Balanced Fitness & Health Blog

What could be better? Enjoying a relaxing day out by the beach while you grill up your favorite meats and eat delicious sides! When it comes to bbqs, the first thing that comes to mind is hamburgers, hot dogs, meats drizzled in sauces, chips, macaroni salad, etc… Now for us fitness enthusiasts, we always ask, “Are there healthier alternatives?” And I’m here to tell you heck yes there is!!

Number one most important but of course: Pick your protein wisely!

Hamburgers and hotdogs are the traditional pick but they aren’t necessarily the best choices in terms of nutrition. Did you know hot dogs are full of fat, saturated fat, sodium, and preservatives and almost completely empty of useful vitamins and nutrients? One hot dog contains 151 calories with only 5g of protein! Nutritional profile of sausages and brats is usually even worse. Now with hamburgers, it comes down to how lean they are. A burger prepared with 95% percent lean ground beef has half the saturated fat and 113 less calories than a burger made with the average 80% lean ground beef. If the burger is lean, go for it and if not, opt for bison, turkey, and grilled chicken or salmon burgers!

Besides picking your meat, how should you marinade it? What spices are good choices?

To begin, heterocyclic amines (HCA) are formed when meat such as beef, pork, fish, or poultry, is cooked using high temperature methods, like grilling. One study found that people who consume well done meat from the grill or bbq etc, on a regular basis were 6-% more likely to get pancreatic cancer. Now how do we avoid HCAs?

Spicy marinades have been found to reduce HCA formation. Certain spices are packed with antioxidants that will help eliminate HCAs in the grilling process as well. One study exposed that adding spices such as thyme, sage, and garlic can decrease the amount of HCAs by 60% compared to the control. Rosemary may be especially potent reducing up to 90%. Another great marinade we all love: use beer and wine! Marinating beef in red wine or beer for 6 hours before grilling decreased the amount of carcinogens 40% less than in beef that wasn’t marinated. Who said alcohol was only good for drinking?

Next important thing to remember: TURN DOWN THE HEAT

If you’re trying to cut down on carcinogens, allow some extra time and try to cook your meet below 325 degrees F , which the temp where HCAs begin to form. To regulate this, ensure that your burgers have an internal temp of 160 degrees F. Another element you can add to your bbq is grilling your veggies. Grilled veggies offer the same hot off the grill taste but don’t contain carcinogens like their meaty counterparts and are a great hearty option. So if you crave grilled meat, make kebabs! Using half meat half veggies is healthier and cuts down on the HCAs.

Sides can be the angel or the devil on your shoulders. At a cookout, you’ll find a wide selection of sides whose nutrition varies from splendid to appalling. Produce is always a great choice. Watermelon is not only low in calories, but high in vitamin A and C, and great for staying hydrated. Grilled vegetables such as tomatoes, peppers, onions, squash and asparagus are great bbq choices seeing as they are high in vitamins and low in calories. Veggie platters are also great as long as you aren’t drowning it in the ranch dressing.

Baked beans are an optimal choice, stocked with fiber and other useful nutrients. They do have a significant amount of sugar sadly, so try to limit yourself to a single serving. I am a hands down chip fanatic but potato chips, tortilla chips and pretzels are essentially empty calories, so either skip them or limit yourself to just a few. Whole-grain crackers are a better option, as their high fiber content can help you stay full.

Mayonnaise-centered salads like potato salad, cole slaw and macaroni salad are all bbq regulars, but they’re also packed with fat and sodium and low in vitamins. Smarter options include fruit salad or a traditional green salad with a low-fat dressing. Skip the thousand island and ranch dips! Hummus is a much better approach. It’s great in fiber, protein and healthy fats. Guacamole is another delicious one, as its main ingredient, avocado, is high in fiber, potassium and healthy fat. Mustard and ketchup are both lower calorie condiments that contain unique and helpful nutrients. Mustard has glucosinolates and ketchup has lycopene, both of which help to fight cancer. BBQ sauce on the other hand is packed with sugar and has no redeeming nutritional qualities. Don’t do it!

Avoiding soda will save you a ton of added sugar and empty calories. Processed fruit juice and sweetened ice tea are not any better, so it’s best to avoid those as well. When it comes to beverages, you can’t beat plain old water. Toss in some fruit to boost the taste if plain water is too boring.