The Balanced Barbeque

With Father’s Day just ending and the 4th of July right around the corner, it is clear we have entered barbeque season.  We race towards the weekend when we can hang with family and friends, have some fun, get outside, and enjoy the sun.  Backyards and grills become an integral part of summer, where we often grab some steaks, burgers, and cold lemonade.  BBQs are great times to enjoy nature, but can also be occasions to eat lots of high-fat, high-calorie, and high-sodium foods.  A regular dose of cheeseburgers, macaroni and cheese, and apple pie will quickly destroy any dreams of staying slim for the summer months.  BUT don’t worry:  First of all, all items are ok in moderation.  One bite, or one bad meal, will not ruin your waist.  Second, I am going to walk you through all the elements of a BBQ to make sure yours is the best and most balanced for a fun, tasty grilling season.  Let’s start with the main entrée, the protein.  We will tackle the others in following posts.

Powerful Protein:  Hamburgers piled high with cheese and juicy foot-long hot dogs are staples of the typical BBQ, but unfortunately they are packed with calories and fat.  Instead try a leaner meat that provides more protein and fewer calories.  Great options include: grilled chicken breasts (without the skin), ostrich burgers, bison burgers, garden burgers, turkey burgers, or even tuna, salmon, or crab patties.   Grilling turkey sausages instead of beef or pork sausage provides great taste without the added calories and fat.  If you want to keep beef in you BBQ day make sure you get ground beef with less than 10% fat.  Tenderloins, strip steaks, and filets are leaner options, as is pork, the “other white meat”.  Remember:  a healthy serving of protein is the size of your palm, and no bigger than your entire hand if you choose a lower-calorie option such as fish.

Replace chicken wings, ribs, and fatty steaks with skinless chicken breast, fish/chicken and vegetable kabobs, or a salmon or halibut steak.  Grilled shrimp and tuna are also a great alternatives.  Fish can be cooked on the gril drizzed in olive oil, lemon juice, topped with tomatoes, and peppers, wrapped up in tin foil and cooked on the grill.

Grilled Fish Steaks

  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 6 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 (6 ounce) fillets halibut


  1. In a stainless steel or glass bowl, combine garlic, olive oil, basil, salt, pepper, lemon juice, and parsley.
  2. Place the halibut filets in a shallow glass dish or a resealable plastic bag, and pour the marinade over the fish. Cover or seal and place in the refrigerator for 1 hour, turning occasionally.
  3. Preheat an outdoor grill for high heat and lightly oil grate. Set grate 4 inches from the heat.
  4. Remove halibut filets from marinade and drain off the excess. Grill filets 5 minutes per side or until fish is done when easily flaked with a fork.

Grill Tip:  Pre-made spice mixes may be high in salt and preservatives and often lack taste.  Instead of using these, try making one yourself that contains all your favorite flavors.  A basic blend includes picking your favorite herbs and spices, mixing them together, and transferring them to an airtight container (which can be stored up to 6 weeks).   Mix your blend with oil and vinegar for an instant marinate that can be used on fish, steaks, chicken, and pork.  But STOP:  Don’t forget the unbelievably mouthwatering delight of eating marinated vegetables; examples are squash (butternut, yellow, summer), onions, eggplant, peppers, asparagus, zucchini, corn on the cup, or mushrooms.  You can marinate your protein and vegetable by placing them in a plastic bag with the spices, oil and/or vinegar and keeping in the fridge for at least one hour before grill time.

Below are a couple of examples:

Beef Seasoning (Steak or Burgers)

Spicy Montreal Mix (makes 1 cup)
1/4 cup kosher salt
1/4 cup ground black pepper
1/4 cup granulated onion
2 tablespoons chili powder
2 tablespoons garlic powder

Pork Seasoning (Ribs, Tenderloin, or Chops)

Smoky Fennel Mix (makes about 3/4 cup)
1/4 cup kosher salt
1/4 cup ground black pepper
2 tablespoons celery salt
2 tablespoons smoked paprika
1 tablespoon ground fennel

No Salt Seasoning
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon paprika
1 tablespoons dry mustard
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon celery seed

Absolutely Ultimate Marinade
1 bunch green onions, chopped
8 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons tahini
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
Make Your Own Grill Seasonings

Grilling Temperatures:  Cooking food for friends and family can be extremely fun and rewarding, but you never want to risk making your guests ill  It is important that the meat is getting cooked properly and meeting the correct temperature.  Before firing up that grill, make sure you have a working meat thermometer handy to test meat before serving.  Below you will find the internal temperature the meat needs to reach for a minimum amount of time to kill all bacteria and microorganisms.

  • Pork, veal, beef, lamb, bison Steak/chops: 145°F for 15 seconds
  • Ground meat (hamburger): 155°F for 15 seconds
  • Poultry: 165°F for 15 seconds
  • Stuffed meats: 165°F for 15 seconds
  • Seafood: 145°F for 15 seconds
  • Salmon or fish burger:155°F for 15 seconds

Tell us your favorite healthy BBQ recipe!

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