Healthy BBQ Sides

Spring and summer and are prime time for barbecues, which can either be great for your diet or a complete disaster. The pros: grilling is a lower-calorie way to enjoy your favorite lean proteins like chicken, turkey, and fish. If nothing but a beef burger will do, there are lot so of ways to lighten up the recipe while preserving flavor. Veggie burgers and even tofu are great on the grill. The cons: hefty burger and dog buns and heavy side dishes can turn an otherwise healthy meal into a calorie-fest. To keep things balanced, pick a protein and a carb, and pile on the vegetables. Follow the 80/20 rule: 80 percent of your plate should be filled with good-for-you foods, and 20 percent can be something more indulgent. What might that look like? Aim to fill half the plate with vegetables, a quarter with protein, and a quarter with a grain or starchy vegetable such as corn or potato. Choose one high-calorie side to enjoy a little bit of. Ignoring a craving tends to make it stronger, which is why a lot of deprivation diets ultimately fail. Fortunately, there are also lots of healthier side dishes that happen to be delicious. Here are a few to add flavor to your next cookout without inducing a food coma.
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  • Killer Crudité Platter with Goat Cheese Dip

  • Sure, you could buy a platter of celery and carrot sticks with generic ranch dip at the supermarket, but why not take advantage of all the seasonal produce offerings and create a colorful crudite platter you'll actually want to dig into? Slice up some zucchini, yellow squash, cucumbers, watermelon radishes, jicama, rainbow carrots, and anything else that looks good. Add some cherry tomatoes or sugar snap peas if you like. Rather than mayo-based processed dressings and dips, try this lightened-up goat cheese greek yogurt dip.
    1 cup low-fat (2%) plain Greek yogurt
    4 ounces goat cheese
    1 tablespoon Olive oil
    1 teaspoon lemon zest
    1 teaspoon lemon juice
    Paprika to garnish
    Blend yogurt, goat cheese, oil, lemon juice, and lemon zest in a blender or food processor until smooth. Pour into serving dish and sprinkle paprika on top. Drizzle with additional olive oil if desired. Serve with sliced vegetables.
  • Grilled Corn

  • Corn gets a bad rap in the health world, but when eaten in its natural form, this whole grain is a great source of complex carbohydrate. Grilled corn makes for a festive, filling side that's a cinch to prepare.
    4 ears corn, silk removed, husk intact
    Salt and pepper to taste
    Lime juice
    Place corn on coals and cook about 15 minutes, turning partway through, until kernels have steamed. When cool enough to handle, cut each ear in half. Season with salt, pepper, and lime juice to taste.
  • Cauliflower Tabbouleh

  • This low-carb take on a Mediterranean classic is a delicious, creative way to sneak in some vegetables.
    1 medium head raw cauliflower, cut into florets
    2 cups diced tomato
    1 medium cucumber, peeled and diced
    1 large bunch flat-leaf parsley
    1 tablespoon fresh, chopped mint
    1 tablespoon olive oil
    Juice of 1 lemon
    Salt and pepper to taste
    Process cauliflower in a food processor until it resembles rice. In a large bowl, combine cauliflower and remaining ingredients. Toss well to mix.
  • Caprese Skewers

  • These skewers make a traditional caprese salad into a fun finger-food appetizer.
    Cherry tomatoes
    Mozzarella balls
    Balsamic Glaze
    On wooden skewers, layer tomato, basil, and mozzarella. Dip skewers into balsamic glaze if desired.
  • Grilled Watermelon

  • Even though we usually think of watermelon as a dessert, it also makes a great side dish when fired up on the grill. This easy recipe is sure to be a hit.

    8 Watermelon wedges (seedless)
    Olive oil
    Salt and pepper to taste
    Lightly sprinkle watermelon wedges with salt on each side and place on a paper towel to drain for an hour. Rinse and squeeze dry of excess moisture. Heat grill to high. Lightly brush each watermelon wedge with olive oil. Grill on high heat until grill marks form, turning as needed, about 5 minutes, total.
  • Marinated Kale Salad with Burst Tomatoes

  • Cherry tomatoes brighten up this dark, leafy salad side.

    2 large heads kale, torn into shreds
    1 pound cherry tomatoes
    ¼ cup plus 1 tablespoon olive oil, divided
    Juice of 1 lemon
    Sea salt and pepper to taste
    ¼ cup grated parmesan

    Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Toss tomatoes with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Roast until tomatoes are soft and bursting open, about 15-20 minutes, stirring a few time to prevent sticking. To make dressing, whisk together remaining olive oil, lemon juice, sea salt, and pepper. With clean hands, massage dressing into kale until it begins to soften. Add burst tomatoes and parmesan. Toss well to mix.
  • Rainbow Veggie Kabobs

  • These colorful kabobs complement a variety of other foods. Feel free to substitute in your favorite vegetables for this recipe.

    1 medium zucchini, cut into ¼-inch coin shapes
    1 medium yellow squash, cut into ¼-inch coin shapes
    2 cups cremini mushrooms, trimmed
    2 bell pepper, cut into thick strips
    1 red onion, cut into wedges
    1 cup cherry tomatoes
    ¼ cup olive oil
    Juice of 1 lemon
    1 garlic cloves, minced
    Salt and pepper to taste

    Thread vegetables on metal skewers. Place on a baking sheet. To make marinade, in a small dish, whisk together olive oil, lemon juice, salt, and pepper. Brush olive oil mixture over kebabs. Let sit 15 minutes. Preheat grill to medium-high. Grill until tender, about 5 minutes on each side.

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