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Multi generation black family barbecue, grandad grilling

The long-awaited summer season is here and with that comes outdoor grilling. Memorial Day is seen as the official holiday to pull the grill out and to host a barbecue with family and friends.

Tips for Healthy Barbecues

Grilling meats is a healthy cooking option. However, traditional side items may not be as healthy. Here are some steps you can take to enjoy a barbecue without eating too many calories.

  • Develop a plan to reduce calories before the festivities begin. Have fruits and vegetables available for guests upon arrival to avoid mindlessly eating during the party. Doing this will allow everyone to enjoy their meal and great conversation. It also prevents people from eating too many calories and snacking on chips and dip while the main dishes are being prepared.
  • Look for clever ways to incorporate vegetables into common dishes. Add broccoli shreds to the traditional coleslaw. Update your potato salad by using Greek yogurt or vinaigrette dressing instead of mayonnaise. Or place peppers and onions on skewers with beef or chicken.
  • Alternate water with soft drinks or alcoholic beverages at the party. Doing this will allow you to stay hydrated and to reduce calories.


Enjoy Fun Activities

The barbecue doesn’t have to be all about the food. Make sure to include some fun physical activities to get everyone moving. Fun games like Frisbee, football, or kickball can be a great way to connect while getting exercise during the barbecue. To add even more fun, you can create a scavenger hunt to encourage everyone to get up and walk around the yard or neighborhood.

Food Safety

An important aspect of grilling is food safety. Here are some tips to remember while eating outside.

  • How do I keep cool food cool?
    Use coolers filled with ice packs or ice to keep perishable food items below 40 degrees and place the cooler in a shaded area.
  • What is the safe internal temperature to cook meats?
    A meat thermometer is an important grilling tool.
    – Ground beef or ground pork – 160 ºF
    – Ground chicken or ground turkey – 165 ºF
    – Poultry – 165 ºF
    – Steaks, chops, roast, fresh pork, and ham – 145 ºF
  • How long can grilled food be left out?
    Don’t leave food sitting off the grill or out of the cooler for more than two hours at most. If the outside temperature is 90 degrees or higher, do not leave food out for more than one hour.
  • Keep grilling tools, food preparation surfaces, and serving plates clean.
    Remember to separate raw foods from ready to eat foods. When taking food off the grill, use a clean plate. Don’t put cooked food on the same plate that held raw meat or poultry.
  • Keep your hands clean.
    Be sure to have access to water with soap and paper towels, hand sanitizer or antibacterial wipes.

Man using meat thermometer while barbecuing on a sunny day

Maintaining a healthy lifestyle during the grilling season can be accomplished by following these tips. Having healthy food and drink choices and remembering food safety rules can make for an enjoyable grilling season.


Source: Andrea Morris, Ph.D., MCHES, Urban Health and Nutrition Specialist, Alabama Cooperative Extension System at Alabama A&M University.