Barbeque season is literally right around the corner and it’s time to ask yourself if your grilling selections are as healthy as they could be.
Today’s article will provide you a complete run down of all the of best (& worst) meats to barbeque this season and offer some additional insights into how you can dress and grill them in the healthiest manner possible.
Let’s take a closer look at the categories under consideration:
A perennial barbeque staple and perhaps the food that is most closely associated with barbeque season. Not all cuts of beef are made equal, however. I generally advise choosing steak varieties that have a high protein to saturated fat ratio. When you consume steak ( or any meat) protein is what you want, saturated fat is what you want to avoid.
Best Choices: With impressively low saturated fat content, Sirloin and Round cuts are your #1 options for grilling this summer.
Worst Choices: With extremely high saturated fat content, Ribeye and T-bone cuts are the ones you want to minimize this barbeque season. As an occasional treat? Absolutely, but not something you want to be preparing every weekend.
Turkey and chicken breasts are prized for their leanness but may not always be the most economical or tantalizing option. Fear not, there are other lean and affordable poultry choices out there!
Best Choices: Acknowledging that the Chicken/Turkey Breast is an excellent lean choice, don’t be afraid to make turkey burgers with Lean Ground Turkey or grill up some Chicken Legs, just be sure to remove the skin.
Worst choices: I’m going to go ahead and label Chicken Wings as the worst poultry choice this barbeque season. They are almost always consumed with the skin, and their meat to skin ratio is pretty poor. A once in a while selection to be sure, but not something you want to be consuming regularly this barbeque season.
When it comes to barbequing pork and lamb, keep it simple. Opt for primarily Loin cuts and select Lamb/Pork Chops less often as they tender to be higher in saturated fat.
When it comes to animal fat, fish is very much an exception to the rule. Many varieties of fish contain omega-3 fatty acids, a special type of fat that confers a variety of cardiovascular and other health benefits. Fish is also one of the only rich natural sources of vitamin D, and it just so happens that , for the most part, the varieties of fish that tend to be higher in omega-3s and are also high in vitamin D. So throw the conventional animal fat wisdom out the door when it comes to fish.
Best choices: My top 5 fish choices are high in both omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin D and the nominations go to: salmon, trout, herring, mackerel (Atlantic) and sardines.
Worst choices: One of the more popular fish varieties on the market, tilapia, certainly falls into this category. Being low in vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids, it is not a particularly appealing fish choice. One of the other things to keep in mind about fish, is that some varieties are particularly high in mercury, which is not something you want in your diet. Fish that fall into this category should not be consumed more than once a month and include marlin, orange roughy, shark, swordfish, ahi & bigeye tuna and king mackerel.
Not that into meat, but still want to enjoy the BBQ experience? Try grilling up some grilled tofu steaks. I guarantee you that they taste better than you think, and even if you are a seasoned meat eater, it does not hurt to give your body a break once in a while in order to try something new. I promise you, you won’t regret it.
Tofu steaks sound too much for you? Give this plant-based lentil veggie burger a try or grab a pre-made variety from your local grocer. Don’t be afraid to go meat-free once in a while, it’s good for you!
When it comes to barbequing meat (& alternatives) the amount and type of oil you use matters.
Vegetable oils have their health benefits, but using too much adds unnecessary calories to your meal so try to challenge yourself to use no more than 1-2 tbsp for the whole of your food prep.
Barbeque grilling takes place at a very high heat, so you want to be sure to use an oil variety that is stable at such temperatures. Nothing fancy is required. In fact, Olive oil is probably your best choice, not only because it can withstand high heat, but also because it is rich monounsaturated fatty acids, which are extremely good for your heart. Sunflower and Safflower oil are great alternatives as well.
Salt and Calories are two of the things that the majority of Canadian’s get too much of in their diets. So guess what, those are the last two things you want from your barbeque sauces and seasonings.
Compare and contrast your favourite BBQ options and try to choose the one that is lowest in both.
Best choices: Mustard, tabasco sauce, hot sauces (like Sriracha) and low sodium varieties of ketchup/soy sauce are all respectable options when it comes to sauce alternatives. When it comes to herbs/spices, any sodium-free variety or blend is an excellent choice for topping your meat.
Worst choices: Anything to do with Mayo or Ranch is probably something to avoid when it comes to sauces. When it comes to herb/spice blends, you just want to avoid those that have sodium added to them.
There you have it folks! Incorporating the advice from today’s article will be sure to make this upcoming barbeque season the healthiest one yet. Just please make sure you avoid charring your meat, and if you do, avoid eating the charred parts because they aren’t great for you.
Andy De Santis RD MPH
Andy is a Toronto-based registered dietitian and nutrition writer who holds a master’s degree in public health nutrition. You can learn more about Andy and his services at AndyTheRD.com.