Navigate a Backyard BBQ With Healthy Choices

Navigate the next BBQ spread with these course-by-course healthy eating tips from STACK Expert Kait Fortunato.

BBQ Grill

Warm weather isn't the only sign of summer. We know the season is back by the smells—freshly cut grass, chlorine from swimming pools, fruity scented suntan lotion, and, most important, the mouth-watering aromas coming from the BBQ grill.

Nutritionally, grilled meats and vegetables outweigh those fried or cooked in fat. But that doesn't necessarily mean they're all healthy choices. You still need to be mindful of certain unhealthy stuff hiding in plain sight on the picnic table. Learn how to create a healthy BBQ with the following healthy tips.

Main Course

In general, the leanest cuts of meats are chicken, turkey and lean beef. These are your best choices for a healthy BBQ. (Learn how to Select the Leanest Cuts of Beef.)

Processed meats like hot dogs and sausages are higher in sodium and artificial ingredients, so it's best to avoid them.(Get the full scoop on processed meat in this video on Concession Stand Eating.)

You know that friend who always seems to burn the burgers? Now you have a reason to get him to hand over the spatula. When meat spends too much time over charcoal (to where it chars), it can cause the production of carcinogens. These substances are associated with cancer. (Read how to ensure the safety of your BBQ in this CNN article, "How to make grilling safer.")

Another major health concern with BBQs is food poisoning. This is due to the fact that we often tend to cook everything together. Raw meat will touch cooked meat and vegetables all at once. Plus, depending on how long the party lasts, items may sit out longer than they should. Your best bet is to bypass anything that appears questionable and strike up a conversation with the cook to watch your pick when you're ready to eat.


You can have the basics for a healthy BBQ meal on your plate and then kill it with toppings—particularly ketchup and BBQ sauce, both of which are high in sugar and salt. Mayonnaise and cheese are not preferred options because they're fatty and not great for your heart health.

Some of my favorite toppings are avocado, mustard and sauteed mushrooms. Even the preliminary marinade can saturate a healthy piece of meat, so try seasoning with fresh herbs or spices instead.


Vegetables roasted on the grill are a treat. Grilling them brings out their natural sugars and crunchy texture. Some of my favorites are eggplant, zucchini and peppers. These along with green salads and fresh vegetables are your best options for side dishes. For the heartier salads, replace mayo-based pasta and potato salads with whole grain options mixed with an oil-based dressing.


I love the spring trend of grilled fruits such as peaches or pineapple paired with Greek yogurt and a little flavor. This is a great way to eat healthy and seasonally.


As the weather turns, it's important to stay hydrated. This is just one of the many reasons to make water your beverage of choice. Get creative by adding fresh fruits or fun combinations like cucumber and mint. Avoid sugary beverages such as soda, juice and alcohol. These are just direct sources of empty calories.

Healthy BBQ Recipes

Here are some of my favorite seasonal recipes. Happy grilling!


Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock