7 Healthy Barbecue Ideas

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Weather permitting, there’s nothing more tasty and enjoyable then a barbecue! There’s no doubt that barbecues are delicious, but isn’t oiling and charring all that meat and vegetables pretty unhealthy? Well, yes and no…

Rather than avoid barbecues altogether, there are plenty of ways you can enjoy barbecuing with friends or family – you probably aren’t firing up your barbecue every day, after all!

7 healthy BBQ food ideas

Here are my 7 top tips for a super-healthy, super-tasty barbecue:

  1. Marinate before cooking for extra flavour

    Marinades can be used for meat, fish or vegetables. Mix all the ingredients together and coat for one hour (or more) before cooking. Here are a few of my favourite marinades:

    Honey Soy: 2 tbsp honey, 4 tbsp soy sauce, juice from 2 limes and 2 crushed whole garlic cloves.

    Balsamic Vinegar: 60ml lemon juice, 2 tsp brown sugar, 1 tbsp chopped thyme, 60ml balsamic vinegar, 2 crushed whole garlic cloves.

    Tex-Mex: 2 tbsp linseed oil, 2 tbsp paprika, ½ tsp cayenne pepper, 1 tbsp cumin, 1 tbsp brown sugar, 1 tbsp oregano, 1 tbsp tomato puree, 60ml of water, 2 crushed whole garlic cloves.

    Indian Spice:
    2 tbsp Greek yoghurt, 20g fresh coriander, 20g fresh mint, 1 tbsp garam masala, ½ red chili, 2 tbsp sunflower oil, 2 garlic cloves, 2 tbsp lemon juice, ½ tsp sea salt. Blend all the ingredients together in a blender.

  2. Make a healthy side sauce

    Tahini & Lemon 

    Ingredients – 150g tahini, 120ml water, ½ cup lemon juice, 100g natural yoghurt.
    Method – Mix together and season to taste.

    Satay Sauce

    Ingredients – 100g crunchy sugar free peanut butter, 1 red chili, 120ml coconut milk, 2 tsp fish sauce, 1 tbsp lime juice, 1 tbsp kecap manis.
    Method – Combine all the ingredients in a small saucepan and cook for a couple of minutes until heated through. Allow to cool.

    vegetable skewers with satay sauce

    Yoghurt & Dill

    Ingredients – 150ml Greek yoghurt, 2 tsp honey, 2 tbsp chopped dill, 1 tsp Dijon mustard.
    Method – Mix all the ingredients together.

    Red Pepper and White Bean

    Ingredients – 2 roasted and peeled red peppers, 400g canned cannellini beans, 1 crushed whole garlic clove, 1 tsp paprika, 1 tbsp olive oil, 2 tbsp chopped parsley.
    Method – Blend all the ingredients together, season to taste.

    Carrot, Ginger & Cumin

    Ingredients – 500g carrots peeled, 1 garlic clove, 1 tsp ground cumin, 1 tbsp olive oil, 2 tbsp Greek yoghurt.
    Method – Preheat oven to 180C. Cut the carrots into chunks, coat with olive oil and cumin, roast in the oven for 15 minutes or until cooked. Allow to cool, blend in a blender with the other ingredients.

  3. Try this healthy coleslaw

    Ingredients – ½ small shredded red and ½ small shredded white cabbage, 2 grated carrots, 2 tbsp chopped parsley or coriander, 1 tbsp chopped mint, 2 tbsp toasted pumpkin seeds.
    Method – For the dressing mix together 2 tbsp lemon juice, 2 tbsp olive oil, 100g natural yoghurt, season to taste. In a bowl mix all the ingredients together.

  4. Go veggie

    When barbecuing vegetables, I like to sit them on pierced foil on top of the grill. This way they’ll cook evenly, without getting too charred.

    Making vegetarian kebabs can be a lot of fun – give some of these sauce and skewer combinations a try at your next barbecue:

    vegetarian kebab skewers

  5. Use lean cuts of meat

    Chicken Breast

    Flatten it out with a rolling pin – this cuts down on the cooking time – and marinate for at least an hour before cooking for extra flavour.

    Chicken breast is also perfect sliced into chunks for kebabs, and go particularly well with satay sauce.

    bbq skewers with satay sauce

    Steak or Pork Fillets

    Use the Tex-Mex marinade recipe from tip 1 above, and serve with coleslaw and baked sweet potatoes.

    Healthy Burgers

    Use 5% fat mince and serve without a bun, top with a slices of avocado and tomato. Goes well with the red pepper and bean sauce with a side of coleslaw.

  6. Barbecue fish

    Salmon fillets are a good healthy choice. Marinade in honey soy for 1 hour and grill for a few minutes on each side. Serve with the yoghurt and dill sauce and a side of roasted vegetables, or salad and couscous.

    If you’re feeling ambitious, try barbecuing a whole trout, mackerel or even a salmon. Simply stuff the opening with thyme and lemon, then place on the grill for a few minutes on each side. Once cooked, the skin should be easy to remove before serving.

    Monkfish, cod, king prawns and haddock are ideal for kebabs. Marinade these first, then cut into 3cm cubes (except prawns which can remain whole) and thread onto skewers with your choice of vegetables. If using wooden skewers, soak these first to prevent them burning.

  7. Get your children involved!

    Encourage your kids to get involved by getting them to design their own kebabs. This is great for fussy eaters, as they’re more likely to eat food that they’ve helped to prepare.


How to cut down the carcinogens when barbecuing:

It is true that barbecuing may cause potentially carcinogenic chemicals – especially if you like your food particularly charred. However, there are a number of ways you can reduce these, so you can safely cook healthy, delicious food on the barbecue.

  • Don’t cook your food too close to the coals
    This helps to prevent burning.
  • Place a tray under the grill to limit the amount of fat that drips through
    When fat drips onto hot coals it creates smoke that contains carcinogens.
  • Don’t use too much oil.
  • Turn meat or fish frequently so it doesn’t burn
    You’re looking for browned (not blackened!) meat.
  • Cook smaller portions
    Long cooking times create more carcinogens, so this is quicker and healthier.
  • Use lean cuts of meat
    They have less fat to drip onto the coals.
  • For larger cuts of meat part cook indoors and then barbecue
    Don’t worry, you’ll still get that delicious barbecued flavour.
  • Don’t expose food to a naked flame
    This makes burning food less likely.

Let us know what you think of Jessica’s tips in the comments below! Do you have any healthy barbecue tips of your own? If so, we’d love to hear them!


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