Healthy family barbecues: 101

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Taking the skin off of chicken significantly reduces the fat content, and swapping seafood for beef can cut a good portion of calories and fat. (AP Photo/Roberto Pfeil)

By Beth Wallace R.D.

With the temperatures heating up and the sun shining long into the evening, we know it's time to fire up the grill. Summer is my favorite season for eating — with plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, the options for healthy meals are endless.

And with the start of summer begins all of those great summer holidays and parties. With many occasions to celebrate and days less structured with school out of session, summer is a time when many children unknowingly gain weight. Though I would never tell you that you should skip your favorite picnic treat, it is important to keep conscious of your family's eating through the summer. Here are five tips on how to keep your family's summer barbeque season happy and healthy:

 

  • Keep your drinks light: These hot days require more fluid to keep up with your body's losses, but make sure you have plenty of low calorie beverages available. Iced tea with sliced peaches instead of sugar, fresh squeezed lemonade, and seltzer with with lemons, limes, or oranges are a better choice than sodas or juice drinks at a party. Always have a pitcher of ice water available in the refrigerator.
  • Consider kebabs: How do you get your kids to eat vegetables at a barbecue? Put them on a stick! Making kebabs with vegetables and chicken or fish is a healthy, easy way to encourage a veggie intake, and it's a whole lot more fun than a salad.
  • Focus on lean protein: Taking the skin off of chicken significantly reduces the fat content, and swapping seafood for beef can cut a good portion of calories and fat. For red meats, look for the least amount of white “marbling” to ensure you are picking the leanest cut.
  • Pump up your barbeque basics: Adding some healthy, fresh ingredients to your standard side dishes will maximize the flavors and the nutrition. Add chickpeas, cut green beans and artichokes to your pasta salad; swap the cream based chip and vegetable dips for fresh salsa; add some chopped carrots and peppers to your potato salad.
  • Make fruit desserts fun: To me, there's nothing better than a slice of watermelon at the end of a summer meal. If you want to get creative, make some fruit skewers with a variety of seasonable melons and berries, and serve with a honey yogurt dip. Looking for a frozen treat? Have the kids help you make fruit smoothie pops — puree your favorite soft fruits like blueberries, peaches, strawberries in a blender with low fat yogurt, and pour into popsicle molds or ice trays. Delicious.

 

Enjoy a healthy and safe summer season.

Beth Wallace, RD, is a registered dietitian at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.

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