Better Your Barbecue: Seven Simple Suggestions - Westport Moms

With Memorial Day behind us and an ENTIRE grilling season ahead of us, Robin Barrie (local mom and nutritionist!) has shared some of her favorite tips and tricks for enjoying healthy backyard barbecue meals at home and with friends. Read on to learn more

1.  Break Up with White Bread.
Buns for the BBQ are usually filled with white flour, sugar and other ingredients that are empty calories and inflammatory for the skin and gut (not ideal for bathing suit season). Here are a couple of options to do things better:

  • Go topless-eat a half a bun if you usually eat both sides
  • Choose a whole grain option (first ingredient should be 100% whole wheat, like in Ezekiel English muffins)
  • Try gluten-free options, such as Barely Bread, Moxy, Siete wraps, or Mikey’s English muffins:
  • You can also skip the buns all together (especially if you want to save that 100-200+ calories for alcohol or dessert).   Place your burger or dog in a lettuce or collard green wrap.

2.  Eat All the Vegetables.
Vegetables are filled with water and fiber to keep you hydrated and feeling full. Use a lettuce wrap for your grilled chicken. Pile up allll the lettuce, tomato, peppers, and onion on your naked burger.  Serve a crudités platter with guacamole / hummus / salsa / tzatziki while the grill warms up. Bring this or a side salad to a friend’s backyard bash to make sure you’re covered.  Don’t forget that eggplant, bell peppers, zucchini, onions, asparagus can all go directly onto the grill.  These make perfect toppings or sides.  A balanced meal with veggies is much healthier than just grabbing a burger and dog as your little lunch or dinner

3.  Mind the Mayo.
Typical BBQ sides/salads are often made with mayonnaise, which is high in calories and saturated fat. Tuna salad, egg salad, pasta salad, cole slaw, and potato salad are traditional creamy sides that can all be made with healthier ingredients.  Substitute plain Greek yogurt, mustard, olive oil, avocado, and/or an avocado oil-based spread (such as this one:
See below for some recipe ideas:
Green Egg Salad
Mayo-Free Potato Salad
Mayo-Free Coleslaw
4.  Learn about Lean Meats.
The BBQ isn’t just for burgers and dogs: don’t forget about veggie burgers, chicken, chicken burgers, chicken sausage (I love Trader Joe’s Organic Chicken sausage.), turkey burgers (see my recipe below), salmon burgers, shrimp, and all types of fish can go on the grill.  Put together (or buy pre-made) skewers on sticks stacked with all the veggies or even some fruit.
Vegetable Turkey Burgers
5.  Focus on Fruit.
Fruit, just like veggies, can be grilled too!  Pineapple, peaches, and mangoes are great toppings for burgers and give an amazing sweet flavor to chicken/shrimp skewers, fish tacos, or even salads.  Slice the ripe fruit in large slices or chunks, brush with a bit of olive oil, and get grilling!!  Or try mango or pineapple salsa as a topping instead of ketchup.  Of course fruit for dessert is always a win. What’s better than fresh berries or watermelon that taste like candy when they are all in season?!  Not to mention all their antioxidants and high fiber content!
6.  Make the Most of your Meat.
I always recommend organic, grass-fed meat and animal products, when possible. We don’t want to burden our and our kids’ bodies with antibiotics and hormones that are given to non-organic cows, chickens, and turkeys.  All of these additions may be affecting our weight, digestion, and hormones.  Choose leaner cuts of burgers and steak and white meat for poultry to cut back on saturated fat and calories. When selecting fish, I recommend wild over farmed, as farmed may contain more toxins and antibiotics than wild fish.
7.  Alcohol Adjustments
Since summer is often more social, many tend to drink more in the warmer months. Here’s a couple of tips to cut down on drink calories:

  • Avoid drinking on an empty stomach. The alcohol will affect you quicker, decrease inhibitions, and you may find yourself eating all the chips and bread and skipping your veggies.
  • Skip the mixers:  Juices, syrups, tonic water and soda all add tons of sugar and calories. Instead, opt for plain wine, light beer, plain alcohol on the rocks. You can add ice, club soda, and/or fresh squeezed limes/lemons or use fruit/mint/citrus as garnishes.
  • Try wine spritzers: fill you wine glass half with wine, half with club soda/seltzer.  This will take you just as long to drink for half the calories.
  • Hydrate between drinks: having a glass of water between alcoholic beverages will help prevent dehydration on a hot day and a hangover the next morning.

By Robin Barrie Kaiden, MS, RD, CDN
For more recipes and tips follow Robin on Instagram @robinbarrie or at

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