Well, the summer holidays are about to start, and the weather is, well, sort of okay, in between rainshowers. This means that the smell of charred meat on a Saturday afternoon is becoming a regular occurrence – yep, it’s BBQ time.
I’ve always found BBQs a real test of dieting willpower – any social event that revolves around food is always going to be difficult – but they needn’t be. It’s kind of ridiculous to go home feeling sick as you’re so full, isn’t it? Barbequing is actually one of the healthiest ways to cook food – no additional oil required – and it’s totally acceptable to bring your own food, too.
Here are some of my tips…
Don’t forget what a normal meal looks like.
Even in an epic pig-out session, would you normally eat a burger in a bun, a hotdog, chicken wings, a lamb kebab… plus crisps and lashings of mayonnaisey salad? Yet somehow it’s okay at a BBQ.
Hit the salad.
I’m not suggesting you tuck into a plate of dry lettuce when the rest of the party is on the burgers, but do load up your plate with the healthy options first. You’ll be less inclined to want one of everything if your plate is full already.
Decide what you really want.
Personally, it’s not a BBQ for me unless I have a real burger. So bring a pack of low-fat burgers, and make up your proper, perfect burger. There actually aren’t that many calories in a slice of cheese, either, so allow yourself that. Fill the bun with lots of salad, too – it’ll seem HUGE.
Put out low fat dressings and sauces.
Sweet chilli, caramelised onions, balsamic glaze, yogurt, etc. Or make your own! Yogurt is such a great base for a dip, and ridiculously low in fat. Salsa is fat free and you can often get Tzatziki that’s under 5% fat.
Watch the booze.
I am a great believer that you do not have to quit alcohol to diet successfully. However, what you drink can make all the difference – there are about 500 calories in a bottle of white wine. Switch to a spirit and diet mixer and 500 calories = 10 single vodkas and diet cokes! And it’s pretty unlikely you’ll drink all that. Probably. If you’re worried about drinking too fast, use less coke – if it’s strong, you’ll have to sip it!
Fun fact - often fancy food seems to be lower in calories. Put out exotically marinated chicken (I recommend soy and ginger). Instead of burgers, do toasted pittas filled with rocket, caramelised onions, barbequed Portobello mushrooms and a little feta or goats cheese (strong cheese is always best as you eat less, keeping fat down). If you’re feeling crazy, you could even cook kangaroo! It’s one of the least fattiest meats around.
I don't eat fish (because it is disgusting) but I am told that seafood is awesome on the BBQ - practically fat-free, cooks fast, and filling. If you like that sort of thing. *gags*
Check the labels.
Did you know that McCain’s potato wedges are only about 5% fat? And that you can get lots of pizzas from Tesco, Coop and Pizza Express that are just over or even under the 5% fat mark? I was amazed when I found out that low-fat junk food DOES exist.
Bring healthy options.
If you can’t rely on the host to make the food healthy, do it yourself. Here are some of my favourite healthy BBQ options:
- Sweet potato wedges (toss them in lots of honey, rosemary and a capful, tops, of olive oil. Chuck in oven for 30-40 mins.) They’ll fly off the plate AND fill you up.
- Couscous/pasta/rice salad. There are loads of low-fat options in the supermarket, or make your own!
- Love coleslaw and potato salad? Use half low-fat mayo, half yogurt. I swear it’s nicer.
- Chicken and fresh pineapple kebabs. Practically fat-free and so delicious.
- Put out a big bowl of cherry tomatoes for people to pick at. Always popular.
- Marinate Portobello mushrooms in garlic and plonk them on the BBQ. Yuuuuum.
- Bring crudités to nibble while food is cooking.
- Instead of cakes or ice cream, barbeque fruit for dessert. Barbequed pineapple and bananas are amazing.
What are your best tips for BBQ season?