How to Host a Healthy Cookout

Summer means longer days, lots of sunshine and weekends spent at the beach. It means lots of fresh produce, cold beers and refreshing ice teas and coffees. It means it’s time to pull out the sun dresses and the tank tops, the sandals and the bikini, and, and of course, it also means evenings spent on the patio enjoying a barbecue with friends and family. This summer make your barbecue a healthy, summer celebration, that is not only filled with good company and food laughs, but that is also filled with lots of good, nourishing, healthy food. Use these tips and suggestions to host a cookout that everyone will enjoy and that will be healthy but still fun and enjoyable for everyone around!
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  • Stock up on veggies

  • Whether you serve them raw and fresh with some homemade hummus, roast them up with some fresh summer herbs, or throw them straight on the grill and get those lovely char marks and exceptional smoky flavor, veggies always have their place at a summer barbecue. During the summer, choose veggies that are in season and after washing, you can either enjoy them as is, or marinade them in some summery flavours before adding them to your grill. If you don’t have room on the barbecue with all the other options, lightly blanch them in a pot on the stove and this will preserve their high nutrient value as well as fresh summer colour and add a nice hit of freshness to your plates.
  • Choose vegetarian options

  • The grill is not just for all the meat, all the time. Vegetables taste delicious when thrown on the barbecue, either straight onto the grill, or in a foil packet. Substitute Portobello burgers for traditional beef patties for a meaty texture, with a healthier spin. You can also make vegetable patties out of beans or legumes and a combination of vegetables and whole grains such as eggplant, sweet potato, oats or buckwheat. There’s lots of room to play around with flavours and cater them to seasonal availability of fresh herbs and vegetables, so don’t get stuck in a rut and make the same burger selection every time.
  • Grill fruit

  • Peaches, pineapple, grapefruit and apricots are all delicious on the grill. Simply slice them and place them face down on to the hot grill top and leave them for a few minutes before flipping over to reveal those beautiful charred marks, which add a subtle smokiness while bringing out the natural sweetness of the fruit. You can enjoy grilled fruit as a side to any number of dishes, or add on top of burgers or sandwiches. It’s also delicious in fruit desserts such as crumbles and cobblers, where you can add it as a tasty topping, finished with a dollop of ice cream or whip cream!
  • Make your own iced beverages

  • Don’t simply open up a cooler, drop in some ice and fill it with beer. Instead (or maybe in addition!), offer some other beverage options that are refreshing, cold and healthy for your guests. You can choose to make your own ice tea, by brewing tea leaves and fresh mint in a large pot of boiling water and then letting it cool. After it has cooled down, simply pour into a pitcher and leave in the fridge until your guests arrive, when you can pour it into ice filled glasses. You can also make your own infused water that is both pretty to look at and great for beating dehydration in the summer heat. To do so, simply find a pitcher with a self-serving spout at the end and fill with things such as lemon, lime, ginger or berries, as well as fresh mint or basil, and then fill to the top with water and add in some ice. The flavours will infuse into the water and your guests will love that they can just help themselves to this hydrating, tasty beverage. Finally, if you’re in need of a delicious after dinner drink, serve iced coffee, with a splash of coconut milk. It looks pretty and is great to sip on as the sun goes down!
  • Make some healthy snacks

  • Part of the fun of summer cookouts is showing up late in the afternoon, sitting outside in the sun, while enjoying some cold beverages and catching up on all your summer plans and your latest vacation. While you’re doing so, it’s nice to have some snacks to munch on. Make them a healthy option by making things such as hummus and raw veggies, chopping up some fresh watermelon, or filling a plate with chopped fresh and seasonal fruit including peaches, plums and berries. Take things a little further with after dinner treats by using those same berries to dip into melted dark chocolate. It makes a light and satisfying dessert after a barbecue feast, but still makes use of fresh berries in their prime!
  • Don’t forget the sides

  • Although the barbecue, and the food that you are grilling, are the stars at a summer cookout, the side dishes are equally as important. The best part is that you can make these ahead and have yourself time when it comes to the big night, meaning you can be out enjoying time in the sun with your guests instead of in the kitchen. The best sides are salads made of fresh, in season ingredients. These can include anything from the traditional greens salad made of spinach, kale, arugula and chard and then topped with a delicious dressing and things such as fresh tomatoes, almonds and sugar snap peas, but don’t forget other key ingredients when it comes to making salads. Lentils, chickpeas or other legumes make a great base for salads that you can toss with some peppers, peas or carrots and a creamy tahini dressing, and whole grains such as wheat berries or cooked millet will satisfy your desire for a healthy grain based salad other than the pasta salad classic that will be at every barbecue you attend this summer.

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