It's difficult to make it through Independence Day weekend without going to at least one barbecue. Grilling meat over an open flame is practically a national right on this holiday! But cookouts can quickly derail your healthy eating goals with all the chips, sides, hotdogs and buns. But who wants to eat a dry piece of grilled chicken while everyone else chows down on juicy burgers? So whether you're throwing your own barbecue or attending a friend or family member's, here are some healthy - and tasty - ideas to keep yourself on track without sacrificing any flavor or fun!
1. Alternative Burgers
- With the right type of seasoning, a grilled portobello mushroom burger can give any beef burger a run for its money. Marinate your portobello caps with "meaty" flavors such as balsamic soy sauce or any number of steak seasonings. Add flavor with a light mayonnaise mixed with garlic, pesto or a little sriracha.
- Tuna burgers are another favorite meat alternative. Some people prepare their patties from scratch using diced tuna, breadcrumbs and other ingredients (e.g., peppers, scallions, etc.), while others simply opt for ahi tuna steaks (4 to 6 ounces). Either way it goes, you can add an extra layer of goodness by including flavored light mayonnaise (try wasabi for starters), or topping with a homemade Remoulade sauce.
2. Grilled Shrimp Skewers
With about four pounds of peeled and deveined large shrimp, you can choose to go whatever direction you see fit, whether sweet, spicy or a combination of both. Here are some popular choices to get your gears turning:
- Create a barbecue-style marinade using chili sauce, cider vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, parsley, and garlic, along with salt and pepper. After you marinate the shrimp for about 30 minutes, thread and grill them for about 5 minutes on each side (or until the shrimp turn pink).
- For a little bit of Asian flair, try creating a vinaigrette comprised of soy sauce, chopped garlic, grated fresh ginger, toasted sesame oil, lime juice, and white wine vinegar. Once you skewer your shrimp, lightly drizzle them with peanut oil and season with salt and pepper, then grill them for about 2-3 minutes per side (or until cooked through). Now serve the shrimp skewers on a platter, drizzling them with the vinaigrette and sprinkling sesame seeds on top.
- Try lemon garlic shrimp skewers by coating your shrimp with a mixture of olive oil, kosher salt, grated lemon peel, fresh-ground pepper, chopped parsley, and minced garlic. Grill for 5 to 6 minutes total (turning once) with the lid closed if using a gas grill. The shrimp should be bright pink with a slightly opaque look when they're ready. Serve with lemon wedges to squeeze over the shrimp, and you're good to go!
Tip: Soak wooden skewers in water for 30 minutes to an hour before grilling to prevent burning.
3. Grilled Salmon
Salmon contains "good fat" (omega-3), which really gives this fish a decadent taste on the grill. There are tons of different preparations to choose from, but here are a few popular choices to try out:
- Brush your grilled salmon fillets with a sweet-and-spicy glaze comprised of hot sauce (only a little), brown sugar, paprika, chives, finely chopped red onion and light mayo. Cook about 5 to 6 minutes on each side, or until golden brown.
- Or, try a lime butter sauce. Season your salmon fillets with salt and pepper, then grill them for about 12 minutes total, turning them about halfway through. Sprinkle the fillets with a little finely grated lime zest, and then top each fillet with about 1 tablespoon of lime butter sauce. A simple yet elegant masterpiece.
- Grilled salmon goes great with a honey mustard sauce. A simple sauce comprised of Dijon mustard, whole grain mustard, honey, prepared horseradish, chopped mint leaves and salt and pepper goes great on top of a golden brown grilled salmon fillet.
Healthy Side Dishes
Instead of calorie-heavy potato salads or macaroni and cheese, try throwing some veggies such as zucchini, squash and onions on the grill. You can also try a veggie "pasta" salad made with spiralized zucchini instead of pasta, a black bean, corn and tomato mix, or coleslaw and potato salad made with light mayo.
Grilled dishes don't need to be short on flavor in order to be good for you. The healthy summer barbecue ideas listed above will help you throw a tasty cookout without sacrificing your diet goals in the process.