Suggestions and recipes for a more healthy barbecue


You can feel it in the air. Everyone just wants to enjoy the summer we’ve all been waiting for a year and a half for. Being outside is where it is and where we do everything, from exercise to socializing – and especially food. So, turn on the grill and let’s go!

You may have rusted a little while putting together an outdoor spread. So let’s start with the basics. Any grill that is better for you offers a mix of egg whites and vegetables as well as side dishes, desserts and drinks. Let’s break down the essentials:

1. Proteins

These days, it can be assumed that your group of friends and family members will likely include someone who is vegan or just plain plant-based. In addition to chicken breasts, burgers, and seafood, you should also have plenty of meat-free options. There are plenty of really tasty options for meatless burgers, sausages, and hot dogs these days. Just keep an eye on sodium levels, which can be high with some brands.

Before you put these delicious burgers and sausages on the grill, it’s a good idea to clean them thoroughly. Use a grill brush on your grids to remove dirt or excess carbon that can get on your food. If you have the time, you can remove the grids and wash them thoroughly with soap and water first.

Instead of dousing your chicken breast or ribs in barbecue sauce, which can contain up to 12 grams of sugar in a 2-tablespoon serving, try a flavorful marinade. You can marinate meat and vegetables up to 2 hours before cooking. Try this chicken or shrimp based beer. Put your ingredients in a baking dish or large zippered plastic bag and refrigerate. Remember, you will want to throw away the marinade after using it. Read the USDA Guide to Safe Cooking in Summer to find the right indoor temperatures for meat, poultry, and seafood, as well as other tips on how to use food safely.

Joy Bauer

Beer-marinated grilled chicken

Nathan Congleton / TODAY

Natalie Morales' lightly grilled Chimichurri soy steak

Alanna Hale / At Home with Natalie: Simple Recipes for Healthy Living From My Family ‘s Kitchen to Yours

2. Vegetables

Vegetables are one of the easiest and tastiest things to grill. You just don’t want to slide them through the cooking grids, so you’ll want to secure them with skewers or use a grill basket. Prepare your vegetables by brushing them lightly with olive oil and a little salt and pepper before tossing them on the grill. Softer vegetables like peppers, onions, and pumpkin can be grilled over high heat for about a minute per side, or until tender. Tougher vegetables, including corn and potatoes, should be cooked on a lower heat for an extended period of time so that they cook evenly.

You can save time and grill the vegetables in advance and simply reheat them in the oven or in a basket on the grill. And here’s the best: when your guests are gone, use the leftover grilled veggies to make a simple pasta dish, like Curtis Stone’s orecchiette with grilled zucchini and tomato.

Al's grilled vegetable skewers

Nathan Congleton / TODAY

Grilled asparagus

Samantha Okazaki / TODAY

Grilled corn salad with basil

Nathan Congleton / TODAY

Curtis Stones orecchiette with grilled zucchini and tomato

Nathan Congleton / TODAY

3. Buns and spices

Once you have grilled all of these wonderful things, you will need a few things to serve them with. It’s smart to offer a selection of regular and whole grain rolls, as well as gluten-free options. And for diners who may need to cut back on carbohydrates, you can offer a plate of lettuce wraps (bibb and butter salads work best).

Put your ketchup, mustard, mayo, relish, and other condiments on a small tray so guests can find them easily and you can keep track of things. There are now many fantastic options for low-sugar, low-sodium, and artificially preservative-free condiments. We like Sir Kensington’s and True Made Foods’. In a DIY mood? Try homemade ketchup.


Emily Kate Roemer

4. Pages

It’s not summer if you don’t have coleslaw and potato salad! The good news is that these dishes can be prepared in advance and kept in the refrigerator until you’re ready to eat. If you like a more traditional potato salad, you’ll love the zesty flavors of Sunny Anderson’s charred onion potato salad. Not a Mayo person? Make Al Roker’s light potato salad with lemon and mint.

Coleslaw is the perfect accompaniment to everything on a hot summer day. Keep it cool and crispy with Joy Bauer’s Mango Cashew Coleslaw or try this creamy but light colorful coleslaw from Ree Drummond.

If you have time to grill before your guests arrive, try this grilled vegetable noodle salad from Chef Matt Abdoo. It’s incredibly flavorful and hearty, and if you skip the feta it’s perfect for vegan diners.

Sunny Anderson Charred Onion Potato Salad

Mike Smith / TODAY

Al Rokers Potato Salad with Lemon and Mint

Nathan Congleton / TODAY

Mango and cashew coleslaw

Joy Bauer

Colorful coleslaw


Grilled vegetable noodle salad

Nathan Congleton / TODAY

5. Desserts

You might just want to get back to the grill, clean it, and reheat it for dessert. Grilled fruit is an absolute delight, doesn’t require any added sugar, and is great for a piece of pound cake or paired with a dash of whipped cream (only 15 calories!) Stone fruits – including peaches, apricots, nectarines and plums – glow on the grill. Choose ripe but firm fruits for grilling. You can put the halved fruit on skewers or put them in a basket so they don’t fall through the grids.

Finish your barbecue evening on a sweet note with this recipe for pound cake with grilled peaches and salted caramel sauce. Save time and shop store-bought pound cakes or simply serve the grilled peaches over vanilla ice cream or frozen yogurt. Sweet pineapple becomes caramelized and decadent when placed on the grill. Add some brown sugar and cinnamon before grilling and turn the fruit into a fabulous parfait like these grilled pineapple and ice cream parfaits.

And yes, you can grill avocados! The hardest part is finding the ones that are ripe but definitely not soft. The Hass Avocado Board recommends cutting the avocado in half, removing the pit and drizzling with lemon or lime juice. Then brush each half with a little olive oil and place with the cut side down on a grill for two to three minutes. Season with a little salt and pepper before serving. My personal recommendation would be to fill them with fresh berries for a colorful and delicious custom side dish – yummy!

Pound cake with grilled peaches and salted caramel sauce

Elizabeth Heiskell

Grilled pineapple ice cream parfaits

Megan O. Steintrager / TODAY

Grilled avocados from Al Roker


6. Drinks

As the temperature rises, it is important to provide some moisture to guests while dining outside, especially if they are drinking alcohol. Since your refrigerator is likely to be full, use a cooler filled with ice to keep a variety of cold beverages on hand.

Everyone loves a flavored mineral water like Spindrift or La Croix, but if you have the time, it’s nice to mix up some fun offerings. Strawberry and basil lemonade takes the traditional summer sipper and adds a bright pink hue to strawberries. Skip the vodka to keep it refreshing and kid-friendly.

Iced tea is another summer staple to help brave the heat. Skip the mixes and the sweetened varieties and make your own citrus-flavored version like Martha Stewart’s Iced Red Tea. And if you want something even lighter, make a fruit-infused water by filling a large pitcher with water and adding rounds of lime, lemon or orange (be sure to wash the peel first), as well as some fresh mint.

Strawberry and basil lemonade


Martha Stewart's iced tea red tea

jenifoto / Getty Images / iStockphoto