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Aveen Bannon

Having dinner al fresco is one of the nicest things about the summer in Ireland (if the weather is cooperating). Barbecues, or BBQs, are a popular al fresco dining choice. Traditionally, the centre of a BBQ is an assortment of meats and bread, with vegetables and salads playing a more minor role. It has been estimated that at one BBQ meal alone, we can tally up to 2,000 calories—let’s look at how we can make BBQs a healthier summer addition to our diets!

Irish diets are rapidly changing; one clear change has been the reduction in meat and dairy consumption in recent years with people moving to more ‘flexitarian’ diet habits (limiting the amount of meat or dairy products in the diet). As the variety in our diets has undergone a welcome improvement, it is worth exploring a host of other suitable barbecue foods which will cater to a range of dietary preferences as well as inject additional healthy vitamins and minerals into this BBQ season.

Fruits and vegetables fit right in with a barbecue spread, either paired with meat or enjoyed alone. Not only can they add variety to the meal, but they also help to reduce the number of calories in the meal by bulking up our plates. Some tasty examples include aubergine, courgette, carrots, peppers, onion, pineapple, tomatoes, corn on the cob, portobello mushrooms, and cauliflower.

And why not try barbecuing fruits for dessert? The natural sugars in fruit will caramelise, heightening the sweetness and flavour. Thinly sliced apple and pear, pineapple, halved bananas, figs, peaches, and plums are all great options alone or with some natural yoghurt.

Some other tips for ensuring a healthful barbecue:

  • Choosing a lean protein: fish, skinless chicken/turkey breast, ground turkey, and cuts of lean red meat are all healthy options. Be aware of portion sizes—an easy trap to fall into at a barbecue is overdoing the protein portions.
  • Try barbecuing bean burgers, marinated tofu or halloumi as meat alternatives.
  • Avoid high-fat meats and reduce the number of additional fats added during preparation and cooking—meats and vegetables produce moisture during cooking, which means less butter and oil are required.
  • Choose healthier sides. Try fresh salads, mixed beans, whole grain rice, or baked potatoes instead of the staple coleslaw and creamy potato salad.
  • Make BBQ fruit a tasty dessert.

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