shish-kebab-417994_640It’s almost impossible to get through the summer without being invited to at least a couple of barbecues. But the usual array of meats, breads and sides can tend to be heavy on the calories. Luckily there are ways of enjoying barbecued food and still get a healthy, balanced meal at the same time!

Firstly, don’t forget that a barbecue is effectively grilled food, which is better for you than frying. But there are other things you can do to reduce the fat and calorie content of your food.

Make sure you remove the skin before you cook your chicken. The reasons for this are twofold – firstly, if you take the skin off after cooking you’ll lose all the flavour of the marinade or seasoning, and secondly, its a good deal healthier. A 4oz (110g) chicken breast with the skin contains 223 calories and 8.8g of fat (of which 2.5g is saturated fat) whereas the same weight of skinless chicken breast contains 187 calories and just 4g of fat (1.2g saturated fat). Don’t forget that tuna and salmon steaks taste great barbecued, too!

Similarly, trim the visible fat off your steaks and cuts of pork before cooking, and you can reduce the fat content by at least half. And while almost everyone loves a burger, consider making your own rather than buying ready-made, processed patties. As well as being lower in fat and calories, reducing your consumption of processed meats such as hot dogs and bacon can help reduce your risk of colorectal cancers.

Sauces are a great finishing touch, but commercial BBQ sauce and mayonnaises tend to be very high in fat. Instead, try homemade sauces and marinates using worcester, soy or chilli sauces, and tomato paste – all of which contain under 40 calories and no fat per 2 tablespoons.

Try submerging big chunks of vegetables such as bell peppers, aubergine/eggplant, mushrooms, courgette/zucchini, onion and tomatoes in your homemade marinade for an hour before you make them into kebabs and grill them over the barbecue. They’ll taste great and you’ll retain much of the nutritional value of the vegetables. Don’t forget to grill some corn on the cob, too!

Finally, this may sound obvious, but for a healthy barbecue you’ll want to consider your portion sizes. Serve 1/4 pound burgers instead of 1/2 pounders, filet-mignon sized steaks instead of larger sizes, and either alternate meat and veggies on kebabs…or even make some tasty vegetarian ones so everyone’s catered for. And don’t forget the salads!