Some of the most quintessential summer barbecue foods we all enjoy come with a lot of unfortunate health effects. Think mayo-based coleslaw, high-sodium marinades and seasonings, and hot dogs and charred red meat full of carcinogens. Yet summer barbecues are also a time to celebrate family, friends, and the outdoor sun. It turns out that with a little planning, you can have your barbecue and eat it too! These three simple-yet-delicious recipes deliver all the flavor you crave from the grill, while also being good for you and eliminating some of the most common unhealthy ingredients often featured scattered around your grill.
1. Barbecued Lemongrass Chicken
Forget your classic over-cooked, dry chicken breasts tossed on the summer barbecue and smothered in high-sugar barbecue sauce. Elevate your next cook-off with barbecued chicken infused with the Vietnamese-inspired flavors of lemongrass. With the skin removed, you have a tasty, protein-rich lunch or dinner that’s packed with protein but significantly lower in saturated fat. And when you bite into these juicy morsels, you’re getting more than just the delicate, layered tastes and spices of Vietnamese cuisine.
Ingredients like garlic, shallots, and lemongrass are all high in plant compounds and antioxidants that help fight inflammation, strengthen your immune system, and reduce your disease risks.For example, studies have found that lemongrass contains isoorientin and other plant compounds that mop up free radicals, protecting against damage on a cellular level. Lemongrass may even help fight bacterial and fungal growth!
2 lbs boneless chicken thighs, skin removed
2 stalks fresh lemongrass, finely chopped (you can find lemongrass in most grocery stores and Asian supermarkets)
1 medium shallot, diced
5 cloves garlic, peeled but kept whole
1/4 cup olive oil, avocado oil, or other oil capable of withstanding high heat
1 tbsp tamari sauce
2 tsp sea salt
2 tsp honey, ideally local and organic
1 tsp Five-Spice powder (available in the ethnic section of most grocery stores)
Preheat your summer barbecue to medium-high heat. Ideally, use a gas or propane grill instead of charcoal to reduce your exposure to charcoal’s carcinogenic smoke.
Add the lemon grass, garlic and shallot to a blender. Pulse until you have a thick, chunky past. Add the rest of the ingredients (with the exception of the chicken) and blend until smooth.
Cover each piece of chicken with a generous amount of the lemongrass paste. Ideally, let it marinate overnight. However, it’s flavorful enough to toss on the barbecue immediately!
On a greased grill, barbecue each piece of chicken for three minutes on each side or until the chicken is thoroughly cooked. Enjoy on its own or with other Vietnamese-inspired foods, such as a bed of chopped cucumber, diced mint and diced basil!
2. No-Mayo Broccoli Salad
No summer barbecue is complete without an array of sides. Unfortunately, classics like potato salad are often very high in trans fats, cholesterol, and saturated fats due to ingredients like mayonnaise. Enjoy all the rich flavors of coleslaw or potato salad, but with none of the guilt, with this mayo-free broccoli salad.
It gets its tangy, creamy texture from a homemade mix of yogurt and apple cider vinegar. Both ingredients are very good for your gut health (and thus your immune system), while also boosting digestion and metabolism and adding extra protein to this side dish. Of course, the main star is broccoli. Broccoli is an immune-supporting powerhouse, with a single 1/2 cup serving getting you nearly three-quarters of your daily needs of vitamin C, plus lots of other minerals and vitamins like iron, vitamin K1, and potassium. And whereas many popular summer barbecue side dishes might raise your cholesterol, broccoli may actually help lower your cholesterol and heart disease risks.
1 head of broccoli, cut into bite-size chunks (ideally from a local, organic farmer)
4 slices of no-nitrates-added bacon, cooked and broken into crumbles
1/2 red onion, minced
1/3 cup unsweetened raisins (ideally organic)
1/2 cup roasted, salted sunflower seeds
¾ cup plain organic yogurt
4 tbsp raw apple cider vinegar
1 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
Mix the veggies and raisins in a big bowl.
In a separate mixing bowl, combine the dressing ingredients. Pour onto the mixed veggies and toss until well coated. Enjoy cold for the ultimate refreshing side dish!
3. Hawaiian Seafood Kebabs
Who needs beef — those flames, delicious-smelling smoke, and tell-tale grill marks are sources of carcinogens — when you can whisk your dinner guests away to a tropical locale with this Hawaiian-inspired approach to kebabs. Think fresh seafood paired with the sunny flavors of pineapple, coconut, and mango. These fruits are potent sources of immunity-enhancing vitamins and minerals, plus digestion-boosting fiber. Meanwhile, the fats in coconut have been shown to boost immunity and even power-up your brain for better cognition! Finally, most Americans are deficient in omega-3 fatty acids (important for immune cell function, among many other health benefits), which you’ll get a full day’s worth in this summer barbecue dish.
16 large, raw, unpeeled shrimp
1 salmon fillet, cut into 2-inch-by-2-inch chunks
1 can of full-fat coconut milk
1 cup of fresh pineapple, cut into bite-sized chunks
1 cup of fresh mango, cut into bite-sized chunks
1/2 cup desiccated coconut
4 tbsp avocado oil
8 kebab skewers, soaked in water for 20-30 minutes to prevent burning
Heat your grill up to medium-high heat.
While your summer barbecue is getting fired up, toss the seafood in coconut milk. Skewer the fruit and seafood in alternating rows. For example, you could start with a shrimp followed by a piece of mango, a piece of salmon, a piece of pineapple, etc.
Once one kebab is full, roll it in the dessicated coconut.
Drizzle each kebab with some oil and barbecue for approximately four minutes or until the seafood is cooked through. Enjoy!