:


  • 1/2 thinly sliced head of green cabbage
  • 1 cup of thinly sliced red cabbage
  • 2 whole shredded carrots
  • 3 thinly sliced green onions
  • 1/4 cup of apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon of yellow mustard
  • 1 tablespoon of honey 
  • 1/4 cup of olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon of celery seed
  • salt to taste
  • 1/2 tsp of cayenne pepper


  • In a small bowl whisk together vinegar, mustard, cayenne pepper, honey and olive oil and set aside. In a separate bowl mix together cabbages, carrots, green onions, and celery seed.
  • Next, pour a small amount of the dressing on the cabbage mixture and mix together until combined and until the desired amount of dressing is achieved.
  • Season with salt and chill before serving.

Homemade healthier salad dressing:


  • 2 cups cilantro leaves, stems removed
  • 1 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 4 cloves garlic minced very fine
  • 1/4 cup lime juice (from 2 limes)
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste


  • In a blender, combine all of the ingredients and mix until smooth.