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Here’s an oldie but goodie that I thought I would re-post seeing as summer is upon us! Summer equals BBQ’s with family and friends which can sometimes either make or break your healthy eating goals. Here are my favourite healthy summer BBQ swaps that you can use throughout the summer and beyond! Enjoy!

Originally published on July 27, 2011

If there’s one thing I love, it’s a good summer BBQ! Spending time with friends and family enjoying the great weather, some music and generally celebrating life is simply too good an opportunity to pass up! That being said, I know that when I first decided to start changing my eating habits I was nervous to attend them because I wasn’t sure how I’d handle all that amazing, yet normally quite unhealthy, food choices. Potato salads with mayonaisse, burgers high in saturated fats, ice cream, alcohol, fried foods and more, it can be quite a daunting challenge.

I’m not here to tell you to never eat these foods again. Hell no! If you’re really looking forward to Aunt Mildred’s famous gummy bear potato salad, make room for it, but don’t go overboard! You can always ask her for the recipe or remember that she’ll probably make it for the next BBQ and you can look forward to more at that time. The trick is to just indulge in the things that you would ONLY have at these BBQs. You can have a burger any day of the week but you may not get a chance to have the homemade raspberry pie your best friend only makes for that one BBQ every year.

Also, you best bet to make sure you’re guaranteed to have something healthy to eat but still yummy enough that no one else will care that it’s healthy is to swap! Here are 5 simple, yet effective, ways to swap out unhealthy ingredients for healthy ones:

Mayo – Yogurt

Swap out high fat mayo for plain yogurt (try greek yogurt for a wonderful, creamy texture that’s also absolutely loaded with protein). You can still use the same ingredients you use with your mayo recipe, just use the same amount of yogurt as you would mayo. The other upshot of this is that the salad won’t be nearly as heavy tasting and will, instead, be more refreshing which is what we want to feel in the summer anyway!

Potato Salads – Grain Salads

Unless everyone at the party is substituting mayo for yogurt, you’re going to find that most potato salads are very high in calories and tend to be full of processed, refined ingredients so why not bring a grain salad using quinoa, couscous, wheatberries or speltberries? These grains have more protein, more nutrients than white potatoes and you have more of an ability to play around and create a healthy, unique dish. I recently made a quinoa salad with lentils for a family party and it was greedily snatched up by all my family members and they hadn’t a clue just how healthy it was!

Regular Hamburger Buns – Hamburger Thins

These are now a staple in my house! Instead of using heavily refined hamburger buns that are also high in calories, buy thins! They’ve become much more popular in the grocery store and are located in the same section as the regular buns. Buy multi-grain or whole wheat to cut back on the refined sugars and processing! Make sure you check the nutrition labels though, some have the same amount of calories and some have less so you’ll want to look at the ingredients to see the quality of the ingredients. Look for hamburger thins that are multi-grain (NOT white or even whole wheat as they are both extremely processed) with a lot of fibre and less sugar. Another option is to do away with buns altogether and crumble up your burger over a salad! I’m not a fan of open-face burgers so I’ll crumbled into my salad and it tastes amazing!

Regular Burgers – Portobello Mushrooms

This one may seem a little out there but, if you’re a mushroom person like I am, you’ll love this! Get rid of the burger altogether and just lightly oil two large portobello mushrooms and grill them on the BBQ! Fill them with whatever you want (lettuce, tomatoes, pickles, mustard, etc.) and munch away! This will help save room in your tummy for other delicious food. Remember: you’ll be having burgers all summer long, no need to have them at each and every get-together!

Alcohol – Sparkling Water

I know, I know, what’s a BBQ without a cold, refreshing beer (or glass of Sangria)? Beer not only contains between 100-200 calories per 12oz glass, it (as with any alcohol) messes with your liver which is NOT cool as your liver cleans your body! Alcohol is also a diuretic, leaving you susceptible to dehydration if you’re not drinking water in between bottles. On a really hot day this could really cause some problems and you could ruin the party! What a drag! So try a sparkling water instead, all you need to do is add slices of fresh fruit to a pitcher of plain or sparkling water and chill. It’s incredibly refreshing! I also recommend adding cucumber slices for a particularly lovely drink! If you opt to still drink your booze, try to limit it to two and drink plenty of water in between!

Photo Credit: Betty Dish

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