La Barbacoa…La Parrillada…El Asado… Barbecue… They all lead to that exciting time of year (for American northerners, the pre-summer kickoff is usually Memorial Day), when we char the innocence out of our meats and veggies, slather our foods with amazingly tasty, smoke induced, intense flavor enhancers. To chase down the mighty fine grillables are the complementary beverages and all the fun snacking in between. There are plenty of healthy alternatives to the regular ol’ food beverages, and snacks , and they’re quickly becoming huge barbecue hits. If you’re worried that you’re giving up that major sabor, no te preocupes! The tastes we’ve come to love every summer (or every season for all you grill lovers out there) shouldn’t be compromised, and the alternatives promise an unsurpassed, truly satisfying experience.
The usual barbecue hits will consist of a few basic items:
all beef burgers
beef hot dogs
frozen pina coladas, margaritas, & daiquiris
regular or mesquite BBQ chips
Assuming the average barbecue aficionado/a consumes each of these items, this totals approximately 2,500 calories in one sitting and 90-100 grams of fat, exceeding your body’s daily recommended fats by a minimum of 46%! Did you know that a combination of the above list, with high amounts of artificial sugars, saturated fats, affects the heart and waistline alike? The options mentioned here, along with basic portion control, can help maintain your waistline and offer heart healthy benefits. If you don’t see healthy selections or alternatives, ask your grocer. Nothing pleases a supermarket more than a returning customer. Tip: Rather than doing your barbecue “compritas” the week of the major holiday (as most people will), be sure to go at least one week before; it’s a sure fire way to find the best selection!
Now for the healthy hits you can try…
The Hamburger. Meat loving protein fans can buy 85-99% ground lean beef or turkey meat instead of patties.
A vegetarian’s burger can be made with up to four varieties of crushed beans, carrots, bread crumbs, salt and pepper to taste. You may use an egg to unite the ingredients , but if you’re allergic, you can skip the egg and just be sure to cook the patties on a lower heat so they don’t break apart. Form patties as you would for the meat version.
If you’re into chicken drumsticks and thighs, go for it! You can also grill chicken or turkey breasts. Cut them in quarters, add peppers and onions, use your favorite marinade, poke a skewer right through them and voila! You just made a the best kabob on the planet.
Chicken hot dogs. What?! Yes, chicken hot dogs are available, and they’re the leaner option, but if you must, try a low fat beef hot dog or skip them until your next baseball game.
Multi-grain or whole wheat buns. Get your heart healthy whole grains in! These buns are great even lightly toasted on the grill.
Spring greens mix salad aka mesclun greens. Dark leafy greens are full of fiber! Don’t be shy. Play them up with shelled sliced almonds, cranberries, cherry tomatoes, and your favorite add-ons.
Snacks. Feel free to drizzle olive oil over raw or grilled veggies with and/or add salt and pepper. Fresh fruit salad makes a wonderful snack. Cut and place in a bowl over ice. Delicioso!
About those chips… pay close attention, señoras y seores. An individual serving size is 13-15 chips! Take care not to sit by a seemingly loving bowl of chips. Even the “healthiest” baked chips have sodium and plenty of carbohydrates, so eat wisely.
Beverages. Drinks are, of course, the only means to hydrate. With so much eating and socializing going on, drinks are a basic necessity. There’s plenty of room for fun and creativity by choosing from homemade lemonade sweetened with agave syrup, maple syrup or honey, home brewed iced tea -sweetened with any of the previous natural sweeteners, natural fruit juices or flavored waters and sodas with no artificial sweeteners, light beers, unfiltered ales and brews, chilled wines, and all fruit daiquiris instead of their artificially sweetened counterparts. As a reminder, using the natural version of a fruit juice or sweetener is best. Keep in mind that some alcoholic drinks tend to be dehydrating, especially during hot days. Drinking water is essential to prevent both dehydration and exhaustion.
Who knew enjoying a barbecue and helping your body could taste this good? With these small changes, it’s easy to work on your current routine or even begin a new one. Remember to practice safety. Be especially careful around children and pets when cooking on a grill or open fire. If you expect to consume alcoholic beverages, drink responsibly.
Buen provecho y Cuídate Latino!
by Jeanelle Roman