Don’t worry, mama – I’m not suggesting you ditch your favorite BBQ recipes to eat ONLY fruits and veggies. But, if you’re looking to make your summer cooking as healthy as possible, consider alternatives that reduce added sugars and refined grains.
- Added sugars increase the risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity, and a number of other chronic health problems. Harvard Health Publishing notes that added sugars are often found in things we don’t expect, such as ketchup, BBQ sauce, and sports beverages – all prevalent at backyard BBQs!
- Be on the lookout for those hidden sugars in processed and seemingly healthy foods. Not sure what to look for? University of California – San Francisco has a list.
- Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health also guides against eating highly processed, refined grains, such as white bread. The more refined a grain, the lower the nutrient content, while unprocessed, whole grains actually help fight diseases in our bodies.
- Instead, look for foods that have whole grains listed as the first or second ingredient or choose unprocessed whole grains, such as quinoa or brown rice.
If all of this seems daunting, don’t fret! As you’re preparing for your next outdoor gathering, consider some of these healthy – and easy – substitutes for your normal BBQ recipes.
Let’s face it – hamburgers, hot dogs, and brats may not go away and they’re so much tastier with a bun! If you’re not ready to ditch the bun, choose a 100% whole grain or sprouted bun over a white bun.
If you’re going gluten-free or trying to cut processed foods, give a lettuce bun a try! Just wrap your burger or hot dog in a large, leafy lettuce (like romaine), and you have a nature-made bun ready to go.
Pasta salad was one of my summer favorites growing up. Now, though, I know it’s full of added sugars and refined carbohydrates. How can this be a healthy summer recipe? Consider:
- Subbing white pasta for whole-grain pasta
- Subbing pasta for veggie noodles, such as zucchini or carrot noodles
- Replacing the dressing with your own blend of olive oil and Italian spices
- Keeping that great flavor and making your own Italian dressing
Chips & Dip
Every backyard BBQ has to have something crunchy. But, what’s really in those potato chips and savory dips? Lots of added sugars.
How can you keep the crunch and add some nutrients?
- Replace cheese or ranch dip with homemade salsa (minus the sugar) or hummus
- Set out a veggie tray with hummus and guacamole for dipping
- Try nut-based crackers instead of chips
What’s a backyard BBQ without condiments?? We have to have our ketchup and BBQ sauce – but how can we have that without all the added sugars?
- Buy a sugar-free condiment
- Make your own BBQ sauce
- Make your own ketchup
- Try a new topping – hummus, homemade pesto, or guacamole will give your favorite backyard dishes a new spin!
Another BBQ staple full of added sugars. They’re sweet. They’re delicious. For many, they’re a must-have. If you have a favorite brand, see if they have a reduced sugar or sugar-free version of baked beans. If you really want to know what’s going into your food, Sugar Free Mom offers a crock pot baked beans recipe free of refined sugars.
Cookies, cupcakes, brownies. All available for easy pickings at most summer gatherings – and all full of refined sugars and flours! Instead of abandoning all desserts, consider these simple substitutions:
- Replace white sugar with coconut sugar
- Find a recipe that uses honey, syrup, or dates as sweeteners
- Replace butter with butter-flavored coconut oil
- Bake with whole wheat flour instead of all-purpose flour
- Let yourself have just one!
- Reducing portion sizes is another healthy alternative that doesn’t force you to do more or give up what you love.
The options are endless! Whether it’s a simple transition from refined grains to whole grains or a more involved switch to cutting out added sugars or a switch from allowing yourself two plates to one – you’ve got this, mama.
Try some new BBQ recipes, ask your kids to cook with you and experiment with some healthy summer recipes, but, most of all, enjoy your summer!