It’s summertime, and that means sun, sweat, and most importantly, the summer foods we love so much. Watermelon and berries and corn are great, but there’s just something about the beautiful hot weather that makes you long for good old-fashion barbecue in the park or out in your backyard or patio.
Sadly, barbecue is not the healthiest food on the block, between the meat and all the sauces. And it’s also kind of tricky to get barbecue just right, from flavor to texture to the doneness that will make sure you don’t kill your guests dead, which is always awkward. So here are some great reasons—and awesome tips—to help you cook out this summer, get healthy, and do it right: in style!
Good ingredients make good food. The first rule of good, fabulous-tasting food? Buy fresh and buy organic. When your meat is the best quality possible, it means you have to worry less about sauces and seasonings to help make it tastier.
Hit your local butcher shop where you know they know exactly what they’re doing and where their meat comes from, or make friends with the employees at the meat counter. Having a personal acquaintance with them ensures that they’ll always help you find the best cuts and guide you toward the freshest selections. You might even make good enough friends that they’ll hold good cuts aside for your upcoming barbecues. And before you develop that relationship, you can check the freshness of meat you find at your grocery store by checking the plastic wrap. You never want to see blood pooling at the bottom of the packaging.
Cook at the right temperature. Well-cooked meat is meat you don’t have to disguise with fatty sauces. The best rule of thumb: if your meat or fish is a big slab, cook at a lower temperature for longer. You want to make sure that it’s cooked thoroughly and through, to add the right flavor, texture, and temperature.
Careful with condiments. Condiments can be costly, calorie and sugar and fat speaking. You can get way more bang for your buck, nutritionally speaking, when you add a splash of pomegranate juice to store-bought ketchup. It brings to the table a nice quick dash of tartness, not to mention some awesome antioxidants. And to make your lean meat delicious but in a fat-friendly way, add avocado to your burger! It adds great fat and amazing flavor and mouth feel, reducing your need for fattier and less flavorful toppings like mayo.
Boost the bulk. How do you get just as much flavor and make your meat just as satisfying—but without the fat and the calories that traditional grilled meat has? You can enlarge your portion size while cutting fat and reducing calories with flavorful, healthy ingredients. Add finely-chopped white or portabello mushrooms to your minced meat to extend the size of your patty and add nutritional excellence. When you combine your beef with ground turkey, you’re creating a patty that’s just filled with vitamin D, B, and potassium. Who said BBQ wasn’t healthy?
Anna White is a fitness and nutrition enthusiast dedicated to raising health awareness and inspiring healthy eating habits at The BlenderBottle Company. You can learn more about her efforts on Twitter.
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