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3 steps to a healthier barbecue

Summer barbies don’t have to be unhealthy meat fests. HFG dietitian Melissa Meier’s three simple steps give your next grill a nutritious spin!

Barbecuing doesn’t have to be pile upon pile of fatty, blackened snags, greasy slabs of T-bone steaks or burnt and shrivelled bacon. In fact, we’ll show you how to cook the healthiest cuts so you can enjoy fantastic flavour without harming your health. You can also check out delicious ways to season your meat, and how to create healthy, show-stopping sides the whole family will love. Don your apron, foodies — it’s time to get serious about sizzling!

STEP 1: Pick your cut

Red meat is a great source of energising iron and zinc, but it can also be high in unhealthy saturated fat. It’s important to choose a lean cut like rump or eye fillet — rather than fatty steaks, chops, and processed meats like sausages. Choose meat with the least visible fat and marbling, and trim away the thick white strip of fat along the sides.

Portion size is important. One serve of red meat is only 100g (raw) — that’s roughly the size of the palm of your hand (nothing like the jumbo-sized slabs you often see). Ask your butcher to cut steaks into 100g portions to make it easy to cook for a crowd. While beef remains an essential barbecue ingredient, try mixing it up with other protein choices. Salmon, prawns and calamari are all super nutritious and will work well on the barbecue.

STEP 2: Cook smarter

The way you prepare and cook food can make a big difference when creating a healthy barbie. Surprisingly, barbecuing can be one of the healthiest cooking methods, because high heat and fast cooking time maximise flavour while retaining nutrients.

However, avoid cooking meat over an open flame, and try not to overcook it. Blackened, charred meat can produce potentially harmful chemicals that have been linked to increased risk of cancer. The smoke flare-ups from dripping fat can also be unsafe.

Instead of charring your snags over a very hot flame, turn the heat down a little and use the hotplate. Cooking food in foil parcels or using a marinade is another effective way to reduce exposure to harmful compounds.

STEP 3: Add healthy sides

There’s nothing quite like a sausage sanger, but unfortunately a bit of meat in a slice of white bread isn’t exactly a balanced meal. While the barbie usually takes care of the protein side of things, you need to add a couple of sides to create a healthy meal. Here are a few to get you started:

1. Smart carbs

Carbohydrates provide the fuel to power you through your day — or at least a friendly game of backyard cricket. Look for those carbohydrates that have a low-Glycaemic Index — they’ll provide slow-burning energy and leave you feeling more satisfied. To avoid falling into a carb-induced coma, fill just one-quarter of your plate with carbs. Some barbecue-friendly smart carbs are:

● Homemade sweet potato wedges
● Grilled corn on the cob
● Chickpea or lentil patties
● Wholegrain bread rolls
● Quinoa or brown rice salads

2. Colourful veg

A barbecue is no excuse to skimp on veg. They’re great for their gut-friendly fibre, disease-fighting antioxidants and a wide variety of vitamins and minerals. Vegies are also low in energy, so you can fill up on them without feeling sluggish afterwards. Aim to fill half your plate with a variety of different-coloured veg. Vegies are a treat when barbecued — and they add a beautiful pop of colour too! Try these easy ideas:

● Cut cos lettuce into quarters, grill and toss through a salad
● Thread zucchini and capsicum onto skewers
with the meat of your choice
● Brush flat mushrooms with olive oil and herbs, and grill until they’re golden
● Slice onions and grill until sweet and caramelised
● Grill small vine-ripened tomatoes and drizzle with balsamic vinegar

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