Labor Day and barbecues go together like café con leche. If you are like me, a proud self-identified health fanatic, you probably have a plan to enjoy your familia’s delicious take on this American tradition. If you don’t I invite you to adopt and edit this easy and practical one.
Fasting: According to The Scientific American a human being can survive for up to 40 days without food. Don’t fret I am not going to ask you to go on a hunger strike before Labor Day. But since you know you will be over-consuming food at the BBQ why not take a preemptive strategy and fast the day of the BBQ. You can still have your cafecito con leche in the morning and drink water or tea (minus the sugar) throughout the day. This will make you ready to overeat without the guilt.
Homemade Sauces: What to do with all that extra time you are not spending cooking and eating? How about eliminating some unhealthy ingredients from the BBQ menu. All the extra preservatives, additives and flavor enhancers in your favorite commercial sauces are not worth the extra push-ups you’ll have to do the day after the BBQ. Let’s take a look and compare:
Commercial BBQ Sauce: High Fructose Corn Syrup, Vinegar, Tomato Paste, Modified Cornstarch, Molasses, Contains Less Than 2% of Salt, Natural Hickory Smoke Flavor, Dried Garlic, Mustard Flour, Potassium Sorbate (to Preserve Freshness), Spice, Dried Onions, Caramel Color, Paprika.
Basic Homemade BBQ Sauce:
- Organic Ketchup
- Worcestershire sauce
- Alcohol: Beer or whiskey or dark rum
- Sweetener: Maple syrup, brown sugar, honey, or molasses
- Cayenne for a little kick
- Ground mustard seeds
- Salt and pepper to taste
If you want to impress your friends and family with your culinary skills, make both a mild and a spicy batch. You can make a big batch of mild sauce, split it in two containers, and add more cayenne or your favorite hot sauce to the spicy batch.
Grass-fed Beef: Now that you have made the sauces why not continue on the unhealthy ingredient elimination train. Volunteer to get the meat and collect cash if you have a big family. Find a local butcher or store that carries meats from grass-fed cows. Meat from grass-fed cows is leaner and healthier. Happy cows provide happy meat. Although it’s a little pricier than meat from grain-fed cows remember that if you don’t pay now, you’ll have to pay later in the form of health care bills and health-related emotional stress.
Light Cocktails: Now that you have the meat, the sauce and your belly ready don’t forget about your cocktails. Invest in a lot of plain seltzer water and lime and mix all your liquors with it. That means eliminating sugars and salts. Avoid all pre-made mixers and if you want to spice up your cocktails use juice from fresh cucumbers, jalapenos and berries. You can make fresh cucumber juice to mix with your tequila and lime, and even add a slice of jalapeno or some fresh berries for more exotic cocktails. The trick is to train your palate to enjoy the natural flavors of the berries, jalapenos, and cucumbers, rather than the sweetness and saltiness of a traditional sugar-filled, salt-rimmed margarita.
In the end, you decide what works for you. What is the return on investment on taking a few extra minutes or hours to upgrade the health (and yes taste) value of your meals and your beverages. Enjoy a guilt-free holiday, you might even like it.