I loved being back on the Fox46 Good Day Charlotte morning show, hanging with Page and Jason, and talking all things healthy for cookouts!
Summer is my favorite time of year for many reasons, especially because it’s grilling season. Firing up the grill and cooking all kinds of meats and vegetables is a fantastic way to add some variety to your usual meals, most likely cooked on the stove top or in the oven. The grill is also a great tool for quickly prepping your food for the week because you can cook a ton at once, to just re-heat all week long.
And with grilling season comes summer get-togethers (cookouts/barbecues…I think one is used more with Northerners vs. Southerners?? haha!) Summery foods and drinks makes the perfect reason to gather together your family/friends and hang out in the warm weather, but it’s easy for traditional foods to rack up the calories, sugar, chemicals, and preservatives. For example, did you know just 2 tablespoons of Sweet Baby Ray’s BBQ sauce contains 16g (or 4 teaspoons) of sugar?
By just making a few really simple tweaks, you can completely transform your cookout menu into something healthier – without sacrificing flavor of course!
Here’s a recap of what I chatted about on air with Page and Jason, and the recipes to go along with it:
LEMON & LIME MOCKTAIL
This is one of my favorite recipes to make and sip at a cookout, by the pool, or just when my afternoon needs a refreshing pick-me-up!
It’s really similar to a lighter, sugar-free, and perfectly sweet and tart version of a Sprite. It has fresh lemon and lime juice – both fruits are high in Vitamin C which is amazing for the immune system, they both naturally support the digestive system, and are natural detoxifiers. And it’s totally worth getting a simple hand juicer, you get twice as much juice outta your fruits!
For sweetness, steer clear of artificial sweeteners and instead go the natural route with stevia drops. Stevia is a plant (I grow it in my garden and chew on its sweet leaves!) that they have made into super easy-to-use dropper form to add sweetness to your recipes without anything artificial or containing actual sugar. Be sure to always read the ingredient label to make sure there aren’t any sneaky ingredients in there you wouldn’t want to eat.
Of course you can always add your favorite alcohol of choice to make it more of an adult beverage – rum would work well. Below is the recipe:
- Juice from 1 lemon
- Juice from 1 lime
- 5 drops stevia* (more/less to taste)
- Sparkling water/Soda water*
- Add the first 3 ingredients to a 16oz glass with ice, fill the glass the rest of the way with sparkling water/soda water, and give a little stir.
- Be sure to taste test and adjust to your preferences!
- Add a serving of alcohol to make it an adult beverage.
- *Be sure there are no added ingredients on the label
Throwing veggies on the grill – like zucchini, eggplant, yellow squash, onions, and asparagus – transforms their flavor! But to get the most nutritional bang for your buck when eating your grilled vegetables, you have to pair them with a tasty healthy fat like this super simple herb butter. Vitamins A, E, D, and K found in many vegetables are fat soluble, which means in order to absorb and assimilate the nutrients, you need to eat them with fat.
Plus you’ll also get nutrients from fresh herbs! You can mix together any mix you’d like. Look for butter made from grass-fed cows (like Kerrygold) or opt for clarified butter – ghee – to avoid dairy.
To get your vegetables sliced thin and evenly so they cook at the same rate, use a mandoline slicer (I have this one and love it!). Below is the recipe:
- 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh herbs (like basil, thyme, sage, parsley, dill, chives, tarragon, oregano, marjoram or rosemary)
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
- ¼ teaspoon garlic powder (optional)
- In a small bowl, add all ingredients. Mix well with a spoon or fork until herbs are distributed evenly.
- Dump onto a piece of wax paper or parchment, shape into a cylinder or disk, and seal ends by twisting, or spoon mixture into ramekins and use the back of a butter knife to smooth the surface, removing any extra. (however you prefer to store and serve it) and cover with plastic.
- Cover with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator until firm, at least an hour. Will keep in refrigerator for about 2 weeks, and in the freezer for a few months.
- To make dairy free, use ghee instead of butter.
This super delicious sauce makes just about anything taste incredible (hello burger!) by adding a mega burst of flavor along with moisture.
