According to a survey by Boots, the average helping at a barbecue is made up of almost 3,000 calories and includes a tummy-aching amount of dishes. On average, we tuck into to 2 sausages, one and a half burgers, 2 chicken drumsticks, one and a half meat kebabs, fish, a jacket potato, a green salad, pasta salad, and a dessert plus some fruit salad.
Sounds incredible, but when you consider how sociable barbecues are and that you tend to stand around in the garden or park for hours, eating, drinking and chatting, it’s easy to imagine the food count getting higher.
But if you want to stay in shape this summer while enjoying lots of barbecue parties, we have a few tips for you. Grilling is one of the healthiest forms of cooking, so in theory eating healthily at a barbecue should be a doddle – especially if you remember to avoid certain dishes and sauces.
If you’re hosting the barbecue, you’ll find keeping the calories down effortless. Forget serving a pile of fatty sausages, cheesy burgers and mayonnaise-soaked potato salads, and instead focus on simple, flavoursome, wholesome foods. Of course, that’s not to say you can’t offer the traditional sausages, burgers and potato salads, but you may want to choose low-fat versions such as fat-reduced sausages or vegetarian sausages, lean burgers, and potato salads made with low-fat dressing.
Vegetable and chicken kebabs are a great option as they look great, are easy to grill, and taste delicious. Plus people can pick and choose what items to add to their skewer. As a rule, cut the lean chicken into cubes and alternate with tasty vegetables like peppers, cherry tomatoes and aubergine. Either soak the kebabs in a low-fat home-made marinade or simply drizzle over some soy sauce or olive oil before cooking on the grill.
An array of salads should fill you up with good calories too, such as green salads minus any dressing (you can have dressing available separately for those who want it), cous cous salads, and chickpea salads. And there’s no need to skimp on the snacks and dips either, but just offer healthy versions like raw vegetables and salsa or thick slices of tomato and mozzarella and olives.
When it comes to dips, try making your own. For example, salsa can be made from a tin of chopped tomatoes and finely chopped garlic, chillies, onion and parsley; and Tzatziki from low-fat yogurt, sliced cucumber, garlic and mint.
While it’s naturally easier to watch what you eat when it’s your barbecue, as you know which are the healthiest dishes, there are some things to look out for as a general rule when enjoying a friend’s barbecue. Stick to lean meats like chicken and turkey, try to avoid adding extras to barbecued foods such as butter to corn on the cob or dressing to salad, and avoid the particularly fatty foods like sausages and barbecued ribs with lashings of BBQ sauce. Try instead to fill up on vegetable-rich kebabs, jacket potatoes and light salads, plus healthy snacks and dips.
For dessert, go for fruit as it’s low in fat but so delicious, whether you choose barbecued fruit like pineapple rings or cooked bananas, or a fresh bowl of fruit salad.