Healthy (and Unhealthy) BBQ Ideas For Athletes

Athletes: if you want to enhance your performance, make smart choices of the foods you cook on the grill this summer.

Healthy BBQ

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There's something about warm weather that pushes us toward the grill. If you slap the right stuff on it, that hunk of metal in your backyard can keep your plate loaded with performance-enhancing meals. Approach it carelessly and you'll find yourself mired in a sea of mayo-laden salads and greasy meats. Charlie Seltzer, MD, from Lean4Life Medical Weight Loss & Fitness Solutions in Philadelphia, offered the following healthy BBQ ideas, which you can take with you when you head to your next cookout.

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Healthiest BBQ Choices

Barbecued Chicken: Without the skin, chicken is a high-protein, low-fat choice. If you're trying to pack on some weight, the skin is fair game. Top the chicken with a squeeze of lemon if you're looking to keep your calories low. Or slather it with BBQ sauce if you're not watching your waistline.

Steak: Even the fattier cuts provide muscle-building protein, and moderately-sized portions will not break the calorie bank. Keep the sides light (fruits and veggies are great choices), and you'll have  a filling, athlete-friendly meal. If you can find (and afford) grass-fed beef, opt for that. It has slightly higher amounts of fat-burning, muscle-friendly omega-3 fatty acids.

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Grilled Vegetables: Vegetables provide stomach-filling fiber, making you less likely to dive elbows deep into the macaroni salad; and they're packed with vitamins and minerals—crucial for keeping athletes performing at their peak. Toss them in oil and add a sprinkle of salt for flavor. No effort.

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Worst BBQ Choices

Hot Dogs: This barbecue staple packs a wallop of fat and sodium and not much else (except maybe chemicals). You're better off sticking with less processed meat choices, like chicken, steak, bison or turkey.

Hamburgers: Although lean burgers can be part of a healthy nutrition plan, most barbecue burgers are higher in fat than they are in protein, which is a major no-no for athletes. Unless you know the ground beef is on the leaner end (15 percent fat at most, with 10 or less being ideal), keep browsing.

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Mayonnaise-Based Salads: We're not talking about the spring mix or the Caesar salad your aunt brought. But they quickly turn unfriendly by being tossed in creamy, fat-laden mayo. These high-fat and calorie bombs can inhibit your performance, and you should generally avoid them. To add a creamy texture and get a solid serving of healthy fats, toss some sliced avocado into your green salad.

As you can see, healthy BBQ ideas are not hard to come by. You just need to make smart choices about what to load on your plate. Most important though, you need to enjoy yourself!

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