As we head into mid-July, more and more Americans are dusting off their grills, and turning up the heat on their favorite summer barbecue recipes. Unfortunately, great tastes don’t always equate to the greatest choices for your health. Excess calories, fats, and preservatives can all exacerbate the risks for damaging, potentially life-threatening conditions like cancer, obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.
Unfortunately, many traditional barbecue foods have been known for potentially worsening the risk factors behind all of the above. Furthermore, the advanced glycation products, which come as a byproduct of grilling red meat, have been linked to an increased risk of heart disease. (See this Nutrients journal for more clinical information.)
Processed, non-organic charcoal has also been known to contain a high content of harmful, potentially carcinogenic substances like petroleum, anthracite, sodium nitrate, and borax. Likewise, many processed types of meat are packed to the brim with heart-harmful nitrates - a single average hot dog, for instance, contains a quarter of one’s daily recommended sodium intake. (Food Revolution Network).
While these franks are delectable, delicious to eat, and easy to prepare on a whim, they frankly aren’t so healthy to consume 818 times a second. That’s the estimated number of hot dogs Americans collectively consume between Labor Day and Memorial Day, according to The National Hot Dog and Sausage Council!
The good news is that there are a number of ways you and your loved ones can start eating a little healthier around the barbie this summer. There’s also a number of trustworthy telehealth apps you can count on to reinforce healthier habits.
Read on to learn our top recommendations for the best healthy summer BBQ recipes, best healthy eating tips, and the best telehealth apps for learning healthier eating habits, throughout this summer and beyond.
Best Summer BBQ Food (For Your Health)
Want to get to grilling? Before you get started, consider the following diet tips for a better summer barbecue:
- Choose whole-grain buns and rolls: If you’re into BBQing burgers, hot dogs, or sandwiches, consider making them a tad healthier by opting for whole wheat buns and rolls. Whole grains are an excellent source of nutrients, fibers, and complex carbohydrates, all of which have been linked to a lower risk of disease.
- Steer clear of store-bought side salads: Salads offer an excellent way to balance out your barbecue meals, as an abundant source of fruits and vegetables. However, processed, pre-packaged salads tend to contain extra fats, sugars, and additives, as do store-bought marinades. Prepare your own, whenever possible.
- Consider eating leaner meats: Leaner meats are far lower in saturated fat content than red meats, and are abundant in proteins with healthier fats that are known to be good for both heart and brain health. Lean meat options worth considering could include skinless grilled chicken breast, fish, sirloin or tenderloin beef, and other lean poultry.
- Less sugary drinks, more water: It’s basically a no-brainer that old-fashioned H2O is one of the healthiest liquid refreshment options out there, yet we don’t drink it enough. We quite literally can’t live without it, yet studies estimate that as much as 75% of Americans could be living chronically dehydrated! (StatPearls)
- Try eating more mindfully: Eating more slowly, more mindfully, and with clearer intent won’t just foster a more enjoyable eating experience. It will also promote healthy digestion, mitigate stomach discomfort, and mitigate the risk of you overeating.
Heed the words of late monk Thich Nhat Hanh on mindful eating: “Don’t chew your worries, your fear, or your anger. If you chew your planning and your anxiety, it’s difficult to feel grateful for each piece of food. Just chew your food.”
The good news is that it only takes a few simple steps and lifestyle changes to make your summer BBQ healthier. Innovative telehealth weight loss apps that incorporate cognitive behavioral therapy strategies, such as Noom, can go a remarkably long way toward mentally drilling these habits into your head, and ensuring they stick.
Even better news, perhaps, is that you can still have healthier summer BBQ meals without sacrificing good taste. We hope that at least a few of our healthier BBQ suggestions will be able to whet your appetite:
- Summer BBQ Veggies: Peppers, onions, corn on the cob, eggplants, and zucchini can all go great over a grill, and all offer a great way to round out a cookout meal.
- Healthy Summer BBQ Appetizers: Consider deviled eggs, skewers, or “one bite” appetizer recipes for healthier summer snack options.
- Healthy Summer BBQ Dishes: The American Heart Association has an excellent guide to heart-healthy grill recipes worth giving a look.
- Healthy Summer BBQ Dessert Ideas: There is no shortage of light, sweet, and savory summer dessert snacks you could incorporate after dinner, including things like shortcakes, cheesecakes, fruit pies, no-bake tarts, and fruit bowls.
We can offer you some basic pointers, but having healthier BBQs this summer will take initiative on your part. As is the case with anything relating to your general wellness, you can’t control everything about your dietary health, but the good news is that there’s plenty that’s in your control.
One way you can take control is by incorporating positive reinforcement diet apps into your general wellness routine. Noom incorporates research-backed techniques to positively reinforce habits that promote healthier eating and weight loss. You can start your first week with them for as little as half a buck!