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Healthy barbecue tips for summer

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This is one of our favorite times of the year families are getting together to spend time outdoors, and summer produce is in season!


grill in backyard

If you’re hosting or attending a barbecue, picnic, or cookout this summer, these tips will help you. They cover more than just sodium, because after all, eating healthfully is important for heart health.

For meat, poultry, and fish:

  • Go for grilled fish. Salmon, trout and herring are packed with heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids. Rub a fillet with lemon juice and parsley or rosemary for more flavor.
  • Buy chicken breasts – and remember to remove the skin before eating – instead of the fattier dark meat (legs and thighs). Or try grilling up chicken or turkey burgers using breast meat, and add diced onions and spices for a layer of flavor.
  • Choose lean or extra lean beef for burgers, drain off excess fat after cooking, and keep the patties reasonably sized. A serving of meat is about the size of a deck of cards. Add finely chopped bell peppers to your beef to sneak in some veggies.
  • Look for fresh and frozen poultry that hasn’t been injected with a sodium solution. Check the fine print on the packaging and look for terms such as “broth,” “saline” or “salt solution.” Sodium levels in unseasoned fresh meats are around 100 mg or less per 4-ounce serving.


Side dishes:

  • Eat a rainbow of green, red, orange, yellow, purple and more. Serve green leafy salads or fruit salads (or a combination of both, like baby spinach with strawberries or mixed greens with orange slices) instead of mayonnaise-based salads. Add some crunch – and healthier fats – with toasted walnuts or almonds instead of croutons.
  • Bake the fries. Slice white or sweet potatoes into sticks, lightly spray with olive oil cooking spray, pepper and paprika and bake on a cookie sheet for 40 minutes at 375 degrees.
  • Thread SOME veggie kabobs - load up skewers with mushrooms, peppers, cherry tomatoes, zucchini, yellow squash or other veggies. Spray lightly with olive oil cooking spray and grill until slightly blackened.
  • Limit the salty sauces – if you have teriyaki, soy, and barbecue sauce in one meal, the sodium will probably add up quickly.

Snacks and desserts:

  • Slice a variety of colorful veggies for a cool, crunchy snack. Baby carrots, cucumber rounds, jicama slices, sugar snap peas, and bell pepper strips – they look great on a platter too!
  • Blend a smoothie with sweet seasonal fruit, non-fat or low-fat vanilla or lemon yogurt, ice and a touch of honey or cinnamon for a refreshing dessert alternative.
  • Grill fruits like pineapple slices, nectarines, peaches or plums – the natural sugars caramelize with the heat and give them great flavor.
  • Freeze mashed-up fruit (try peaches, grapes, or berries) into paper cups, insert a popsicle stick, freeze overnight and enjoy homemade freezer pops.

Visit for more ideas and heart-healthy recipes!

We’d love to hear your tips for a healthier summer barbecue – leave a comment below.