It’s especially great on grilled sliced potatoes – kind of like the summer cookout version of French fries.
This is a better swap than ketchup because it has less sugar, healthy fats (that help boost your metabolism, energy, digestive system, brain health, balance hormones, reduce inflammation, and more), and a nice kick to it. Below is the recipe:
- 1/4 cup mayo
- 2 tablespoons sriracha (tweak depending on how spicy you like it)
- Easiest recipe ever - add both ingredients to a bowl, stir to mix well.
INFUSED VINEGAR BURGER
No cookout or BBQ – whatever you call it! – is complete without the perfect juicy grilled burger. Many people keep it simple by just adding salt + pepper, maybe a little garlic or onion powder, but many people also reach for bottled marinates and sauces. These can quickly make a healthy burger loaded with sugar, chemicals, and preservatives.
Good news: you can still get mega flavor but without any of the ‘extras’ in there.
A great way to do so is to flavor your burger with an infused balsamic vinegar. They have some in typical grocery stores, gourmet stores, and specialty shops like Pour Olive in Charlotte. You get crazy big flavor with nothing artificial and no sugars. My favorite to use is Neapolitan Herb.
Another tip: a favorite kitchen shortcut I use is to mix the meat and flavorings together with my hands + a disposable latex glove. That way you can ensure it gets mixed well – but not over-mixed – and not get meat all up under your finger nails! Below is the recipe:
- 1 lb grass-fed beef or bison
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- 1/2 teaspoon pepper
- 2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
- 2 tablespoons infused vinegar
- Optional: 1/4 teaspoon each: garlic powder, onion powder
- Add all ingredients to a mixing bowl and using your hands or a fork, gently mix together. Handle the meat as little as possible – the more you work it, the tougher it gets.
- Gently shape (don’t firmly press) mixture into burgers about equal size.
- Using your thumb, make a shallow indentation in the center of each burger to prevent puffing up during cooking.
- Grill or cook on a skillet over medium, on one side for about 3 minutes - flip - and 4 to 5 minutes on the other side.
SUMMER VEGGIE BOWL
Last but definitely not least, this is one of my favorite recipes ever. It makes for a perfect light summery side dish or a main course option, and is beyond easy to make.
The possibilities are endless too – you can easily add your favorite meat, swap out the veggies for others, swap out the rice for another grain like quinoa, mix up the flavoring like swapping out the basil and lemon for cilantro and soy sauce or coconut aminos, AND it’s amazing hot or cold!
For a bonus – you can even use an infused olive oil instead of plain olive oil to add even MORE flavor. Show up at your next cookout with this dish, and everyone will be glad you did. Below is the recipe:
- 1 cup uncooked brown basmati rice
- 3/4 cup frozen shelled edamame, thawed (or black beans)
- 1 cup grape tomatoes, halved
- 1 cup chopped yellow squash
- ½ bunch asparagus, chopped
- 1/2 cup corn
- 1/2 large green pepper, chopped
- 1/2 cup torn fresh basil
- 1/4 - 1/2 cup chopped almonds
- Juice from 1 lemon
- 3/4 teaspoon sea salt
- 3 - 4 tablespoons olive oil or infused olive oil
- Optional: Avocado, cut into cubes
- Optional: Grilled chicken, cut into cubes
- Optional: Shredded Parmesan cheese
- Cook the brown rice per package instructions then let completely cool before assembling this recipe.
- Heat a skillet over medium-high heat with a tablespoon oil (I use coconut oil). Add squash, asparagus and green pepper, then sauté about 4 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- While that's cooking, add the rest of the ingredients to a large mixing bowl, and toss until well mixed.
- When the squash/asparagus/pepper mixture has cooled a bit, add that to the mixing bowl and toss again to combine.
- Top with any optional ingredients you'd like to use.
- Serve warm or cold - I like it cold on a hot summer day!
- Feel free to mix and match whatever vegetables, grain, and flavoring you'd like...so many possibilities!
COMMENT BELOW and let me know which of these 5 healthy cookout recipes you’re going to try first!