White hot nutritional tips: The BBQ revolution
For me, the arrival of summer is the perfect opportunity to make the most of the outdoors. My training, eating and social life are of equal importance; so BBQs, picnics and alfresco dining are an excellent way of combining all three at once.
Sparking to life: The pros and cons of the BBQ
BBQs provide us with a variety of flavours, colours and different foods. One drawback can be the wide selection of foods on offer - could we be indulging in a little too much perhaps?
Statistically speaking, a recent report found that almost 40% of people said they would triple the amount of outdoor BBQ food eaten, compared to the amount of food consumed indoors. Around the same amount of people would choose to eat six items of meat at any one time; with 25% of people saying they would always consume alcohol.
By taking more responsibility, BBQs can still be enjoyed to the full with minimal change or effort. There’s a huge variety of different foods on offer, so I’d like to list a few options below.
The BBQ mindset
Firstly, I want to address how we can change our mindset when it comes to eating and overindulging. By changing the assumption that the BBQ is an opportunity to over-eat, we need to reevaluate the decisions we make when it comes to choosing what’s on the menu, and then stick to that arrangement.
Here are a few helpful nutritional tips when it comes to certain foods you might come across during the BBQ season. Depending on whether we are the hosts or guests, we may not have a lot of influence when it comes to choosing the BBQ food that’s on offer to us.
Maybe it’s a piece of steak or a chicken drumstick; a few burgers or sausages, or a combination of all of these - it’s best practice to keep to the principle of moderation.
Go easy on the buns and creamy dressings. If we want to be healthy, give the burgers and sausages a miss. Choose the leaner meats and kebab options.
Steak and chicken will give a good hit of protein; just be mindful on the cut and amount of saturated fat. There’s nothing wrong with the odd burger or sausage; just be mindful that these are potentially high in fat and may not be the best quality meat due to additives. Try and pick good quality burgers and sausages whenever possible, and eat plenty of salad.
Be mindful of incineration and carcinogens. There's a great post from mindbodygreen highlighting the effects of these: www.mindbodygreen.com/0-13850/heres-how-to-avoid-carcinogens-when-youre-grilling.html
Fish is an excellent choice for the BBQ - it’s simple and easy to prepare.
- Allow fish to sit for 10 minutes, allowing the perfect room and air temperature.
- Brush the fish with oil and a selection of spices.
- Cook fillets for 3 to 5 minutes skin-side down on the grill, then flip over and cook for a similar amount of time.
- Add additional spices and/or herbs as required.
- Grill salmon on a bed of sliced lemons, cook and turn as normal. Once the fish is cooked, lift straight off.
- Try some prawns on a skewer with a selection of mixed veggies, or even some mackerel baked in foil with plenty of chopped garlic and a little oil.
Kebab and Skewers
- Great for both meat eaters and vegetarians
- Mushrooms, onions, tomatoes, courgettes and peppers are perfect for veggie skewers.
- There’s a wide selection of vitamins and minerals from the variety of vegetables and colours. Fry up some tofu or even halloumi cheese to mix things up a bit. Lightly oil and season the veggies first before placing them on the BBQ. This is a great link to a recipe that has plenty of colour and are filled with anti-oxidants and anti inflammatory properties. allrecipes.com/recipe/229166/grilled-veggie-skewers/
- Vegetables provide us with fibre, which helps in reducing blood pressure as well as being good for our digestive systems. There are plenty of antioxidant vitamins rich in A,C and E. We also get absorb potassium and folate; great for blood pressure and red blood cell production.
The Marinades and Accessories
- Experiment with ideas for marinades using fresh herbs, garlic, chili, olive oil, honey, lemon and lime juice. Coat everything in it - leave the flavours to infuse. The pre-made versions of these are often full of salt and fat - even additives.
- Make salsa to add to fish and meats, or use as a dip by finely chopping red onion, tomatoes, coriander, garlic and fresh chili, dressing with lime juice to finish.
- Swap bowls of crisps and snacks for dips; homemade hummus or natural yoghurt mixed with finely chopped onions, cucumber, chives and salt and pepper, and serve with strips of pita, carrot, pepper, celery and cucumber sticks.
- Ditch burger buns and rolls for pita, tortilla wraps, granary rolls - or just leave them out. There’s no law saying you have to wrap everything in bread.
- Swap a potato salad for fresh coleslaw; cut up red cabbage, red or spring onions, chunks of apple, grated carrot, avocado, baby spinach leaves, chopped chives and mix with low-fat natural yoghurt. Add chopped fresh chilli and raw garlic for those who like it hot.
- Make a huge fruit salad, or serve giant wedges of chilled watermelon for dessert. Make ice lollies out of smoothies. Split a banana lengthways and push in two squares of dark chocolate, wrap in foil and bake over the coals, serve with half-fat crème fraiche.
Lowering the flame
It’s my own theory that if we avoid incinerating food beyond all recognition, BBQ cooking can be a perfect part of summer eating.
The wider the variety of salads and vegetables we throw in, the better. If it's a post workout BBQ, remember to throw in the correct balance of carbohydrate and protein to optimise refuelling and repairs. The wider the variety of vegetables and salads, the more vitamins, minerals and antioxidants we will have to mop up free radicals.