• By Deanna Segrave-Daly
  • In 2017
  • July 19, 2017

Make Summer Barbecues Better For You

by Rosanne Rust, MS, RDN, LDN

I have two goals for you to make your summer picnics and barbecues healthier: Try some new side dishes and practice good food safety.

Summer Barbecue Better For You

Nutritious Side Dishes

Side dishes are a great way to pump up the nutrients and flavor for your party. Healthy and delicious side dishes can add fiber, vitamins, and minerals to your diet. So instead of the standard potato or macaroni salad, try something more colorful. Here are some ideas for your summer gatherings:

  • Starters: It’s always nice to have a few snacks out to keep guests happy while you are finishing the grilling. Try hummus with veggies, a small bowl of mixed nuts, a fresh fruit plate or watermelon slices.
  • Entrees. Enjoy your favorite cuts of meat in new ways. If you grill extra, you can have a meal ready for the rest of the week. Try this pork tenderloin wrap.
  • Spinach, fruit and nut salad. The add-ins with this are endless. Simply use baby spinach for the salad base, then add toppings and toss. You can add chopped apples and walnuts, or berries and slivered almonds. Or you can try adding sliced pears, blue cheese crumbles with pecans. A simple homemade vinaigrette works well.
  • Add more veggies to your pasta salad. Have you tried “zoodles”? These are noodle-like strips of zucchini. For convenience, most grocery stores carry these, already cut and packaged and ready to use. When cooking your pasta, be sure to cook for only 8 minutes (al dente). During the last 2 minutes, dunk your zoodles in. Drain well, and rinse with cold water. Add chopped olives, chopped cucumbers, tomatoes or other favorite veggies, or use your regular pasta salad recipe.
  • Corn. Grilled or steamed corn on the cob is a summer staple. Enjoy it, but also consider other ways to use corn. Corn can be grilled and cut from cobs and tossed with other healthy ingredients (tomatoes, avocado or kale) or into a salad or salsa.

Cookout Food Safety

Food safety is important all year, but in the summer, when temperatures rise, and you may have food sitting out, it’s important to know the rules of food safety:

  • Always use separate cutting boards for meat and vegetables or other foods. Wash a cutting board thoroughly after it’s had raw meat on it.
  • Always use a clean plate or platter, and clean utensils, to place cooked meats on (don’t reuse the same platter or fork you used for raw meat, unless you can thoroughly wash it).
  • Keep cold foods cold, and hot foods hot. Two hours is the maximum time to leave things out. If it’s really hot, one hour is the limit. Hold things in the refrigerator or cooler after everyone’s plates are made.
  • Keep perishables cold until ready to use.

Happy picnicking!

Rosanne is owner of Rust Nutrition Services. She began freelance writing in 1994, created her virtual nutrition practice in 2000, now bringing 30 years of experience to what she does. As a nutrition communications consultant, Rosanne translates nutrition data into well-reasoned dietary advice so people can enjoy eating for good health. Visit her blog for more information about her books, including DASH Diet For Dummies®.