Special Report

Healthy Alternatives to Popular Barbecue Foods

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Summer will be over soon and with it most likely the barbecue season. By now, many people may be tired of the traditional hamburgers and hot dogs that are barbecue staples. Instead, you can opt for healthier alternatives that will add different tastes and nutrients to the meal.

To compile a list of 20 healthy alternatives to some popular barbecue foods, 24/7 Tempo reviewed a variety of online sources, including information from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, food and nutrition databases such as MyFitnessPal, and popular recipe websites like The Food Network

Healthier barbecue alternatives may be summarized in several tips: choosing lean meats, adding color to one’s plate in the form of vegetables, pairing a meat with a light side dish, and substituting traditional desserts such as pies with grilled fruits. 

Grilling is a very simple method of cooking, but as with so many simple things, it takes experience to get right. Culinary professionals can help teach or remind all of us l of the basics. Here are tips for the PERFECT barbecue from the experts.

Click here to see healthy alternatives to popular barbecue foods

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1. Sweet potatoes instead of white potatoes

Especially when grilled, sweet potatoes are a nutrient-rich side dish. They provide more fiber than regular potatoes, and also contain vitamin A and potassium.

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2. Chicken veggie burger instead of cheeseburger

Chicken veggie burgers — with the patties being a mixture of chicken and vegetables — contain less fat than regular chicken patties and fewer calories per serving, making them a suitable substitute for a chicken sandwich, especially for people who are watching their diet.

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3. Chicken apple sausage dog instead of the standard hot dog

Hot dogs on the grill are summertime staples. But they contain high amounts of fat and sodium. If you have a hot dog craving but are looking for a slightly healthier option, you may want to pick up a package of chicken apple sausages. Though they have about the same or a little more sodium, they contain less fat and more protein.

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4. Tofu steaks instead of pork steaks

As long as they are handled properly, tofu tastes much like chicken. Extra firm tofu is perfect for grilling.

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5. Portobello burger instead of hamburger

Portobello mushrooms seem like the perfect substitute for beef patty burgers because of the mushrooms’ meaty texture. Unlike some beef or even veggie patties, portobellos mushrooms will not fall apart on the grill. A portobello mushroom burger — with the bun and other additions — has about 350 calories, 17 grams of fat, 15 grams of protein. It also contains some healthy ingredients such as potassium, calcium, and iron.

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6. Broccoli fritters instead of fries

Replace the greasy fries for some light broccoli fritters. As a side, pan-fried in a bit of oil, they can seem rich, so it may be a good idea to top them with fresh tomato salsa.

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7. Teriyaki salmon steaks instead of beef patties

Steak is usually the preferred protein choice when it comes to a grilled meal, but people who are looking for something lighter on a hot summer day may opt for fish. Fish, especially salmon, is well known for being rich in healthy omega-3 fats. Salmon is also richer in flavor than many other types of fish.

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8. Pulled jackfruit sandwich instead of pulled pork sandwich

Jackfruit, a vegan world darling that tastes like apples and bananas mixed together, makes for a simple and low-fat alternative to pork. The pulled jackfruit sandwich usually consists of the jackfruit, marinated in barbecue sauce, on a soft bun topped with coleslaw.

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9. Vegetable skewers instead of meat kebab

Skewers are an opportunity to grill some vegetables and make your meal healthier. Replace most, if not all, of the meat chunks with various vegetables. Other, lighter, protein options for skewers instead of meat are fish or shrimp.

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10. Vinegar instead of mayonnaise in coleslaw

A creamy dressing is usually packed with fat and calories, so traditional mayonnaise-based coleslaw is not the best choice for people watching their diet. A vinegar-based coleslaw is a lighter, healthier option because it contains fewer calories and less fat.

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11. Tempeh instead of bacon in potato salad

Many potato salad recipes include gobs of mayo, which tends to make them unhealthy. A typical German potato salad recipe has vinegar as dressing instead of mayonnaise. To make the potato salad even healthier you can try adding tempeh, a plant-based protein, instead of bits of bacon.

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12. Grilled peaches instead of dessert

Dessert is a delicious end to a meal, but traditional desserts — which are often some type of cake — tend to be just as heavy as the food that came before them. Grilling fresh fruit is a healthier alternative. The grilling caramelizes the fruits’ natural sugars, transforming it into a tasty and sweet dessert. Peaches, pineapples, and mangos are popular grill choices.

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13. Grilled eggplant instead of burger patties

Compared with a meat burger, the same amount of eggplant contains less sodium. You can try adding several spices while grilling the eggplant for more flavor. Though you don’t get protein with an eggplant burger, you get plenty of fiber.

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14. Grilled tempeh instead of grilled chicken

Tempeh is made with fermented soybeans that have been molded into firm shapes, which makes them easy to grill. Tempeh has as much protein as chicken but less saturated fat and is not high in carbs, making it a good alternative for people on a low-carb diet.

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15. Barbecue baked beans instead of mac and cheese

Vegetables are wonderful sides to burgers but they have little protein. If you’re looking to increase your protein intake, baked beans are a fitting option. Per cup, cooked pinto beans, for example, has 16 grams of protein, which is about a third of the recommended daily amount.

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16. Milk and cinnamon instead of butter and salt on corn on a cob

Corn on the cob is a barbecue staple. It is usually spread with butter and salt. A quick and healthier option is to boil the corn in milk and cinnamon before grilling it. The corn ends up being sweeter because the milk brings out the vegetable’s sweetness.

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17. Charred spring onions instead of potatoes

Charred green onions are an easy and healthy side dish to a barbecue dinner — if you’re watching your carbs. To cook them you can put them directly on the barbecue or in a hot griddle pan.

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18. Grilled tomatoes instead of ketchup

Tomatoes are great for grilling. Cooking tomatoes brings out more of their flavor. Grilling caramelizes the tomatoes’ natural sugar, giving them a rich flavor. Ketchup is sweet, too, but the condiment contains added sugars and is high in calories compared to regular tomatoes.

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19. Fresh iced tea instead of sugar-free drinks

Sugar-free foods and drinks are marketed as a healthier option than regular juices or sodas. But sugar-free options are often loaded with artificial sweeteners, which can be much sweeter than sugar, to make up for the lost taste. Instead, make fresh ice tea, experimenting with flavors like mint, lemon, raspberries, or anything else you can think of.

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