Top five tips for healthier BBQ food

Diet and Nutrition

1 April 2021

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A spontaneous BBQ with family and friends is one of the many perks of summer. But if you’re put off by the thought of fatty burgers or salty sausages, fear not; with a few clever food choices, a BBQ can be reasonably healthy and well balanced.

"Contrary to popular belief, barbecues don't have to be a glut of fatty, heavily processed meat, creamy dips and crisps giving you a fat and salt overdose," says Ceitanna Cooper, registered nutritionist at AXA Health. "In fact, barbecues can be a good way to cook pieces of meat as they don't sit in their own fat, while the char-grill effect gives the food a unique flavour, so you don’t need to add salt," says Ceitanna.

Improving the taste of meats using your own marinade can help reduce the salt content. Using herbs such as rosemary, thyme, sage and garlic can help cut down on the carcinogen formation, as much as 90% in some cases.

Here are 5 top tips to prepare and cook healthier BBQ food

1. Go for small thick steaks rather than larger thin ones, as this reduces the surface area for char-grilling. The leaner cuts of meat can significantly reduce the salt and saturated fat intake. Lean beef steaks for example, are often around only 6 per cent fat and are rich in protein, iron and zinc. 

2. Remove the skin from chicken legs to lower the saturated fat content. Skinless chicken is virtually all protein and no fat. It also provides potassium and some B vitamins. If you have time, marinade overnight to add plenty of flavour. Try mixing some honey with balsamic vinegar, lime juice and chilli flakes, coat the chicken and cook for 30 minutes, making sure the chicken is thoroughly cooked through. 

3. Halloumi cheese is a great BBQ food for vegetarians as it doesn’t melt and keeps its shape and texture. Thread chunks of cheese, alternating with button mushrooms, chunks of peppers and onions and thick slices of courgette and aubergine, onto skewers and drizzle with a little olive oil. Place on the barbecue first or away from the meat to avoid contamination. Cook for 20 minutes. The cheese is fairly low in fat and a rich source of calcium. The peppers provide vitamin C and beta-carotene, while the courgettes are a good source of folate.

4. The best fish for a BBQ is something meaty like a tuna or salmon steak. Salmon and fresh tuna are rich in omega 3 fats, which are good for heart health. Brush the steaks with a little olive oil and place straight on to the barbecue. It's best to cook them first before the BBQ gets too hot, but make sure they're cooked all the way through. They will take approximately 15 minutes to cook.

5. Corn-on-the cob works well on the BBQ and is a good source of fibre, potassium and magnesium. Wrap them in foil and just let them cook for about 15 minutes until they are tender. Or brush with olive oil, sprinkle with a little paprika (instead of salt) and barbecue for about 10 minutes.

Recipes to try

We have lots of delicious recipes for every occasion, created by our in-house nutritionists, to help you eat well without any loss of enjoyment. Here's a selection of barbeque recipes for you to try:

Grilled halloumi and watermelon skewers

Grilled garlic and chilli buttered corn on the cob

Peri-peri chicken pittas

Aubergine beefburgers

How to make tasty and delicious salads

Further reading

Getting your salt intake right – AXA Health

8 healthy marinades and rubs for a delicious BBQ – British Heart Foundation

10 healthy grilling tips – One Medical

Diet and nutrition - AXA Health hub

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