Heart Healthy Barbecue Tips

By Maeve O'Keeffe Nutrition News   |   12th Aug 2022

Our top tips for a heart-healthy barbecue, without having to compromise on flavour

A barbecue can be an enjoyable way to make the most of the warm summer evenings. However, many traditional barbecue staples are laden with salt and saturated fat, which is not good for your heart. Read our top tips below for a tasty and healthier barbecue.

Not all about the meat

Just because you are barbecuing doesn’t mean meat has to take centre stage. Aim to fill half your plate with salad or grilled vegetables, a quarter with potatoes, burger buns or grains, and a quarter with meat, fish, or other protein. Why not try grilling slices of vegetables such as aubergine, courgette, and peppers on the barbecue? Alternatively, chopping these veg and cooking them on skewers with mushrooms, red onion, and cherry tomatoes can be a delicious alternative to meat-based skewers. Corn-on-the-cob is another quick and easy meat alternative for the barbecue.

Keep an eye on the grill

If you are not ready to for a meat-free barbecue just yet, try to pick leaner cuts of meat, as these have a lower saturated fat content. For example, ask your butcher for a lean steak rather than a fattier cut, and avoid fatty options like ribs. Leaner cuts of meat can be more expensive, but threading cubes of meat onto skewers alongside chopped vegetables is a creative way to make a little go a long way. Remember that even though lean meat has a lower fat content, there is no need to add oil to prevent it from sticking to the grill, just make sure to turn the meat regularly.

Watch the salt levels

While sausages and burgers are popular choices for barbecues, they are often very high in salt and saturated fat. Check the nutritional label on the packet to check for salt and saturated fat content, so that you can pick the healthiest varieties in the shop. You can download the Irish Heart Foundation’s handy Food Shopping Card for more information.

"Aim for well-cooked rather than charred, blackened foods."

Orna O'Brien, Dietician, The Irish Heart Foundation

Throw some fish on the grill

It is recommended that adults eat at least two portions of fish every week. Omega-3 rich oily fish such as salmon or mackerel have particular benefits for heart health therefore barbecuing fish is an easy and tasty way to include more healthy unsaturated fat in the diet. You could even try having fish tacos using the barbecued fish as a tasty summer supper or lunch.

Salad heroes

Coleslaw and potato salad are popular accompaniments to barbecue dinners, but these options can contain a lot of mayonnaise, making them higher in saturated fat. Mixing some low-fat yoghurt with low-fat mayonnaise for homemade coleslaw or potato salad is a handy way to lighten these salads, without losing the creamy flavour.

Fresh salad leaves are also a lovely and light choice for hot weather but remember that many traditional salad dressings are high in fat and salt. A simple vinaigrette dressing made by mixing oil and vinegar or lemon juice will add plenty of flavour to your salads, without the added fat.

Alcohol alternatives

Drinking too much alcohol can lead to high blood pressure, which is a risk factor for heart disease and stroke, so why not try to cool down with some sugar-free non-alcoholic drinks instead. You could try adding fresh mint leaves, frozen berries, and ice cubes to water for a healthy and refreshing thirst-quencher.

Get fruity

The barbecue does not have to be used solely for savoury food. Barbecued pineapple rings, skewers of cubed mango, or slices of nectarines can make a delicious refreshing for dessert on a warm evening and are much healthier than traditional desserts like ice-cream.

Finally Orna O’Brien, dietitian with the Irish Heart Foundation, said “Grilling on the barbeque, whether during a heat wave or in typical Irish fashion (torrential rain and eating indoors) can be delicious, healthy, and safe. Aim for well-cooked rather than charred, blackened foods. Over-cooking high protein foods to the point of burning creates chemical reactions that can increase your risk of certain cancers if eaten regularly. So, remember to keep an eye on your grill while you prepare your flavoursome feast.”



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