Enjoy A Summer Barbecue, The Healthy Way

Summer barbecues; the days are long, the weather is warm, and the grill is fired up. Everybody loves a barbecue until we think of the staple dishes like hot-dogs, chips, potato salad, beer, and other tempting dishes that wreak havoc on one’s eating plan. No need to stress; I have tips to enjoy those summer festivities and stay focused on your goals.

1. Eat Before the Barbecue

Arriving to the barbecue on an empty stomach can lead to overindulging and choosing unhealthy dishes because they seem satisfying at the moment. Eat something before the party, this will help you exercise control and keep your favorites in smaller portions.

2. Bring a Healthy Side Dish

To make sure there is at least one healthy dish; bring your favorite one or try a new recipe. I do this for every family gathering; especially for barbecues. It is a great opportunity to share a healthier alternative with friends and family. They may hesitate at the sight of greens set next to the baked beans; but be the example! At the end of the party I am sure many will ask for the recipe; it happens all the time with my family!

Check out these two delicious recipes: Purple Cabbage and Apple Slaw from The MilletownPress and Tomato-Basil Freekeh Salad from Whole Foods Market.

3. Use the Power of Colorful Veggies

Take the focus off all the grilled meat. Create colorful kabobs using eggplant, onions, mushrooms, bell peppers, squash and more! Let’s not forget about the summer staple, corn! By cooking corn, the levels of antioxidants and other healthy phytochemicals become more readily available (Berkleywellness.com). Be sure to leave the butter and salt out of the equation and enjoy the sweet savory flavor of summer corn.

4. Make a Lap Before Filling the Plate

Take a lap around the table before filling your plate and prioritize your selections. Swap out the traditional store bought baked beans, cole slaw, and macaroni salad – which are high in saturated fat, sodium and added sugar for a homemade version. Also, when filling your plate use the three-quarter rule. Your plate should contain grains, vegetables, legumes and/or fruit which leaves just a quarter for meat. This will help keep your portions balanced and make an excellent mixture of nutrients (Berkelywellness.com).

5. Think Before you Drink

Choose your beverages wisely. Even light beverages like wine coolers can have 150-300 calories in a 12-ounce bottle. Also, stay away from the ‘fancy’ alcoholic beverages like pina coladas, margaritas, and strawberry daiquiris which are high in calories and sugar. Even non-alcoholic beverages like sweet tea and fruit juices are filled with sugar. Be sure to read the labels and try to stick to water or flavored seltzer in order to stay hydrated and avoid drinking many empty calories.

6. Finish Eating? Time to Play

When you finished eating instead of spending time around the food table where it will be tempting to go back for seconds or thirds get moving. Toss the ball around with the little ones or organize a game. It can be anything to get you and others moving and doesn’t need to be too strenuous. Keep it light, keep it fun and everyone will want to participate!

The Takeaway

Through the next couple weeks, you may celebrate outdoors with friends and family. The summer is a wonderful time to share, live, and enjoy. Stay focused on your goals and remember it is the time you spend with your company that is important and not the hamburgers, potato salad, or beer. Have a happy and healthy Fourth of July and see you on the turf soon!

~Coach Sarah


Sarah teaches classes Monday mornings and Friday nights. Click here to sign up for a class with Sarah and ask all your burning questions regarding outdoor fitness and eating right in person!


“13 Tips for a Healthier Barbecue.” Berkeley Wellness, 2017 Remedy Health Media, LLC. Web. 19 June 2017. http://www.berkeleywellness.com/healthy-eating/food/slideshow/13-tips-healthier-barbecue